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Car reviews - Renault - Megane - range

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, cabin upgrade, standard ESP, 5-star ENCAP rating, value for money, manual gearbox, awesome RS Cup’s performance
Room for improvement
Automatic gearbox’s limitations, 1.6 engine limited performance

Renault logo6 Jul 2006

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

DID you know that Queen Victoria was still alive when Renault set up shop.

Throughout the 20th Century the French car company not only invented the modern hatchback (1965 R16), it produced the world’s first ‘hot hatch’ (1968 R16 TS), set the parameters for the light-car class with the R5 (1972), and even helped to rejuvenate the city car with its epochal (though Europe-only) Twingo, a model that provided the blueprint for the 1999 Toyota Echo as well its Yaris of today.

Today many of the older Renaults are still around, plying the roads like automotive cockroaches.

In a nutshell then, Renault knows a thing or two about building small cars.

So, with its five-star crash-test rating, individual styling, secure handling and wide range, why do so many Australians ignore the striking – and strikingly safe – Megane?

Surely we’ve had time to get used to the design – which is quite conservative really, save for the jutting rear. Four years on from its international debut and the model still looks fab when kitted out in Renaultsport livery.

Renault is hoping buyers will consider the Megane now that it has undergone its midlife ‘Phase II’ facelift.

Exterior changes are very minor, limited to cleaner nose and tail treatments and new wheel designs. Only anoraks are likely to pick the changes.

However the new instrument facings and classier trim do add freshness to an already modern and functional interior presentation.

You are also unlikely to find anything startling about how the Megane goes, steers, stops and rides, other than the fact that the car is pleasantly responsive, quite comfortable and extremely easy to drive.

Gotcha! If you have experienced the outgoing Megane (except for the woefully underrated Sport Cup), you will know that the old car’s artificial-feeling steering, with its weird weightiness, stood out as an odd trait, and a feel-free zone for keener drivers.

Now the French car turns corners with the sort of flair you might expect from a European carmaker, backed up by impressive grip, very strong brakes and one of the nicest six-speed manual gearboxes available for the money.

The 2.0-litre automatic Megane’s propensity to hold a gear when it should change up or down is still annoying, and there is still a feeling that, for the size of the engine, there should be more performance.

Otherwise though there is absolutely nothing other than middle-of-the-road competency in the way this Renault does its thing.

A Ford Focus, VW Golf and Mazda3 all handle and ride better, but the Renault is not disgraced in these departments anyway, while it offers more standard safety features, a longer list of standard features for money and greater refinement, quietness and exclusivity than these rivals, respectively.

Renault has been building cars since December 1898, so any fears about reliability and durability are also unfounded. Plus the importers – Nissan Australia – offer great backup and are committed to the brand’s future in this country.

So rest assured – and with its newfound steering refinement to match its famous pert rear, now you are more likely to be amused in the latest Megane.

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