Car reviews - Renault - Megane - Renault Sport dCi 175 5-dr hatch
DIesel engine performance, smoothness, delivery, refinement, emissions and economy sharp chassis chunky styling Renault Sport connection and credibility
Room for improvement
Cabin is now dated
6 Aug 2008
YOU need to know a couple of things about the Megane RS dCi 175.
Australia will not see its successor until at least 2010 – despite the fact that, from October, the motoring websites, magazines and newspapers pretty much everywhere will be full of pictures and details of the next-generation Megane.
Now if it comes as a surprise to learn that the current, X84 Megane is near the end of its model cycle, then you are either not very car-news savvy, or Renault has done a fine job in keeping a 2002-vintage car fresh for all the years since.
Mostly we believe it is the latter, because looking at the outstandingly individualistic and still quite handsome and contemporary Megane’s design, it has held up well and still cuts a fine swathe against some much-more mediocre creations from rival small-car makers.
And in RS dCi 175 diesel guise, it certainly looks the part of the sophisticated yet serious hot-hatch, with a hunkered-down stance, fat wheels, aggressive snout and meshed-out posterior.
Only the cabin’s bitsy plastic presentation ages the Megane, and it isn’t helped by the awful radio header unit, upper-console’s low-fi info display screen, dated Toblerone-like square pressing on the door caps, and gimmicky U-handle handbrake.
In admittedly cold wintry and windy weather, we were also annoyed by the amount of wind noise permeating the Renault’s cabin.
But memories of the interior’s wrinkles are straightened out with starch-like stiffness by the sheer layers of smooth, velvety torque available on tap from the thoroughly modern turbo-diesel mill milling underneath the Megane’s bonnet.
Closely related to the item found in the latest Laguna, it is but a distant murmur of a motor, tap-tap tapping away quietly until you press on the pedal for a strong wave of performance.
The dCi does all the diesel tricks with stupendous ease – like accelerating from standstill in second or third gear, trundling at virtually negative revs in top, spooling up and whooshing you forward for effortless overtaking manoeuvres.
With so much fun and flexibility at your finger (or toe) tips, you soon forget that high economy and low emissions are the rational reasons behind buying one of these.
Dropped and honed, the RS chassis modifications are completely in tune with this car’s quite astounding power characteristics, harnessing all that sweet torque whether you're cruising on the highway or throwing the Megane around a race circuit – as we did, as a demonstration of the Renault’s flat, neutral dynamic characteristics.
Steering, brakes, gearchange and body control are all plus points.
Happily for Renault – and you too if you’re planning to buy one of these – the VW Golf V is even closer to extinction in Australia than the current Megane.
So is that other doyen of fine sporty diesels, Ford’s LT Focus TDCi, along with the Alfa 147 JTD M-Jet, while the BMW 120d is an auto-only, less overtly sporty alternative that costs almost $10K more.
And less invigorating manual small-car diesels like the Holden Astra CDTi, Audi A3 Sportback TDI, Citroen’s C4 2.0 HDi, the Peugeot 308 2.0 HDi and the Hyundai i30 CRDi are just that – not as much fun.
Finally, the sheer exclusivity of the RS dCi 175 – don’t count on seeing more than 40, even if you decided to tick off every one imported to Australia – means that this has true left-field, car-collector appeal.
Its body style might be kicking the bucket soon, but this particular Megane diesel is certainly no bucket of old bolts.
It earns its Renault Sport stripes with di-esel-stinction.
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