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RS Coupe leads Renault’s small-car revival

Coupe coup: The three-door Megane Renaultsport will lead the Megane charge in Australia.

Renault confirms Megane Coupe, but only as the Renaultsport hot hatch

29 May 2009

RENAULT has confirmed that it will import the upcoming Megane Renaultsport (RS) from France next year, some months ahead of the mainstream Megane hatch and sedan range.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the expanded Laguna range near Melbourne this week, Renault Australia managing director Rudi Koenig revealed that Renault had a two-pronged small-car strategy to position the company at different ends of the segment.

The X95 Megane RS will be a specialised, small-volume affair aimed directly at the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus XR5 Turbo when it arrives in the second quarter of 2010.

Driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox will be a variation of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that has helped the recently deceased X84 Megane RS gain a relatively strong following in Australia. Power and torque outputs will be about 185kW and 340Nm respectively, against the 165kW/300Nm outputs of its predecessor.

A honed Cup version is also on the cards, and that is virtually a sure-fire starter for Australia, according to Mr Koenig, because RS fans are always scouring the Internet and so want the latest and purest versions available out of France.

Speculation from Europe suggests Renault will stick with a three-door RS for the time being.

35 center imageThe Megane hot hatch will be followed later in the second quarter of next year by the more mainstream X95 Megane hatch and sedan.

These cars will differ in more than just looks and performance from the RS, as they will be the product of the upcoming ‘Megane International’ model program that forfeits some of the more high-end technical and luxury specifications of the European X95 Megane cars in the name of a lower entry price.

This will finally allow Renault Australia to take on the mainstream Mazda3, Golf, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla models, as it seeks to jack up sales numbers in Australia from a measly 3000 to about 7000 within about five years or so.

In contrast, the recently discontinued X84 Megane hatch imported from France – ranging from $27,990* to about $44,000* for the RS – could barely crack the 1000 sales a year in Australia.

The Megane International hatch and sedan will be sourced from either South Korea through the Renault-owned Samsung, or Turkey, which still builds the outgoing X84 Megane sedan for worldwide consumption.

As we reported in October last year, engine variants will be split between four-cylinder petrol and dCi turbo-diesel units, with the former sticking to the tried and true 1.6 and 2.0-litre formula in either six-speed manual or new CVT automatic, while a new 1.5-litre dCi is poised to partner the 2.0-litre dCi six-speed automatic. “I should get a clearer idea about which site will provide our cars in July,” Mr Koenig told GoAuto, hinting that Turkey was still in with a chance over the more favoured Korean factory.

He also assured us that no safety or driveability compromises would be taken in the Megane’s transformation from high-cost France sourcing to lower-cost Eastern Europe/Asia manufacturing.

So expect six airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes to feature in every Australian-bound car, as well as Renault’s latest low-emission turbo-diesel engine technology.

We understand that Nissan-sourced items such as petrol engines and some transmissions will help cap the production costs of the Megane International.

However, like the Megane from Europe, a lower-cost torsion-beam rear suspension system is likely to end up under the International, matching rivals such as the new Holden Cruze, Corolla and Peugeot 308.

Besides the hatch and sedan, the X95 Megane will also spawn a convertible in the manner of the current CC sold in Australia since December 2004, as well as a station wagon.

A Scenic version has also recently been unveiled in Europe, but like the wagon, that model will not come to Australia, as the Koleos compact SUV serves the market better, Mr Koenig believes.

Meanwhile, GoAuto understands that the next-generation Laguna is only about three years away, and will probably be co-developed with Samsung and built in South Korea.

Replacing the Nissan J31 Maxima/Teana-derived SM7 models Samsung sells in Asia, the next Laguna will be a considerably larger car in line with Nissan’s just-introduced J32 Maxima, although we understand that the Renault/Samsung will not be derived from that car.

Also on the subject of Laguna, the anticipated Laguna Coupe has been nixed for Australia on the grounds that France could not supply the upcoming 3.0-litre V6 dCi turbo-diesel slated for other markets, leaving only the 2.0-litre dCi and 3.5-litre V6 petrol units.

*Due to confusion over ACCC pricing policy introduced on May 25, 2009, car companies are taking the view that it is no longer legal to supply the media with recommended retail car prices. GoAuto will continue to supply indicative prices (when we can get them) to assist consumers in their buying decisions during this period of confusion. Meanwhile, buyers should be aware that additional fees and government charges on registration of the vehicle of some thousands of dollars can be charged on top of these prices. Until the industry can resolve this issue with the ACCC, car buyers are advised to contact their car dealer to confirm prices.

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