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Mainstream Megane chases Mazda3

Value added: Renault has come out firing in the small-car market with a repositioned Megane.

Premium is history as Renault’s redesigned small car takes the fight to the Japanese

31 Aug 2010

RENAULT’S biggest new-model offensive has started with lowest-ever pricing for the Megane small car.

On sale from mid-September and priced from $22,990, the Mazda3-sized five-door X32 hatch gives nothing away to its Japanese, European and Korean mainstream rivals in terms of packaging, performance and equipment levels.

That’s for the Megane Dynamique fitted with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, six-speed manual gearbox, and offering five-star ENCAP safety, ESC, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cruise control with speed limiter, fog lights, hands-free entry central locking, steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels and pollen-filter air-conditioning.

Choosing the Megane automatic adds $2000 to the price, while the more comprehensively equipped auto-only Privilege will set you back another $5000 on top of that. It includes satellite navigation, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, auto-on/off headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 205/55 R17 tyres, and a sunroof.

Lower-than-usual pricing has been made possible due to cheaper sourcing – the Megane is now built in Turkey (home of the previous X84 Megane sedan), and is derived from the same Renault-Nissan Alliance C-platform as Renault Koleos, Nissan Dualis and Nissan X-Trail – among other models.

In October the new (and unrelated to Megane) Fluence four-door sedan and Megane Coupe-Cabriolet will join the five-door hatch, while the long-awaited Megane Renaultsport 250 Cup three-door coupe will follow soon after.

35 center imageIt will give Renault one of the most comprehensive small-car offerings in Australia, as well as its most fighting chance in finally re-establishing the century old French marque after almost a decade of inconsistent product and marketing strategy.

Topping off a busy last quarter will be the long-delayed release of the second-generation Kangoo panel van, as well as a Gordini version of the cult Clio Renaultsport.

But the Megane is expected to make or break the Nissan Australia-controlled franchise in Australia, and the group has gone into the biggest car segment in this country with all guns blazing.

Now in its third generation, the X32 Megane is based on the French-made bustle-backed X84 hatch that was sold unsuccessfully in Australia from 2003 to 2009, as well as the Turkish-built X84 Megane Sedan.

The five-door hatch too is now built in Bursa, Turkey for Australian consumers. Only the Renaultsport 250 and Coupe Cabriolet will be made in Douai, France – the Fluence is based on the Samsung SM3 (itself X84 Megane derived) and is made in South Korea alongside the Koleos. The other X32 manufacturing site is Palencia, in Spain.

In accordance to most other C-segment two-box designs, it is 4295mm in length, 1808mm in width, 1471mm in height, and sits on a wheelbase that measures in at 2641mm. Front and rear tracks are 1546mm and 1547mm wide respectively.

Driving the front wheels is a development of the 1997cc 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine familiar to Nissan Dualis drivers.

Interestingly it is offered in two states of tune – in Euro-V emissions-meeting six-speed manual guise delivering 102kW of power at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 3750rpm, or in Euro-IV CVT Continuously Variable Transmission format producing just 1kW less.

The latter is actually the more economical despite a 65kg weight penalty, returning 7.9-litres per 100km against the 1292kg Megane hatch manual’s 8.2.

Renault has told GoAuto Media in the past that using Nissan components in the X32 was a deliberate ploy to help keep the price competitive.

Suspension is utterly conventional, comprising of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle – so it is in keeping with the Cruzes, Corollas and 308s of the world, but not quite as sophisticated as the Focus, Golf, Lancer, and Mazda3. Brakes are four-wheel discs all round. Steering is electrically powered, for an 11.1m turning circle and 3.1 turns lock to lock.

Renault says it has worked extremely hard to lift the Megane’s interior design and presentation to class-leading levels – pointing to palpably higher quality materials and a focus on better craftsmanship.

“Particular attention has been paid to reducing the shut lines between the different body panels, and the front and rear bumpers which discreetly incorporate the parking proximity sensors,” Renault says.

Boot space is rated at 360 litres – 300 litres more than the fuel tank.

One of the safest vehicles tested by ENCAP in the C-segment, the X32 is also one of the most socially responsible, Renault says, being 95 per cent end-of-life recoverable by weight, while almost 12 per cent of the plastic it employs (an average 22kg) coming from recycling.

The third-generation Megane has taken two years to reach Australia.

Unveiled at the 2008 Geneva motor show, it has had a tepid response in Europe, with timid design and initially high prices putting punters off – particularly since its X84 predecessor championed bold styling and value pricing.

Renault is expected to eventually include dCi turbo-diesel engines in the Australian line-up – a necessity if the Megane is going to poach the Golf and 308 buyers that it is expected to.

Too much popularity has never bothered the Megane range in Australia, with the sedan and hatch together managing to find only 1145 buyers in 2008 and 1116 the year before that – the only times they have breached the 1000 annual volume mark since arriving in X84 guise in late 2003.

2010 Renault X32 Megane pricing:
Dynamique $22,990
Dynamique CVT (a) $24,990
Privilege CVT (a) $29,990

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