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First drive: Megane goes mainstream

Renault renaissance: Redesigned Megane hatch comes with mainstream pricing and styling.

Renault goes for Golf as small French hatch finally arrives Down Under

28 Oct 2010

WITH manufacturer’s recommended retail prices from $22,990 and a driveaway price of $25,990 for the entry-level Dynamique manual, Renault Australia has repositioned its mainstream Megane five-door hatchback to make it far more competitive.

More conservative styling, much improved quality, higher standard equipment levels and a less complex model line-up are all part of the strategy to get the Megane onto many more shopping lists.

If the ‘look at me’ nature of its predecessor’s design put many prospective buyers off, then this much more conventional (even bland) appearance might constitute a good starting point. The interior is somewhat bolder (albeit not confrontingly so) and the quality of materials used throughout is impressive, especially for this price range.

Space is luxury (as airline travel always reminds us) and the Megane scores well. Children confined to the rear will feel less confined than in many cars in the class.

The term ‘entry-level’ is a misnomer in the case of any Megane. Even the Dynamique graduates with honours in acronymology, packing ESP, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, six airbags and the Renault System for Restraint and Protection which takes into account both impact force and the build of occupants. The front of the car was also designed to reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians in the event of impact.

35 center imageAutomatic headlights and wipers, cruise control with speed-limiter, foglights, Renault’s Smart Card, height and lumbar adjustments for the driver’s seat, air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, four-speaker audio with two tweeters, CD/MP3, steering wheel controls and 16-inch alloys are all standard. The cloth trim is of good quality. In short, there is no sense of corners having been cut to bring the Dynamique to market at $22,990.

The Privilege adds an electric glass sunroof, rear parking sensors, smart black leather trim, similar seat adjustability for the front passenger, a leather-bound wheel and gearknob, dual-zone climate-control, neatly integrated satnav, 3D sound, a rear centre console with cup-holders and vents, heated folding mirrors and 17-inch alloys. That’s a high level of specification for a $29,990 European car.

Optional equipment for the Dynamique model is limited to metallic paint and Integrated Satellite Navigation, while the Privilege offers bi-Xenon headlights and metallic paint.

This reflects Renault Australia’s determination, under new boss Justin Hocevar, to simplify the model lineup and to bring each variant to market keenly priced and very well specced. But it would be nice to find the leather wheel and knob in the Dynamique as further gestures of Renault goodwill towards the market it wishes to woo.

Notably clear instrumentation with a large digital speedometer earn high marks in this era when adherence to the speed limit is deemed critical.

The steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach. The relationship between seat, wheel and pedals will suit most drivers. All-round vision is excellent. This is a major safety element compromised by some manufacturers.

Spaciousness is a theme of the latest Renault range from the Megane through to the forthcoming Latitude sedan (see separate story). The expected 60/40-split folding rear seat gives access to a generous (360-litre) boot, which happens to be exactly six times the capacity of the fuel tank. Deep door pockets capable of holding an A4 diary and copious notes for GoAuto were much appreciated. They are big enough to hold a one-litre drink bottle.

Space for rear passengers is generous. There are three lap-sash belts, each of which could be worn by an adult over quite reasonable distances without discomfort.

The Megane boasts strong environmental credentials. Some 22kg of its plastics – almost 12 per cent – are sourced from recycled material and at the end of its useful life 95 per cent of its weight will, in turn, be recyclable.

In summary, this more conservative but more competent Megane is more directly competitive than its predecessor and, assuming Renault Australia’s new big plans are put into effect, should achieve the projected sales volume of 1000 units in 2011, with at least 60 per cent of these expected to go to the Privilege variant.

2010 Renault Meganehatchpricing:
Dynamique 2.0$22,990
Privilege 2.0 (CVT)$29,990

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