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Driven: Crucial new Renault Megane checks in

Still important: Renault Australia has faith that its newest passenger car will be able to hold out against SUV onslaught.

New Renault Megane launches in hatch form at first, with sedan and wagon to follow

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Renault logo14 Oct 2016

ALMOST 10 months after its launch in Europe, Renault Australia has introduced its new Megane small-sized car in petrol-powered hatchback form first, before being joined by a sedan and wagon and a diesel-engined variant in 2017.

Based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance's flexible Common Family Module (CFM) platform that's shared with the Nissan Qashqai, the five-door Megane is bigger in almost every measurement and will, for the first time, feature dual-clutch gearboxes and rear-wheel steering on the top-spec GT model.

Renault claims that the Spanish-built Megane hatch was the subject of more than 700,000 test road kilometres, while ride and handling improvements were also high on the car-makers agenda.

Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said he believes that despite the continued growth in local SUV segments across the board, the Megane has what it takes to add to the company's volume player.

"It's a very important car for us," Mr Hocevar told GoAuto at the vehicle's launch in northern New South Wales. "It's always been an important car for the brand globally. It's important to us locally.

"The simple fact that it's such a big part of the market still. (The small passenger car sector) hasn't had the booming growth of medium SUV, for example, but it is still a big part of the market with around 50-odd thousand vehicles sold every year. To have a strong presence there is important for our business in Australia."Renaults three-variant range kicks off with the 97kW/205Nm 1.2-litre four-cylinder powered Life hatch in six-speed manual gearbox trim at $22,490 plus on-road costs, with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission version costing $24,990.

The dual clutch-only Zen, which uses the same engine, will cost $27,490, while the similarly-powered GT Line costs $32,490.

The 1.2-litre engine will return 5.6 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, and emits 125g of CO2 per kilometre.

Topping the local line-up is the $38,490 GT, which uses the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the Clio RS and produces 151kW and 280Nm.

GT variants also score a electro-pneumatic all-wheel-steering system, bespoke springs and dampers from Renault Sport and a revised drive select mode system that deletes Eco mode and adds an RS button to instantly sharpen throttle, gear and steering feel.

The GT, which replaces the 2.0-litre turbocharged GT220 in the outgoing range, returns 6.0L/100km and emits 134g/km of CO2.

Mr Hocevar said he believed Renault Australia had done the numbers on the Megane's pricing relative to the local market.

"Our price is right in the mix with some real volume players," said Mr Hocevar.

"Not just for the entry model, either. I really mean right through the range.

When you really add up the cost of all those items, it's a well-specced car, and that theme continues as you step your way up through the range.""I think particularly if people start to add in the value of all the back-end items, the total cost of ownership items as well ... If they do their math on that, it's really a compelling offer."The expanded Megane range will drop into a competitive space currently dominated by the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30, and will compete more closely with niche players like the Peugeot 308 and Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Both the Renault Captur and Koleos SUVs also outsold the Megane in 2015, which has found 802 homes to the end of September while in run-out mode.

Improvements across the Megane line, which runs a semi-MacPherson strut front end and a torsion bar in the rear, include the elimination of bushings between the body and the front subframe, new front wishbone bushings, revised shocks and more progressive bump stops.

Noise, vibration and harshness levels have been improved, with thicker windows, better exterior seals at the bottom of the doors, and standard acoustic glass windscreens across the range.

More foam and felt underneath the bonnet, around the opening panels and wheel arches, in the footwells, in the pillars and behind the boot's trim work in conjunction with a stiffer bodyshell to quell noise.

Dimension-wise, the new Megane is 64mm longer than the previous car at 4359mm, 28mm longer in the wheelbase at 2669mm, the roofline is 25mm lower at 1447mm, and front (1591mm) and rear (1586mm) tracks are 47mm and 39mm wider respectively.

The entry-level Life comes standard with keyless entry, a rearview camera and parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring system, R-Link 2 multimedia system with 7.0-inch touchscreen, eight-speaker stereo with aux-in, two USB ports and two 12V power outlets (front and rear).

It wears dark carbon fabric trim, has a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, dual-zone climate control, automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, LED daytime running lamps, rear LED daytime running lights and 16-inch alloys.

The Zen adds LED daytime running lights with a 3D edge effect, a larger R-Link 2 multimedia set-up with navigation, front parking sensors, electronic parking brake and 16-inch Silverline alloy rims, while an optional sunroof pack comprising an electric sunroof, automatic dimming rearview mirror, sun visor with illuminated mirror is also available.

Step into the GT Line and youll score an electric sunroof, a drive mode select switch with five driving modes and customisable interior ambient lighting, electric adjustable folding door mirrors, black Alcantara upholstery on the front sports seats with integrated headrests, blind spot warning system, parking assistance system, rear privacy glass and 17-inch alloy wheels.

There is also an optional premium pack available, with a portrait-aligned 8.7-inch touchscreen, Bose audio system and LED headlights.

The top-spec GT adds four-wheel steering, Renault Sport chassis and suspension tuning, Renault Sport badging, an RS drive mode switch and the deletion of the Eco mode from the drive mode selections, steering column-mounted paddle shifters, aluminium accelerator and brake pedals, black and blue Alcantara upholstery and 18-inch Magny-Cours alloy rims.

Under 80km/h in sport mode and 60km/h in other modes, the steering system makes the rears turn in the opposite direction to the front to aid low-speed turning and parking. The rears will turn in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds.

The Megane GT also scored specific springs, dampers, anti-roll bars and steering, while the diameter of the brake rotors increases 30mm over those on the stock car (320mm at the front, 290mm at the rear).

Currently, the Megane range misses out on some of the enhanced safety features offered in other markets, including adaptive cruise control, active emergency braking system, lane departure warning, safe distance warning and overspeed prevention with traffic sign recognition.

Mr Hocevar told journalists that the suite of systems will likely be added to the range very soon, but is not retrofittable.

2016 Renault Megane pricing*
Life$22,490
Life (a)$24,990
Zen (a)$27,490
GT-Line (a)$32,490
GT (a)$38,490
*Excludes on-road costs

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