1 Dec 2003
RENAULT’S second-generation Megane small-car range at first shocked, then seduced, a large proportion of European small-car buyers on its 2002 unveiling.
But with no predecessor to draw upon (if you exclude the last Renault small car sold here – the dumpy 1991-1996 R19), the X84 Megane – the one with the big derriere – found it difficult to find buyers.
The Megane’s premium price-tag also put it into direct fire with popular established small cars like the VW Golf and Holden Astra – both which were refreshed during 2004.
Three five-door models and a single-specification three-door were initially offered from December 2003, comprising two engines and two transmissions.
Both the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines offer variable inlet valve timing, with the 1.6 producing 83kW at 6000rpm and 152Nm of torque at 4200rpm.
The 2.0 delivers 98.5kW at 5500rpm and 191Nm of torque at 3750rpm, and a four-speed Proactive transmission with sequential manual gear selection is available on all models for $2200.
The single 1.6-litre model comes with a five-speed manual transmission as standard, while the 2.0-litre models score a six-speed manual.
Opening the range was the 1.6 Authentique five-door featuring air-conditioning, height/reach-adjustable steering wheel, trip computer, six-speaker audio, keyless entry and starting, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control with speed limiter and front underfloor storage.
On the safety front, all Meganes include dual front and side airbags plus side curtain airbags, ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, front/outer rear seatbelt pretensioners, seatbelt force limiters for all occupants, five lap/sash seatbelts and five adjustable head restraints.
The 2.0-litre Dynamique five-door added climate control, leather-bound steering wheel and gearknob, body-coloured door mirrors and 16-inch alloy wheels, while the 2.0-litre five-door Dynamique LX boasted full leather trim and 17-inch alloys.
The three-door 2.0-litre Megane Sport Hatch was available only in Dynamique LX specification, but added twin front anti-submarining airbags up front.
From April ’04 the Megane four-door sedan debuted in two 2.0-litre versions – in base Expression and luxury Privilege editions.
Built at a Renault plant in Turkey, the sedan’s wheelbase is 61mm longer than the hatch’s, making the doors and rear overhang longer than those of the donor hatchback’s.
Renault claims the extra length delivers a class-leading 230mm of rear knee room despite an extra two degrees of rear seat recline angle.
The rear overhang is increased by 228mm for the sedan by comparison with the hatch, creating a boot load volume of 520 litres.
The rear suspension system is also different on the extended platform, but the fundamental torsion beam design remains the same.
Later in 2004 (September) Renault introduced the Sport Megane 225, a hot version of the regular Megane five-door hatch.
The regular 98kW 2.0-litre engine is replaced with a twin-scroll turbocharged version winding out no less than 165kW and able to reach 100km/h from a standing start in 6.5 seconds.
The power to weight ratio – 8.3kg per kilowatt – is virtually lineball with the yardstick Subaru Impreza WRX.
To transfer all this effectively to the ground, the RS Megane gets a new version of the MacPherson strut front suspension, with quite different geometry to regular Meganes helping minimise torque-steer.
Elsewhere, it gets the usual tightening-up involving a higher-rated torsion beam rear axle, stiffer isolating bushes and stiffer dampers.
Suspension travel has been reduced at both front and rear, the tracks are wider by seven millimetres at the front and 15 millimetres at the rear, and the wheels are 17-inch alloys with 225/45 Continental SportContact2 tyres.
The RS Megane also gets Brembo-reworked brakes with alloy four-pot callipers up front, and larger and thicker rotors at both ends. The system works through Bosch’s latest 8.0 four-channel ABS with brake assist and is further enhanced via Bosch electronic stability control, as well as switchable traction control.
Visually, the RS Megane 225 gains a large under-bumper air intake flanked by driving lights, and a new tail panel with twin exhaust outlets.
Inside it is nicely fitted out, with well-shaped sports front seats, trip computer, six-speaker CD sound system, auto-dipping rear-view mirror, climate control and six airbags. The optional LX pack adds leather seats, a sunroof and a six-CD in-dash stacker.
A year later the Sport Cup version added quicker steering, firmer suspension, larger wheels and a small weight cut for even keener responses.