What is it?
Once one of Renault’s most popular cars, the Megane hatchback has become victim to this French firm’s own success, with the brand’s Captur and Kadjar now leading the way in terms of sales.
Yet elsewhere, the family hatchback remains competitive, not least when rivals like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf are some of the UK’s top-selling cars. But despite the latest generation of Megane’s stylish look, its cheap-feeling interior and uninspiring drive left plenty to be desired, so can an updated model help change that?
One of the biggest changes on the latest Megane is one that doesn’t actually affect our test car – the introduction of a plug-in hybrid for the first time as part of a growing electrified range from Renault, though for the time being it’s limited to the estate model.
The rest of the car gets a suitable redesign, though, with full LED lighting at the front and rear and a welcome boost in the cabin in terms of both quality and technology, with the latest media screens and digital dials from the new Clio and Captur being introduced.
And given the appeal of the sporty Renaultsport hot hatch models, the French firm is hoping to exploit that with a new tame-but-sporty-looking R.S Line grade, which replaces the previous GT Line trim.
What’s under the bonnet?
Things remain simple on the Megane hatchback range, with just one petrol and one diesel to choose from, and each getting the option of a manual or automatic gearbox.
Our test car gets what’s expected to be the most popular – a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol (badged TCe 140). It produces 138bhp and 240Nm of torque and allows for a 0-60mph time of 9.2 seconds and a 127mph top speed. A six-speed manual gearbox is used, too, with power being sent to the front wheels.
In terms of running costs, Renault claims it emits 136g/km along with a 47.1mpg fuel economy figure – though we averaged closer to 40mpg during our testing. The diesel’s 60mpg plus figure means it’s the choice to go for if you do plenty of miles.
What’s it like to drive?
Don’t be fooled by our R.S. Line test car’s supposed ‘F1-inspired’ styling, as despite the racy looks, it’s a safe and sensible choice behind the wheel.
Comparatively small 17-inch alloy wheels lead to a compliant ride, while the smooth – if unexciting – engine delivers where it needs. If you like a namedrop, you can also say the same engine is used in a Mercedes A-Class…
But it’s never much fun, with little weight to the steering, even when put it into the ‘Sport’ setting. We also found the refinement questionable, with plenty of road noise making its way into the cabin. In this area at least, it feels like a missed opportunity to inject some sportier appeal into this hatch – especially given Renaultsport’s expertise – so the Ford Focus and Seat Leon need not worry in this respect.
How does it look?
While looks are always subjective, we’d argue that one of the latest Megane’s greatest strengths is the way it looks. With its striking front end, C-shaped LED lighting at the front, it stands out on the road and for all the right reasons.
You can’t blame Renault for the subtly updated styling here, though the new LED lighting, including new dynamic rear indicators at the rear, certainly add to the appeal.
If you value style, the R.S. Line grade is also the one to go for, and it gains new 17-inch alloy wheels, a sportier bodykit and ‘F1-style’ front running blades. Take the F1 connections with a pinch of salt, but there’s no mistaking this is one of the most stylish cars in this segment.
What’s it like inside?
Arguably the best change on the Megane comes when you step inside, as you’re immediately treated to a far more pleasant and higher-quality cabin than before. Though it doesn’t look dramatically different, you get a larger 9.3-inch touchscreen with all the bells and whistles, along with a new 10-inch digital dial system that you can easily configure.
Our test car also came equipped with a superb set of Alcantara and leather sports seats, that were both comfortable and incredibly supportive, with a proper bucket car seat-like feel about them. While a rather pricey option at £1,250, it’s a box we reckon is worth ticking.
The Megane isn’t, however, especially roomy – especially in the back seats where an adult would struggle to sit behind a taller person in the front seats. The 405-litre boot is a generous size, though, and larger than key rivals like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
What’s the spec like?
As part of the update, there are now just two trims to choose from – Iconic and R.S. Line.
Even as standard it gets plenty of equipment, including full LED lighting, a reversing camera, 17-inch alloy wheels and keyless entry. Its £21,495 starting price is competitive for this class too, especially considering the generous standard kit.
But we’d be tempted to upgrade to the R.S. Line model for its sportier look inside and out, as well as the larger touchscreen and digital dials – Iconic models get smaller versions of each. Though the price for the R.S. Line starts from £23,495, it works out as only £20 more each month to finance, which makes it seem a no-brainer.
With a strong combination of style, a much-improved interior and reasonably good value for money, the Megane remains an appealing family hatchback.
But despite Renault’s best efforts, the drab driving experience and lack of a real unique selling point mean this hatchback is likely to remain second best next to Renault’s own crossovers and rivals like the Ford Focus.
Model: Renault Megane
Model as tested: Megane R.S. Line TCe 140
Price as tested: £23,495 (£25,705 with options)
Engine: 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol
Max speed: 127mph
0-60mph: 9.2 seconds
Emissions: 136g/km CO2