The fourth-generation Megane and I did not get off to a good start. This is a car that has only recently gone on sale, so fundamental decisions about its design must have been made within, at most, the last three years. By 2013 it should already have been apparent to anyone in the motor industry that certain trends had been allowed to develop even though they were clearly wrong and ought to have been stifled a long time ago. The Megane shows that Renault either didn’t know about them or deliberately ignored them.
For example: rear passenger space. Not everyone who buys a medium-sized family car needs much of this, of course, but some people do, and they’re not going to find it in the Megane. It still baffles me that the Honda Jazz and Suzuki Baleno, to mention just two cars I’ve driven recently, are far more capable than the Megane of carrying four large adults despite being significantly shorter.
And it’s not as if this has been done in order to create more luggage room. With all the seats up and ready for use, the Megane has a boot volume of 384 litres, which is fairly decent but not even close to class-leading. On top of that, the load sill is quite high, so you have to do a fair bit of lifting to get your chattels in there.
The window design in the back half of the car is aggressively user-hostile and makes reversing exceptionally difficult. Fortunately the Dynamique S Nav has a rear-view camera, which makes life a lot easier, but you don’t get this in the cheaper Expression+ and Dynamique Nav. Would it really not have been possible to make the windows larger?
However, if I could persuade myself to buy a Megane – and you’ve probably noticed by now that this would take some effort – it might be this one. A key factor is Renault’s old but still dependable 1.5-litre dCi turbo diesel engine, also used in several models by Alliance partner Nissan.
It provides more than adequate, if hardly exciting, performance, very little of its noise is allowed into the cabin (at least once it’s reached operating temperature) and, best of all, it has an official fuel economy figure in the mid 70s and, thanks to a CO2 rating of 96g/km with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, does not require you to pay any Vehicle Excise Duty.
This is also a particularly nice car to drive. The major controls are all pleasant to use, the steering being particularly lovely. The roadholding is as good as it needs to be considering you have a maximum of 109bhp to play with, and the ride, in classic French style, is simply brilliant over large bumps, at the expense of some minor jiggling over smaller ones.
I like the digital instrument display, especially the way the speedometer numbers become bigger and clearer the closer the virtual needle comes to them. Clever and effective.
That’s if you’ve set the car to operate in Comfort mode. In Sport, you get a revcounter and a digital speedometer. The steering becomes slightly more direct and the engine responds more quickly to smaller movements of the accelerator pedal. The suspension settings aren’t changed, which is fine because I wouldn’t want them to be, and overall I prefer the Comfort mode anyway, though you are of course welcome to disagree.
The Dynamique S Nav is the cheapest of the truly high-tech Meganes, featuring as standard the R-Link multimedia system with TomTom LIVE services, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and an 8.7″ touchscreen. It also has 17″ wheels (they seem okay, but maybe the 16s of the lesser models would be better) and extra tinting on the rear side and tailgate windows, which is the last thing it needs.
Engine size 1461cc
Top speed 116mph
0-62mph 11.3 seconds
Fuel economy 76.3mpg combined
CO2 emissions 96g/km
Towing capacity 1300kg (braked)
Euro NCAP (2015) Overall 5 stars Adult occupant 88% Child occupant 87% stars Pedestrian 71% Safety assist 71%
Information correct at publication date