Bold and beautiful Mégane
Twenty years after its launch, Renault shows off the latest version of its hatchback, writes Geraldine Herbert
Launched in 1995, the Renault Mégane found plenty of converts to its blend of quirky styling and comfort. And even when the "shakin' that ass" second generation gave way to the somewhat bland third version, the hatchback continued to attract buyers and was the best selling car in Europe and Ireland in 2010.
The latest incarnation stands out with its dynamic styling and distinctive lighting signature at the front, while the rear lights use Edge Light technology to create a horizontal 3D-effect with a deep, red glow and is particularly eye-catching.
The overall look is heavily influenced by the new Espace and the Talisman saloon - the new Laguna replacement - but unfortunately neither of these cars is going to appear in right-hand drive.
Opt for the GT version and get steering-wheel paddle shifters, a different front bumper, 18-inch aluminium wheels developed by Renault Sport and GT-Line badges that adorn the front wings and rear.
Designed to compete with the likes of the Peugeot 308 GT, looks are just part of this car's sporty allure; under the bonnet is a seemingly modest 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 205bhp with 280Nms of pure torque.
While a much more sophisticated offering than the Captur, Clio or Twingo, the new Mégane is instantly recognisable as part of the family and adopts the brand's design DNA - including a large vertical Renault diamond, the French car maker's new signature.
The new model is longer, lower and wider than the outgoing car and, as a result, has more interior space.
Passengers in particular, benefit from a 2cm increase in rear knee space and the boot volume is a very generous 434 litres. Highest-spec models get an 8.7in touch screen that can be operated just like a smartphone or tablet and includes voice recognition for the navigation, telephone, apps and radio and is linked to larger loudspeakers.
The new Mégane will be available with 10 engines but which will make it to Ireland is not yet confirmed. There are four Energy TCe turbocharged petrol options with capacities and power outputs of 1.2 litres/100hp, 1.2 litres/130hp (manual and EDC) and 1.6 litres/205hp (GT).
The turbo-diesel alternatives are 1.5-litre dCi 90 and 110hp units, the latter with manual or EDC transmission, and 1.6-litre dCi units developing 130 or 165hp. In 2017 a Hybrid Assist diesel-electric engine will be added to the range, based on the Energy dCi 110 unit.
At the launch we had the opportunity to drive the 1.6-litre 130hp diesel engine (103g/km, 4.0/100km) a car that will appeal to the pockets of many Irish drivers but it is the 205bhp (134g/km, 6l/100km) Mégane GT that will win hearts.
The GT bridges the gap between the regular Mégane and the RS models and on the road it certainly doesn't disappoint.
Along with seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission you'll get the super-fast 4Control four-wheel steering, twin exhausts, upgraded suspension and a launch control feature.
It is a little on the firm side but you can switch between comfort, neutral and sport so it's easy to find a suitable setting. While it's not hardcore sporty, it is powerful and smooth with more than enough zip to put a smile on your face. The regular Mégane is also surprisingly improved over the previous version.
Reassuringly, the Mégane has just been awarded a five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP and safety systems include Adaptive Cruise Control; Active Emergency Braking; Lane Departure, Blind Spot and Safe Distance warnings.
Renualt's Mégane will go on sale from next month in certain markets but will not come to Ireland until June of next year. A Grand Mégane will follow in October and prices are expected to be in line with those across the current range.
In a segment that demands so much of a car, from safety, performance and technology to economy, the new Mégane has all the key ingredients to build on its previous success though pricing will be crucial when it launches in Ireland.
According to Laurens Van Den Acker, head of Renault design, the Mégane is proof that "Renault can produce cars with a Latin skin and a German heart" and first impressions would suggest he may just be right.