Megane takes baton: new hatch leads July race
OVER the years I've noticed how carmakers tend to go in cycles with their new models.
They have a spate of new motors for a year or 18 months and then settle into a consolidating pattern as someone else takes up the baton.
I think that can be said about a few at the moment, but Renault is certainly one of them.
They have just rolled out their new 5dr family hatch, the Megane, and have five more refreshes or brand new models (including a Sport Tourer, Scenic and Grand Scenic) coming within the next six months.
There will also be the Koleos large SUV by the end of March. But for now the focus is on this July-reg prospect.
Pricing starts at €19,490. That is for the petrol version. Diesels start at €21,490 (dCi 110bhp). There is 3pc APR, road side assist and five-year warranty (something a lot of people don't know about).
And don't write off the family hatchback just yet, Renault say. While demand for C-segment saloons and estates has fallen a bit, the hatchback market is holding up well.
I was surprised to learn that 60,000 Meganes have been bought here since it was first launched.
They are targeting a Top Five slot with this new one. Considering the rivals - Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus are the country's second and third biggest sellers this year respectively - that's a big ask. We'll see.
The Megane is built on the same platform as the Kadjar crossover and has widened front/rear track.
For now the GT is the flagship (205bhp 0-100kmh in 7.1 secs) with EDC gearbox, Launch Control and rear wheels that can counter steer. There will be a diesel version (1.6-litre 165bhp, 7spd EDC transmission) towards the middle of next year.
And they are raving about the Grand Coupe which is coming down the line later on.
I drove the GT Line (some of the frills but not all of the thrills of the GT). Much more solid car now. I like the look of the back.
The cabin is improved, the materials looked and felt better and there was more usable room. A longer test awaits.
Infotainment and connectivity are taken for granted so much nowadays but their scope expands exponentially.
The Megane has R-Link 2 with either 7ins landscape or 8.7in portrait screen. Via these and with access to Multi-Sense you can control air con, steering effort, engine sound, different modes, lighting ambience, etc. There is a sports mode (maximises engine response). And a personalised mode (you can maximise your own response to that).
The specification/equipment 'ladders' are interesting. Entry level has air con and cruise control while Dynamique has Multi-Sense 16ins alloys and auto dual-zone air con.
Then you can pick either Dynamic S-NAV or GT Line.
At the very top is the GT Nav (€30,690).
Overall the car is €700 more expensive but they say there's spec in there worth €1,900.
Small-family car purchases account for 27pc/30pc of the total market so although demand for saloons and estates has dipped there's a huge number of potential buyers still out there.
However, most of them are over 45 and the challenge is to get the 35-year-olds on board too. PCPs are helping in that area, apparently.
It is still a 70/30 diesel market for cars of this size but there is a general acceptance across the industry that petrol is slowly coming back.
This 5dr has two turbocharged petrols (1.2 litre/130hp; €200 road tax and 1.6 litre/205hp - that's the GT - €280 road tax). Diesels include a 1.5-litre 110hp (manual/ EDC transmission, €180 road tax ) and a 130bhp 1.6-litre (€190 tax).
The new car is lower and there is a longer wheelbase, hence the sense of more room inside.
The front and rear lighting 'signatures' work really well - especially at the back as I've said.
Next year there will be a hybrid-assist diesel-electric based on the dCi 110 with expected 76g/km. The baton keeps being passed on.