Wednesday 7 December 2016

Dial F for Frustration

Published 20/03/2010 | 05:00

T his is easily the most confusing piece of a motoring package I have come across in ages. It nearly drove me mad. It frustrated me at every turn. It is a lesson in how people get carried away with frippery.

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You see, I can't criticise the basics: engine, chassis, cabin, equipment and all that. They may not constitute a world-beating combination but, by golly, they are more than decent.

Yet they were overshadowed by the puzzle of how to get the basics working.

The radio? I pressed myriad buttons a million times. I have welts on the tips of my fingers from doing so. I felt nearly everything was not where it should have been.

And then they have this navigation system that insists on sticking its nose into everything you are doing. I don't want to be told where Fardrum, Co Westmeath, is. I know it well.

I also don't want to be told I've reached my destination at 3.30am on a Saturday morning on a motorway halfway through the Bog of Allen when I am demonstrably a long way from my destination.

Oh, Lord! I could go on and on about this. I won't.

But still, there were far too many feckity little pinhead buttons whose mystery function distracted me from the main job at hand. And they were scattered all over the place. Someone needs to sit behind the wheel of this car and make it far more user-friendly when it comes to what drivers need every day.

(Yes, they do have remote audio controls on the steering wheel -- full points for that.)

I have to come clean and say that, if I had my way, I wouldn't buy a car with a built-in sat nav if it were the last thing on four wheels.

All of what I have said up until now should help explain why my review of a car I have driven for hundreds of kilometres has been, so far, a rant about the seemingly minor matter of ergonomics. This is a good example of a car being absolutely fine but the practical mundanities of everyday driving getting in the way of enjoyment.

I readily concede my ignorance and inability to work out simple things.

But am I not a typical driver?

Do I not share a terror of, and tiredness with, anything that involves more than pressing one button for one desired result?

So it was Friday before I even began to think about the car and all the usual stuff that goes with a test drive.

This is called the Grand Megane small-family car because it is bigger, if not necessarily grander, than the ordinary one.

It is larger and longer and, frankly, looks like an estate. I was humming and hawing about the looks a bit but many, many others really liked its shape and lines.

And it drove especially well.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking a 1.5-litre diesel is not peppy or powerful enough for a car of this size.

Far from it -- this trotted around town at ease and zipped merrily along the motorways.

It's an excellent motor. And it went easy on the juice, even though I wasn't so restrained with the accelerator or gears.

It is, you see, an enjoyable car to drive but you have to hack through the undergrowth of impedimenta to reach the promised land.

Anyway, I had a nice bit of travelling lined up for it, some with a bit of luggage and the usual accoutrements for a day or two down the country.

It is a comfortable piece of work and the extra bit of room came in handy.

The boot is especially useful, though I would have preferred not to have to stoop so low to open the rear hatch.

Renault is making a big play to attract customers, especially under the scrappage scheme.

Indeed, if you were to take all sorts of trade-in allowances on offer, this Megane comes in at around €17,300. Not bad, not bad at all.

On the face of it, and assuming you overcome the Great Barrier Reef of dials and instrumentation, this is a contender, in money terms, in the mid-market.

But the Grand Megane is up against very serious opposition and, frankly, it has to live down some reliability issues.

The idea of making a basic car a bit bigger for not a lot more money is certainly appealing.

And the diesel engine sets something of a standard for frugality.

Other departments please copy.

ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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