Renault takes new Megane upmarket as buyers demand more from family cars
Like so many other makers of small-family cars these days, Renault is pushing its new Megane ever more upmarket.
That is the way buyers are shaping the demand for such cars. They no longer want the mere basics; with so much competition in this big-selling sector and with competition from compact/small crossovers, it is all about who does design, spec levels, connectivity and comfort the best.
It’s obvious that Renault has taken a lot of materials, layout, design and technology, especially in the cabin, from the likes of the larger and more luxurious Espace (not coming here as of yet, regretfully).
I drove the second-from-top European spec, which is comparable with anything in the class. And the central display (8.7ins in this, 7ins in lower spec) is as neatly integrated into the dash as anything I’ve come across this year.
This is the fulcrum for the R-LINK 2 multimedia control that, with tablet/smart-phone-like pinch and zoom movements gets you navigation, telephone, apps, radio etc. It also has voice control.
If Renault can manage anything approximating the finish and touch in the bigger-selling lower trim grades for Ireland they’ll raise the bar significantly on the forerunner – and for some rivals.
This 5dr hatch is the fourth generation of a car that has attracted some attention over the years – remember the ‘shake-de-ass’ rear version?
But this is, thankfully, more subtle; the sharpest lines are drawn at the front with the rear displaying a lot more taste and class than its famous predecessor.
Yet I was surprised to be reminded the Megane was the country’s best seller in 2010. Renault would be delighted with a repeat of that with this one, though it will have to wait a while because it doesn’t get here until next June or so. There will be a Grand Megane the following October.
Exact details of engines, trim levels and pricing for the June arrival have yet to be confirmed. Indeed it will be well into next year before they are thrashed out.
Prices for the current car start at €18,990 ex-works with the entry-level diesel nudging into the €20,000 mark. A modest increase on those is to be expected, I suppose, given the level of spec, technology and so on.
Even though it is lower (25mm), its longer wheelbase (+28mm) has generated obvious cabin space. I certainly had plenty of all-round room at the wheel.
And key to what I thought was an accomplished drive was the much wider front and rear tracks (widest in class, it claims). The suspension seemed at relative ease in the course of a reasonably lively drive over a variety of surfaces – from cobblestones to smooth tarmac.
And my 1.6-litre dCi (130bhp) with 6spd manual transmission had loads of power (the 110bhp is expected to be in demand).
While we’re not sure which exact models are coming to Ireland,there are 10 engines in total for the distributors to choose from – two specifically for the high-tailing GT performance version (which has four-wheel steering).
Here’s the lineup, anyway, with respective fuel consumption and emissions figures where applicable: 1.2TCe 100bhp 6spd manual ( 5.4l/100km, 120g/km); 1.2SCe 115 5sp man (no figures yet), 1.2TCe 130 6spd man (5.3, 119), 1.2TCe 130 7spd EDC (no figs yet); 1.5 dCi 90 6spd man (3.7, 93), 1.5 dCi 110 ECO2 6spd man (3.3, 86), 1.5 dCi 110 6spd EDC ( 3.7, 95), 1.6 dCi 130 6spd man ( 4.0, 103), 1.6 TCe 205 7spd EDC (6.0, 134), 1.6 dCi 165 6spd EDC (no figs yet).
The 1.2-litre turbocharged petrols are interesting and should appeal to more buyers as the genre continues its comeback.
And the GT will set a headline for the car with its high-power, distinctive markings and its four-wheel-steering as it benefits from Formula One experience.
But diesels will be the mainstay with the likes of the 1.5-litre dCi (90bhp and 110hp) and 1.6-litre dCi on the menu. Emissions in the dCi 110 dip to just 86g/km.
While Renault makes much play of how it will be possible to personalise the car – like so many others – much more basic work appears to have been done at a practical level.
For example it has bolstered the seats with dual foam for greater support and comfort. And the car was far quieter due to better insulation in critical areas of the vehicle as well as thicker window glass (though wind noise was noticeable).
Looking further ahead, there will be a Hybrid Assist diesel-electric powertrain by 2017.
It will be based on the Energy dCi 110 and the company is aiming for 76g/km and 97mpg.
By then we should be seeing if the new Megane is kicking, rather than shaking, ass in what is a most demanding car-buying sector.