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Face-lifted Megane now looks as good as it drives

THE most important thing for any critic is to be able to promote a persona of profound intelligence and an absolute air of authority on any subject.

A good restaurant critic will leave you believing that he possesses the skills of a Michelin-starred chef even if whipping together a good omelette is beyond his ability – the key is to keep the pan warm but not too hot.

The motoring journalist, or critic, will have you believe that he knows best about what makes a good car from a not so good car, using words like torque and emissions.

He or she will pronounce the merits of a particular model, how it handles and how fast it can travel in a straight line, while never admitting to breaking the speed limit.

Some journalists will then vote on their favourite car at the end of year hootenanny known as the Continental Irish Car of the Year Awards, but a problem has now arisen.

Some members of the Irish Motor Writers' Association – a club in which I have no part – are getting a bit queasy about this opaque process.

It seems that while the IMWA likes to vote on which car it thinks is best, some of its privileged members do not want to tell you how they voted, or what made them come to that decision.

In other words, here is the result but don't ask us to tell you why, leaving the public, the car manufacturers and the distributors none the wiser.

A growing level of disquiet in some of the IMWA's more responsible journalists have now called for an end to this magical mystery process and have demanded that if you're going to declare something, then – and not unreasonably – tell us what made you come to that decision.

Of course it all makes for a terrific plot in the latest edition of this long-running soap opera but it ain't going to make a blind bit of difference.

It looks like the only transparent thing in motoring journalism is the car window and the blind spots are set to remain until further notice.

Which brings me to the Renault Megane, a car that is completely honest and doesn't hide behind any mystery – what you see is what you get – and this is how.

The Megane is stylish, comfortable and it travels very well, with great economy and a pretty surprising level of performance.

The overall emphasis on the Megane is of styling and this is a particularly attractive car thanks to a redesigned front grille which sets the whole look.

It comes with a 1.6 litre engine and with three added Eco2 models to the standard – a dCi diesel which delivers 90hp, the version I had. There are two senior versions which both come with 110hp and six speed gearbox, one an auto version.

She's had a bit of a nip 'n' tuck too as the third generation gets a more sculpted look – especially around the back. The front is a mix of conservative yet funky with massive wraparound headlamp units underlined with snazzy LED lights.

Standard equipment is vast and includes ABS and emergency brake assist, keyless card entry and automatic locking system when leaving the car.

The ride is comfortable and smooth, although as you might expect it takes a bit of tickling to get going on a motorway.

Fuel efficiency is superb, I barely passed the halfway mark on the gauge despite 500kms of motoring.

If I were marking the Megane for an end of year award, it would rate highly and based on a complete overall package and a very competitive price. It's got a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty too.

The Renault Megane costs from €18,990.