The 4th generation of the Renault Megane hatch has arrived in SA boasting improved levels of technology, refinement and style. We sampled it at the launch at Redstar Raceway in Johannesburg.
The Renault Megane has become a mainstay of the C-segment hatch market. It may never have reached the lofty sales heights of the segment-leading Volkswagen Golf, for example, but the stylish Parisian has always been a well-specified (in terms of interior and safety features) alternative to the mainstream. The latest model certainly looks the part, even if the new "teardrop" LEDs at the front aren’t to everyone's taste.
The rear end – characterised by long, distinctive brake lights – is certainly distinctive too. Some of the most impressive additions to the new Megane occur under the sheet metal, however, such as the powertrains and the new 4Control four-wheel-steer system.
Renault has ditched the turbodiesel models in the Megane and decided on an all-petrol lineup. The lone naturally aspirated offering is a 1.6-litre unit that produces 84 kW and 156 Nm of torque. It’s only available with a 5-speed manual gearbox and in the entry-level (Dynamique) specification.
The first of the turbopetrol engines is a 1.2-litre unit, which has been carried over from the previous Megane. It delivers 97 kW and 205 Nm and is available with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. We sampled the manual model and this particular unit accelerates well and has enough grunt in reserve to make overtaking easy at freeway speeds. To exact smooth shifts requires familiarisation; the gear lever has a very light action.
The top-spec engine (until the RS model arrives) is the 1.6-litre turbopetrol motor. It’s carried over from the Clio RS, but offers more power and torque (151 kW and 280 Nm) and the updated, better-calibrated 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The shift paddles are affixed to the steering column, which is less than ideal in some people's opinion, but if you like your paddles to stay stationary while the wheel twirls then you’ll be happy with the configuration.
Megane's unique "C-shaped'"LED headlight is a distinctive feature on the new model
The claimed fuel consumption figures for the line-up are good, but we look forward to measuring actual consumption when we test the cars thoroughly. The claim for the 1.6 is 6.4 L/100 km, 1.2-litre turbopetrol 5.4 L/100 km (auto) and 5.3 L/100 km (manual), plus the GT 1.6 turbo is said to use 6.4 L/100 km.
Renault has updated the interior of the new Megane significantly, particularly in terms of build quality. The newcomer's interior feels solid and well put together, although the plastics a little lower down in the cabin are a bit rough to the touch. Overall, however, it’s a stylish and premium space.
In the GT-Line and top-spec GT model, the Alcantara seats are standard with the GT model featuring special blue inserts. They are bucket seats and supportive around the legs and hips. On the other hand the seats are quite large, so they encroach on rear legroom a bit – it doesn’t feel all that spacious in the rear. The instrument cluster is now a fully digital affair and similar to that of the Kadjar. The colours for the instrument cluster and the infotainment system can be adjusted to your choice and the cabin has LED strips. The LEDs' hue matches the colour that you select to illuminate the instrument cluster.
Interior is well-specced with a focus on adaptable themes and colours for the interior, leather wheel and Alcantara seats a premium touch
Tech and equipment
No matter which Megane derivative you choose, you will get a touchscreen system equipped with navigation. The entry-level Dynamique gets a 7-inch touchscreen and the models above it feature a 8.7-inch touchscreen system. In the 8.7-inch system, there’s a driving mode selector that allows the driver to adapt the car's settings to suit their driving mood.
There’s Sport (GT only), Eco (GT-Line only), Normal, Comfort and Personal – by which you can adjust multiple facets (engine noise, chassis setup and gearbox setting) to your exact liking. The top-spec GT derivative also comes with a 4-wheel steering system. Renault has introduced this feature before – on the Laguna Coupe some 6 years ago but it never really took off. On the Megane, the system makes the hatchback more manoeuvrable at low speeds, helping to turn the car sharper and then keep the car stable at freeway speeds.
Multi-sense allows the driver to adjust the vehicle's responsiveness and driving style
Other neat additions to the Megane include optional self-parking for parallel or alley docking parking, optional blind spot monitoring and a standard heated driver’s seat. The Megane also has a 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating.
How does it drive?
The Megane has always been a good-handling car and the new one is no different. It’s still very dynamic when you send it through some bends and the 4-wheel steering does have an effect in tucking the chassis in towards the apexes. Redstar Raceway is full of long, sharp corners, the worst combination for front-wheel-drive cars but, the Megane fared surprisingly well and was entertaining to push to its limits. The steering feels heavy in Sport mode, which is okay for track driving, but maybe a little too heavy for the road. The other modes lighten it up a bit though, so the Personal setting is probably ideal.
The Megane appears to be competitively priced with the equivalent Opel Astra and Peugeot 308. It offers good levels of specification and a well-sorted chassis and engine combination. The GT model may be a bit on the expensive side, precariously close to the competitor-eating Volkswagen Golf GTI, but it also offers a fun, less firmly-sprung alternative to the GTI. We haven't driven the 1.2 EDC derivative, but suspect it is the pick of the range...
|Renault Mégane Dynamique 1.6 litre (85kW)||R 279 900|
|Renault Mégane GT-LINE 1.2 litre Turbo (97kW)|
|6-speed manual transmission:||R 339 900|
|7-speed EDC auto transmission:||R 354 900|
|Renault Mégane GT||R 449 900|