Megane seeks those with similar values

Once a best seller Renault’s family hatch returns with a new face

Once a best seller Renault’s family hatch returns with a new face. Video: Neil Briscoe

Tue, Apr 8, 2014, 16:48

It may seem somewhat odd to say it now, at a time when VW, Ford and Toyota dominate the car sales charts, but the Renault Megane was once the best selling car in Ireland.

Back in 2010, with the try-and-keep-the-industry-alive scrappage scheme in place, Renault went on a round of massive discounting, slashing the price of the Megane (and the related Fluence) and made hay. Overall car sales may have been low, but the Megane still came out on top.

The problem is that when you knock that kind of discount off a new car, it tends to have a deleterious effect on the second hand value, a fact that became shockingly clear to Megane owners a couple of years down the line.

Renault now assures us that it’s gotten over its discounting fever, and is now concentrating on selling cars that can retain a decent resale value at trade-in time. Which seems like an appropriate time to introduce a new, or at least updated Megane.

Up front, you’ll quickly notice the new face, drawing obvious influences from the rather gorgeous Clio with its huge central badge and eagle-like headlights. It’s a much more pleasing visage (and that’s your actual French) than the older Megane’s rather flat face.

All the rest is basically familiar, but the looks of our test car were immeasurably improved by the fact that it was an estate, the so-called Grand Megane. Like most estate, it looks to these eyes classier and more upmarket than its hatchback or saloon brethren and the Ice Brown Metallic paint with the optional silver plastic inserts that come with the GT Line specification really suit it.

Speaking of GT Line, I’d say it’s a must-have option if you’re going to appreciate the interior of your Megane. The standard car has rather flat, unsupportive seats whereas the GT gets nicely bolstered, very comfy bucket seats. The driving position feels slightly odd though – the main instruments lean back at a sharp angle and it makes you feel as if you’re not sitting upright enough. Space is good up front, and not bad in the back. It’s very good in the boot, where you’ll find 524-litres of luggage volume (good but not good enough to match the vast space of the Skoda Octavia Combi or the forthcoming Peugeot 308 SW) and a nicely flat load area.

Quality, for those concerned about French cars in that arena, seems very good. It’s not as lustrous as a Golf (or a Skoda for that matter) in the cabin but everything feels tightly constructed and there was nary a rattle or a squeak to be noticed. The 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine is also a proven unit and Renault’s long-time partners at Nissan uses it in various models so reliability should be better than decent.

The engine has been updated for this facelift and now records a rather excellent 90g/km Co2 emissions figure, which means you’ll pay a mere €180 to tax it. Mind you, I think you’ll struggle to match the claimed fuel consumption. Renault reckons you’ll get 3.5-litres per 100km, or about 70mpg from it. Fat chance – I could only manage around 50mpg at best. Still pretty good though, and the big 60-litre fuel tank means you won’t have to fill up too often.

To drive, the Megane feels better than you expect but still not quite up to the class standard. The steering feels nicely weighted and reactive, and you can see how Renault is able to take this basic package and upgrade it for the supercar-slaying Megane RS hot hatch. The Megane turns in, grips and corners with decent aplomb. It doesn’t ride very well though, shuddering and slapping over obstacles – surely a French car should be comfy first and all other things second, no?

Then there’s the question of value. At €25,490 for our test car, you get a lot of space, a lot of equipment (those nice seats, built-in satnav, Bluetooth for phone and audio player, automatic lights and wipers, leather for the steering wheel, climate and cruise control etc etc) and a car that’s at the very least bang on the class average. However, there are better choices in the segment right now (Focus, Golf, Mazda 3, 308 and Cee’d all spring to mind) and Renault needs to prove that it can do enough to protect residual values before we can start braking out the recommendation word.

The lowdown: Renault Grand Megane 1.5 dCi GT Line

Power: 110bhp

Torque: 260Nm

0-100kmh: 9.7 sec

Top speed: 190km/h

Claimed economy: 3.5l/100km

Co2 emissions: 90g/km

Motor tax: €180

Price €25,490 as tested. Grand Megane pricing starts at €19,890

Verdict: An improvement but lacks the spark of the smaller Clio

Our rating: 3/5

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