20 April 2014
The last “Shaking Your Ass” Renault Megane was something of a Marmite car – you either loved it or hated it. The latest generation looks more conventional, with a conservative-looking saloon and stylish Coupe. The newest member of the family, the Megane Estate, is somewhere in between these two. As a vehicle aimed at families and fleet buyers, it has an air of practicality, but it’s also a bit, dare we say it, sportier, compared to the last iteration, with a roofline that slopes towards the back and a raking rear pillar. But are its looks enough of a reason to buy it?
The Megane Estate is launched with a dizzying array of ten engines to choose from: five petrol and five diesel. The petrol engines range from a 98bhp 1.6 VVT to a turbocharged 2.0-litre unit that generates 177bhp and does 0-62mph in eight seconds dead. The diesel units include two versions of the 1.5-litre dCi, a 1.8 –litre dCi and two versions of the 2.0-litre dCi, including the one fitted to our test car, a 158bhp-rated unit that produces 280lb-ft of torque and allows it to hit 62mph from a standing start in a very respectable 8.8 seconds before pushing on to a top speed of 133mph. It’s a pretty smooth and refined engine with lots of torque, especially in the mid-range, that means it’s sufficiently flexible to make for a comfortable motorway cruise. However, the notchy manual transmission that was mated to the engine was something of a disappointment, with imprecise shifts.
Renault’s engineers have spent a lot of time developing the Megane’s driving dynamics, which are much improved over the previous generation. A new subframe means that body roll is well contained and the Megane remains fairly composed and flat in the corners. A new electric power steering set-up is also an improvement over the last iteration, so it’s more accurate, less vague and fairly well weighted. The ride is decent enough, but Renault’s torsion beam rear suspension can’t match the multi-link system used by competitors, so it isn’t as composed or compliant on rough surfaces as it could be. So the Megane Estate isn’t exactly what you’d call a keen driver’s car. It will prove perfectly adequate for most owners, but it does suffer from comparison with cars such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf Estates, both of which offer class-leading driving dynamics and are the benchmarks for the sector.
Renault has a poor record on reliability. In recent years its cars have suffered from poor build quality, with problems that have blighted the ownership experience. For example, the last-generation Megane was placed 72nd in the league table of 100 leading models compiled from returns to JD Power’s customer satisfaction survey. However, the company seems to have turned the corner with a new quality drive that started with the launch of the latest Laguna. These changes are apparent in the new Megane Estate, with the fit and finish of the car’s exterior of a high standard. The cabin also looks and feels well made, with upmarket materials on the dashboard, interior surfaces and seats, plus solid, high-quality switchgear that’s also used in the Laguna. Time will tell if Renault has sorted its reliability issues, but it certainly seems as if the company is headed in the right direction.
If there’s one area in which Renault usually does well, it’s safety. Its reputation as a market-leader, especially among mass-market carmakers, is reflected in the Euro NCAP results for the new Megane: five stars for adult protection, four stars for child protection and two stars for pedestrian protection. The Megane Estate comes fully kitted out with a full range of active and passive safety equipment fitted as standard, including ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and brake assist; ESP with anti-skid regulation (ASR) and CSV understeer control; eight airbags; Isofix child seat mounting points; three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters. Cars with Dynamique trim or higher are also fitted with automatic lights and wipers, plus cruise control with a speed limiter. For safety, there’s central locking, alarm, immobiliser and a card that allows for keyless opening and starting of the car.
There's enough space for four average-sized adults in the Megane Estate, but five will be a bit of a squeeze and there’s not an abundance of headroom at the back. Likewise, legroom is ample, but six-footers might feel a little cramped. Bootspace is a decent 524 litres when you factor in the underfloor storage space: if you fold down the 60:40 split rear seats capacity increases to a very useful 1,600 litres. The Megane Estate comes in four trim levels in the UK: Expression, Dynamique (likely to be the most popular), TomTom Edition and Privilege. The base model has kit that includes radio/CD, electric windows and air con; Dynamique adds the likes of Bluetooth and iPod/MP3 connector, 16” alloys and fog lights; TomTom adds, as you’d expect, a sat nav system (also available as a £450 option); and Privilege gets you dual-zone climate control, electric door mirrors and electrochrome rear view mirror.
As you’d expect from a car with 10 engine options, there’s a wide range of fuel consumption figures and CO2 emissions, from the 37.2mpg and 178g/km of the tubocharged 2.0-litre TCe180 petrol engine to the frugal 62.8mpg and 118g/km of the 84bhp 1.5-litre dCi (for which you’d pay just £35 a year in road tax). The car we tested returns respectable figures for a 2.0-litre diesel, with 155g/km of CO2 that places it in Band G for road tax (£150 per year) and 47.9mpg. Residual values are likely to be fairly low, though, as French estate cars have a reputation for not holding their value (the last Megane depreciated quite severely, for example). We therefore expect the Megane Estate to retain 34% of its value after 36,000 miles/three years, which is pretty poor when you compare it to a Golf Estate, which has residuals as high as 53%.
Submitted: 25/06/2009 12:20:07
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