A MEASURE of just how successful the Renault Megane has proved can be gauged by its impressive sales figure.
Upwards of 6.5 million sold takes some doing, even over the 20-year period since the model replaced its popular predecessor the Renault 19.
Now we have a new fourth generation Megane – and it’s the most technologically advanced car Renault has launched in the UK.
The emphasis is on family motoring at the cutting edge, courtesy of a stylish low slung design, pinpoint dynamics, useful space and engineering efficiency.
Given that it operates in a highly competitive area of the new car market, with the likes of heavy hitters the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra in opposition, the new Megane needs to engage with some instant emotional appeal.
It does just that too with a racy elegance common to all variants but even more defined in the sporty GT versions complete with double honeycomb grille.
Follow the Megane from behind and it is easily recognised as the lights trace the shape of a pencil moustache. Sounds silly but is actually very effective.
So it looks the part from the outside and while the cabin may not be the most spacious around for rear passengers – especially if those up front need their seats slid back – there’s an undeniable quality to everything from the shapely seats to the feel of the fittings.
Especially effective is the vertical ‘portrait’ touchscreen which not only makes the Megane feel up to the minute modern but also easy to reach contacts, music, email and various apps.
This is a control centre that enables you to manage the car’s MULTI-SENSE system too, with its five self explanatory driving modes – Neutral, Sport, Comfort, Eco and Perso – each also triggering a different lighting ambiance.
The range spans six trim levels – Expression +, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav, Signature Nav, GT Line Nav and GT Nav – across a 25-strong model line-up with four engines and manual or dual clutch automatic transmissions. Prices start at £16,000.
Diesels comprise a 1.5-litre dCi developing 110bhp or 1.6 dCi with 130bhp and petrol engines a pair of turbocharged Energy units, one a 1.2-litre producing 130bhp and the other a 205bhp 1.6-litre engine.
Extensive test routes taking in a mix of urban roads, motorways and the twisty challenge of the North York Moors provided the ideal examination for the new Megane.
The 205bhp GT model occupies that centre ground between the sheep in wolf’s clothing that’s the cosmetic GT Line variant and the full fat Megane Renaultsport.
For the £25,500 asking price you get a car that performs as well as it looks. It comes loaded with kit, is both poised and balanced at speed, has precise feedback from the steering and also includes the French manufacturer’s 4CONTROL four-wheel steering.
Acceleration from 0-62 takes 7.2 seconds and though the official Combined fuel figure is 47.1mpg that’s not a realistic return for the enthusiastic driver.
I wasn’t expecting too much from the dCi 110 by comparison, but was really impressed by the feel of this car.
If you go for entry grade Expression+ trim it costs £17,900 for a version that has a claimed average consumption of 76.4mpg, a low CO2 figure of 96g/km and really spirited engine.
It’s so silent in fact that even at low speed you would be pushed to know it was a diesel.
There’s plenty to whet the appetite of UK buyers in the shape of upmarket gizmos – and that includes stuff previously unavailable in the Megane’s area of the market, sourced from non-UK models like the Espace and Talisman.
It’s accessed via the car’s dashboard tablet and grouped for ease of use. So set-ups like Adaptive Cruise Control and Active Emergency Braking are there to ‘reassure’, Lane Departure and Safe Distance warning along with Traffic Sign Recognition will ‘alert’ the driver while reversing camera, hands free parking, sensors and auto headlights will ‘assist’.
It all points to a bright sales future for the Megane – and its line-up will be boosted towards the end of the year with a Sport Tourer estate variant and in 2017 thanks to a Hybrid Assist diesel-electric version.