A well-equipped family car, but both practicality and the driving experience are only average
The Renault Megane is the French company’s challenger to the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. It was long overdue for replacement, making this 2016 model a welcome arrival. With fresh styling and a smart interior, it’s an appealing car that, on paper, offers plenty of choice to suit all tastes.
Engine and driving
The best-selling model is likely to be the diesel-powered 1.5-litre dCi. On the go, we found this quiet enough, although you can feel vibrations as you accelerate, and it’s also not quite as quick as 1.6-litre rivals. Similarly, the ‘warm hatch’ 1.6-litre TCe 205 GT Nav petrol alternative we drove feels flat compared to the Ford Focus ST and Peugeot 308 GTI.
Perhaps complementing genteel performance is suspension that’s biased for comfort. It thus rolls more through corners and, ironically, becomes a bit too floaty and unsettling over undulating roads. It wafts nicely over potholes and road humps, but can jiggle on patchier roads.
If you do want more control, pick the GT Nav 205 with that turbo petrol engine. This has suspension tuned by Renaultsport, and is appreciably firmer, gripper and better-controlled.
On the go, the Megane proves generally quiet and refined, save for a bit of flutter around the door mirrors on the motorway. Good for enjoying the nicely finished interior that’s packed with features from digital instruments, ambient lighting and, on posh trims, a giant Tesla-style infotainment screen in the middle.
This screen is feature-packed and involved. The rest of the dash is well laid out though, and forward visibility is also strong. It’s more restricted out the back, but mid-spec trims and above get both reverse parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
We found the seats comfortable but the driving position a bit odd. The seat is low and the pedals are nearer than you’d like, so taller drivers will have to bend their knees. This has a knock-on effect in the rear, where legroom is in short supply. Back seat space is disappointing compared to others in this class. Packing in three people is a squeeze.
The Megane has an average-sized boot, but again it’s not the best in the class, and it has a high lip. It doesn’t have the clever twin-level boot floor of some rivals, and when you fold the rear seats, there’s a big lump in the floor.
It is extremely well-equipped though. Even standard cars have air con, DAB, Bluetooth and cruise control. The choice trim is mid-range Dynamique Nav. This has sat nav, climate control, ambient lighting, power-fold door mirrors, digital dials and a broad range of active safety features.
It’s reasonably competitive on economy and CO2, if not the best. The 1.5 dCi comes in at under the 100g/km CO2 mark, but isn’t quite class-leading for economy, and its real-world results are a bit disappointing as well. Leasing costs are a bit on the steep side, although PCP rates for private buyers are much more competitive.
Overall, the Megane is likeable, not least because of its smart styling and tidy interior. Equipment is good and it’s impressive for safety features. It’s just a pity it’s less competitive in two key areas for buyers – practicality and driver appeal.