GRR

Review: Renault Mégane Sports Tourer

03rd May 2017
Andrew English

Small French cars have taken a number of hits in the last couple of decades. Patchy reliability, weird designs, failure to modernise, over supply and low residual values haven't helped, and neither has the continued march of premium car makers into non-premium markets, as well as the growing popularity of first, multi-purpose vehicles and more lately, sport utilities and crossovers.

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As the inventor of the compact MPV, the Scénic, and latterly with its entry into the crossover market, the Kadjar, Renault has benefitted from some of these changes, but its Mégane has suffered from pretty much every single one of the headwinds listed above, as well as some spectacularly wrong-headed management decisions.

The result is that Mégane simply isn't on most folk's shopping lists and that includes the estate version, a market dominated by shooting-break derivatives of Ford's Focus, Vauxhall's Astra, Volkswagen's Golf, Škoda's Octavia and lately, Seat's Leon ST.

Last year, however, we had to rewrite the shopping list as Renault's mark IV Mégane went on sale with a combination of attractive and sophisticated looks and a well-equipped, comfortable cabin. The hatchback went on sale last summer, the estate on November 1st.

It's based on Renault-Nissan's Compact Modular Front Drive (CMF C/D) platform, which is shared with the Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai. The front suspension is McPherson strut, with a torsion-beam rear. Four engines are offered on the estate: a 128bhp, 1.2-litre; and 202bhp, 1.6-litre turbo petrol; and a 1.5-litre turbo diesel delivering 108 or 128bhp. We are expecting a more powerful diesel sometime this year. As well as the standard six-speed manual transmission, there's a dual-clutch semi-automatic with six or seven speeds depending on the engine.

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There are four basic trim levels starting with Expression, which gets 16-inch wheels, all-round electric windows, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. Dynamique adds auto headlamps and wipers, lane departure warning, parking sensors and camera, a better radio, and a 7-inch touchscreen with Renault's R-Link system, which includes sat nav and traffic updates.

It also includes the Multi-sense system, which allows the customisation of the driveline response, steering weight, interior lighting and the engine note, though that last one seems to be a series of alternatives that all sound like a duck has become trapped in the exhaust pipe. Top-level Signature adds 18-inch wheels and LED lamps and then there's GT line, the quick version, which runs on 17-inch wheels, as well as Renault's four-wheel-steering system.

Our Dynamique-specified test car boasted an additional £1,000's worth of leather upholstery, £545's worth of blue metallic paint and £500's worth of LED headlamps, plus sundry extras including adaptive cruise control and a safe following distance warning system. Those extras took the base £23,840 price to an on-the-road price of £27,385.

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It's a good-looking thing and seems grander than a lot of the opposition, with its front grille that moulds into the headlamps and deeply sloping roof line. Inside, the cabin is classy and well-made with lots of soft-touch plastics, tight and consistent panel gaps and comfortable and attractive seats. There are decent amounts of storage space up front, with good-sized door bins and a deep centre console, although the glove box is tiny. The rear bench is comfy and there's leg room to spare for three adults across, but the ceiling is low enough to touch taller adults' heads. The 521-litre boot, while far from the largest in the class, is big enough for most family needs and the low load lip and 2.8-metre-long, flat floor makes it easy to load. There's also a double floor at the rear, which gives a useful hidden space.

While the big portrait centre screen is useful and gives an impression of an advanced high-tech design, it suffers from finickety touch controls round the perimeter and the long, thin display makes lists of radio channels foreshortened, so you can't actually work out what they are since they all appear as 'BBC Radio...'.

Our car came with the higher-powered diesel, a version of the ubiquitous 1.5-litre oil burner used across most of the Renault-Nissan Alliance vehicles. It delivers 128bhp/236lb ft of torque and a top speed of 123mph, 0-62mph in 10 seconds, with a Combined consumption of 70.6mph (we managed 57mpg) and CO2 emissions of 104g/km.

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It's a pleasant enough mill, though it takes a while before the turbo has an effect, so you don't want to let the revs stray down much farther than 2,000rpm. Between there and 4,000rpm, though, it wafts along economically and willing to accelerate at will. Extend it much further and gets a bit raucous, although that isn't necessary with the light-shifting six-speed gearbox. 

Dynamically the Dynamique doesn't entirely live up to its name, though it is a very French compromise. So initially the car feels softly sprung, but you soon get to appreciate the lovely supple ride quality, which allows you to float over the potholes and bumps of poorly maintained British roads. Push on, however and there's a lot of body roll and the nose is a little reluctant to change direction. The steering is well weighted, but the body adjusts on the springs before the nose reacts so it doesn't feel as direct as cars such as Ford Focus or Vauxhall's Astra. By no means is it a dynamic disaster, but it's a compromise that says comfort rather than outright speed. You can drive it briskly, but it's that boulevard ride quality that remains in the memory, since it makes most of the competition feel over sprung.

It used to be that French roads required a car with a soft suspension, but these days it's the other way round. Still, our appalling road surfaces are an ill wind that favours Renault's Mégane estate, which offers a combination of good looks, with refined long-legged comfort. It's a different kind of compromise, but it's one that once marked out small French cars and made them so popular. Could do again, too.

  • Renault

  • megane

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