Renault has a habit producing concept cars that appear to be flights of fantasy but end up being grounded in surprising reality. The DeZir turned up with a stunning look that transferred remarkably well to today’s Clios and Meganes.
The absence of a rev-counter is the first sign, upon clambering aboard the Renault Twingo GT, that it may not be a hot hatch in the company’s finest tradition. You can add one, but only via on app on your phone screen.
There is a lingering cheekiness about the Renault Megan e, which harks back to the memorable ‘shakin’ that ass’ television commercial that was a smile-inducing reminder of the second generation car of a decade ago. Its replacement was somewhat more sombre, but now the new fourth generation Megane has perked up again in style, grown a little bigger all round, and acquired a bit more room inside. Its arch competitor is Peugeot’s well-liked 308, currently in its second generation, and notable for its zippy driving style. So we relished a head-to-head between these two leading French hatchbacks. Renault has upped the ante with this new generation Megane. It has a slicker feel than before, with a nicely efficient feel to its road behaviour, well weighted steering feel, minimal body lean on the bends and mannerly handling.
The ride verges towards firmness without any jarring edge to it, sopping all but the worst bumps without much intrusion. There is a generally well-sorted feel to the way the Megane behaves. It isn’t particularly engaging in sportiness, though.
The feel of the Renault’s setup is mature rather than youthful. It isn’t quite as sprightly as its rival, giving away 9bhp and 291b ft of torque to the 308, and taking a full second longer on a 0-62 acceleration sprint, although they’re only a whisker apart on top speed. The driving calibre of the 308 is similar in quality, but different in character. The Peugeot’s small steering wheel achieves a directness of steering feel that is pointier and makes the car seem a bit sportier, although also a touch more nervy. On a swift cross-country drive it is engaging but also a bit more frenetic, so personal preference somewhat dictates which of them delivers the more enjoyable driving experience. Ride quality on a pockmarked side road feels a little inferior to the Megane’s slightly more subtle absorption of the undulations. The 308 has a slight edge on performance, and benefits from extra engine torque, but also pays a small penalty in very slightly poorer mpg.
There is a distinct improvement in the Megane’s interior design, which has been upgraded in look and comfort. The cabin has more style and enhanced quality over the previous model. The central dash design is especially pleasing, with a large upright tablet-style display screen positioned between two vertical high-set central air vents. It’s all very intuitive, with controls split between the navigation infotainment screen and auxiliary switches. You view beautifully clear instrument graphics through a chunkily tactile steering wheel. The seats are grippily contoured, with really good lateral support to hold you on the bends, and they are very comfortable over a long distance. The driving position is comprehensively adjustable for any height and shape of driver.
The 308’s cabin has a clean-sweep look, and the now-characteristic Peugeot high-dials design, but it’s a bit Marmite. There is merit in the elevated instrument dials set at a level to be viewed above the smaller-than-typical steering wheel, but it is better suited to taller drivers than those who are more vertically-challenged. The central navigation infotainment screen is set horizontally between triangular centre air vents, and most of the car’s dash controls are operated via the screen. That includes the heater-ventilation controls, which many regard as a step too far. Seat comfort is pretty fair, although not quite as huggily supportive as the Megane’s. Both cars are equally good for plug-in connectivity, conventionally located just ahead of the gear lever. Compared with its predecessor, the Megane has grown fractionally in size, now 64 milimetres longer and six wider. This has enabled it to accommodate a little extra space in the cabin, notably in rear kneeroom. From a passenger viewpoint, there feels a bit more room to stretch inside the Renault than in the 308.
That is helped by the Megane’s exterior dimensions, at 106 millimetres longer and 15 wider than its rival. Oddly, though, the roles reverse on boot space. Despite its larger size, the Megane has a standard boot size that is 36 litres less than the 308’s, and it also gives away 62 litres of overall carrying capacity when the two cars’ rear seats are stowed. Do you want more room to carry people, or extra space for their stuff? The 308 is inferior on the first count, but it is superior as a load-lugger. Being just a bit less roomy inside than its Renault rival is compensated by the Peugeot’s greater practicality for ferrying luggage, the weekly shop, or a homeward haul from the DIY store, garden centre or sports club. So it’s a question of horses for courses, whether your priority is greater legroom or better luggage space. Both cars are similarly endowed with cubbyholes and minor stowage around the cabin, and their rear seat fold mechanisms are equally efficient, so the overall comparison for space and practicality is a draw.
Both of these family-sized hatchbacks benefit from CO2 emissions that dip under the crucial barrier, and that means that they are vehicle excise duty free, for now. And because the company car benefit-in-kind taxation is calculated using that same figure, these are some of the lowest diesel powered vehicles available, and both falling into the 19 per cent bracket. With the Megane boasting slightly lower emissions at 96g/km and a combined fuel economy figure of 76.4mpg, it is marginally ahead of the 308 that manages 98g/km for CO2 and 74.3mpg for economy. With service intervals of 18,000 miles for the Renault and 16,000 for the Peugeot, maintenance is required less frequently than many of this pair’s rivals. The Megane boasts a four-year warranty over 100,000 miles, compared to the less generous three-year and 60,000 miles cover on the 308. And when it comes to insuring each of these hatchbacks, the Megane will work out cheaper on account of its group 15 rating, compared to 21 on the 308.
The pairing that we test here are well matched for equipment, though looking at the list prices, you’ll need to fork out just £20,750 for the Renault and £24,530 for the Peugeot. Even after deducting the £1,000 price premium for the automatic transmission that came fitted to our 308 test car, there’s still a price difference of £2,780, before you’ve talked turkey with the dealer over discounts. Each car comes well kitted out with a navigation system, dual-zone climate control, electric mirrors with power folding, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and faux leather and cloth upholstery, as well as automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control and Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity. The Peugeot boasts a larger touchscreen that is one-inch larger at 9.7 inches and also has an extra pair of speakers, making six in total. The alloy wheels are also larger at 18-inches and handily there’s a space saver spare wheel included within the price, whereas with the Renault you have to make do with a tyre repair kit, which isn’t ideal.
The 308 also comes with full-LED headlights, perfect for night driving, as well as an auto-dimming rear view mirror. The Megane counters this with the addition of keyless entry and start, automatic high and low beam for the headlights, hill start assist, a lane departure warning system and traffic sign recognition. Even though the Megane is fresh into the showrooms, there are some considerable savings to be made, with discounts of more than 20 per cent already possible. Online car brokers UK Car Discount offered our researchers a car at £16,447, representing a saving of £4,303 off the list price. The saving was even greater on the Peugeot, with a whopping 26 per cent discount possible via New Car Discount, bringing the cost of the 308 GT-Line automatic down to £18,118, a reduction of £6,412. Opt for the manual edition and there’s a similar percentage discount available, bringing the cost down of the 308 to £17,117, a saving of £6113.
So which one wins this medium hatch battle, the Spanish-sourced Megane or the French-built Peugeot? These two are level pegging from many viewpoints, similar for performance, evenly matched for space and practicality, and equally good for running costs. The driving experience is contrasting, but of a similar calibre. So price comes into play as a deciding factor, and here the Megane zips out in front. It is both more keenly priced, and marginally better equipped on the safety front, so it looks better value than its dearer rival, even allowing for the difference in transmission between our test cars. It’s a win for the Megane here.
Blessed with a relatively clean sheet of paper yet confronting ever burgeoning SUV and crossover sales, Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker must have had an interesting time deciding exactly how much genuine flexibility might be sacrificed within the fourth generation Scenic – an MPV which pretty much invented the compact segment of same some 20 years ago – without the danger of the baby following the bathwater out of the equation.
A distinct whiff of SUV has certainly crept into the design. The new Scenic is 20mm wider and 40mm longer than its predecessor and, though lower in the roofline, sports a 40mm increase in ground clearance. The exterior is hallmarked by Renault’s increasingly badge-centric frontal graphic, a straightforward rump, and a pleasing profile with a steeply raked windscreen flowing seamlessly into a blacked-out roofline.
Seen from any angle save dead ahead or full astern, the Scenic pulls off the neat trick of simultaneously looking both sharp suited and somewhat voluptuous. Massive 20in wheels fitted, as standard, across the entire model range further bolster the appeal of the silhouette, if not ride quality.
On board, the business end of the cabin takes a giant stride forward. Gone are the smirking applique panels that once identified Renault instrument panels the brand over, replaced by a new dashboard console styled on Kermit the Frog’s mouth announcing a guest star, set in a sea of somewhat chthonic but well made and soft-to-the-touch materials.
The console houses an 8.7-inch touchscreen for control of Renault’s R-Link 2 infotainment system. Though it shoulders aside the central air vents in somewhat cavalier fashion, the portrait-orientation of the screen is a good thing, allowing you to see more of the road ahead on the map, and less of places drifting invisibly by to left and right.
The system looks good and works adequately, though the vast wealth of menus available can be a little baffling to navigate and occasionally tardy in response. If all else fails, read the instructions. What isn’t yet available, and won’t be until a few months after the November launch, is either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Renault is still working on these systems for universal installation throughout its fleet, and had no intention of delaying the Scenic’s arrival in the interests of providing same to the initial rush of buyers. Nor will a retro fit be offered…
On reflection, given the number of rival manufacturers who bang on at length about the importance of such connectivity in every new offering, it’s refreshing to come across one which recognises the tiny numbers of mobile-obsessed yoof who can actually afford a £25,000 car.
The seats are comfortable, but the driving position benefits from raising the seat as high as possible in order to try – and fail – to locate the car’s front corners. That split A-pillar Heinkel bomber front glazing pushes the windscreen so far forwards that the dash top could readily host a respectable N gauge railway layout. This being an MPV, all that space should not be wasted; could it not, perchance, be glazed in, filled with seawater, and used to transport live crustaceans? Fish, after all, would swim about overmuch and hamper forward visibility.
There are no analogue dials here, and no dash-top central speedometer either; van den Acker doesn’t warm to such devices, so we find a TFT faux analogue binnacle in the usual location, which looks, and functions, well enough. This top-of-the-range Signature Nav specimen also benefits from a head-up display, the content of which all but vanishes if you don polarising sunglasses.
Despite the fact that the cabin occupies an entirely MPV-like 80% of the bodyshell volume, the rear seating is not as flexible as that found in the outgoing model. No longer removable with the aid of a hernia truss, the sliding seats are now split just 60:40 instead of into three, with an inevitable loss of comfort and versatility. Shame that; being able to slide the centre seat out of line was the best way of easing shoulder rub with three adults abreast.
Offering merely adequate legroom, the seats may be lowered at the touch of a load- space wall-mounted button, or via one of the multimedia system’s endless menus, to give a flat floor. Loadspace, however, is bigger than before and – at 572 litres – claimed to be class-leading.
There’s bags of storage everywhere, including the floor bins from Scenics of yore, a sliding centre console – which can either mate with the base of the dashboard console, or slide aft to separate warring offspring – and a glovebox that opens like a sprung filing cabinet drawer. Small tables fold from front seat backs, and are attended by a mysterious elastic sling like a catapult, which children will ping relentlessly against the seatback until the parent in front is entirely ropeable.
A choice of five diesel and two petrol powerplants are coming to the UK; we sampled the more powerful, 128bhp version of the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol unit, mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
This is a reasonably refined engine which doesn’t struggle as much as expected to heft this size of carapace around. It is eager to rev, but even so, performance figures are never going to re-shape your face and it’s happiest ambling in a cruise, the quietness of which is rudely interrupted by a deal of wind noise from the door mirrors as speeds rise.
The acceptable gear change evinces a predictable degree of Renault notchiness, and the steering is precise and accurate enough without offering over-much communication. Though wider front and rear tracks help shackle unwanted body roll to a degree, the Scenic is at its best nonchalantly loafing through rather than leaping at corners.
All of which makes the questionable ride quality somewhat more of a distraction. Despite a tyre wall height boosted to 107mm, the undercarriage struggles to remain supple at low speeds, crashing over obstacles of the kind that blight almost every mile of British road. Happily it does settle down as speeds rise, making the Scenic respectably comfortable in the cruise.
Much to admire here, then; a striking yet practical effort which, though slightly adrift of the modularity and flexibility of its predecessor, melds the characteristics of MPV, SUV and Crossover sufficiently adroitly that a segment nomenclature reassessment may be in order.
Engine: 1998 cc 16v 4-cyl, 16v turbo
Power: 128bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque: 151lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Top speed: 117mph
On sale: Now
Stylish, safe and sensible
This is the new Renault Megane. the bread-and-butter dCi diesel, the one that needs to regain La Regie’s lost ground in the C-segment heartland.
As if to intimidate the opposition from the outset, Renault’s pushed the new Megane’s elbows out with the widest track in the segment. The front track’s a full 47mm broader than the previous Megane, and those widescreen wheelarches are exaggerated all the more by a generous quota of LEDs looped across the short overhangs. It’s distinctive, handsome even, if a tad fussy.
Built around the same Renault-Nissan mid-sized platform that underpins Qashqai and Kadjar, it follows the typical new car design rulebook to a T: use a relatively long wheelbase to increase interior space, an electric handbrake to make space for a big centre storage box, fit a big touchscreen and put LEDs everywhere. There are some surprising packaging shortcomings for a new car; rear legroom isn’t great, not helped by a particularly broad transmission tunnel, and rear visibility borders on supercar-obstructive.
On the road, it feels as wide as it looks, with reassuringly planted handling. Supple ride, too. Key touch points – steering, pedal actions, gearchange – could offer more feedback, but if Dieppe can make the upcoming RS hot hatch a little chattier, the foundations are definitely there for a decent driver’s car. Somewhere among the touchscreen’s various menus there’s a long list of driving modes to choose from, each of them something of a compromise.
Take Sport mode for instance, which by making the already synthetic-feeling steering heavier only serves to make the car feel leaden and stodgy, and sound it too in this dCi diesel’s case, as it artificially amps up the engine’s droney note.
That touchscreen dominates the interior and polarises opinion, both in terms of graphics (sparse or shonky?) and distraction factor. Trying to use it on the move can demand similar fine motor control to one of those hoop-round-the-wire buzzer games. The screen’s portrait orientation works neatly though, and it’s crammed with functions.
If this review sounds negative, that’s not the intention. The new Megane is handsome, likeable, and a more colourful character than most mainstream hatches. But it’s no game-changer.
Engine: 1461cc 8v 4-cyl turbodiesel
Power: 108bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque: 192lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Top speed: 116mph
On sale: Now
A solid but not spectacular step for Megane-kind
The Renault Twingo is a quirky city car, with its rear-mounted three-cylinder engine sending drive to the backwheels. It offers good cabin space and attractive styling, too, but compared with the very best choices in its class, notably the Skoda Citigo, it falls short on driving fun.
This is where the French company’s performance division, Renault Sport, comes in. Responsible for masterpieces such as the Megane 275 Trophy-R – one of the most thrilling hot hatches of recent years – Renault Sport has been injecting the brand’s roadgoing models with more power and sharper dynamics for years.
This new Twingo GT is one of the least powerful cars ever to wear the Renault Sport badge, but with 109bhp and just 1,000kg to battle against, it does serve up sprightly performance. It’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds and run on to 113mph.
RenaultSport has been to work on the Twingo’s chassis, fitting 40 percent stiffer springs and dampers, lowering the ride height by 20mm and adding a thicker front anti-roll bar. The engineers have also slackened off the electronic stability control system by a degree in an effort to make the Twingo GT more fun to drive.
Power from the 898cc TCe turbo engine has been increased from 89bhp to 109bhp. The Renault Sport-tweaked model also gets 17-inch wheels, twin exhaust pipes, unique graphics and the option of a bespoke paint colour – Blaze Orange. But despite the promise of the engineers’ involvement, the Twingo GT is far from exciting to drive.
Renault claims best-in-class rear legroom, and headroom is generous. Colour-matched stitching gives cabin a racy feel throughout
There is some fun to be had in the same way that any small, relatively low-powered car can be entertaining to throw around in town or on the open road. But with very remote steering, an engine that labours through its rev range, rather than sings, and a stability control system that still cuts in far too early, the GT is ultimately frustrating from behind the wheel.
With engine under the boot floor, load area is a decent size at 219 litres. Folding the backseats flat sees the capacity increase to 980 litres
It may be rear engined and rear-wheel drive, just like a Porsche 911, but there’s so much safety built into the Twingo GTs chassis that you’d never know. The real advantage of the rear-mounted engine is a very tight 8.59-metre turning circle.
The GT is the fastest and best-looking model in the Twingo range, but with a stiffer ride, a steeper asking price and very tame driving dynamics, it struggles to make a strong case for itself.
Tuning arm has revised engine mapping, plus new vent feeds cooler air to intake to up power. And as GT weighs just 1,000kg, it performs well
NEED TO KNOW
Tuned city car is one of the least powerful models to wear Renault Sport badge
Engine: 0.9-litre 3cyl turbo
Transmission: Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 113mph
On sale: Now
Renault Sport has been to work on the quirky little Twingo, but the result is somewhat underwhelming. Badged as a mid-range GT rather than a full Renault Sport model, the warm Twingo fails to live up to the very high standards set by the racy brand’s most memorable hot hatches. Nonetheless, the Twingo GT is still a nippy, well equipped and attractive city car.
The Renault Megane hatch has already trumped many of its rivals, thanks to its blend of efficient engines, cosseting ride and flamboyant cabin design. Now there’s a much more practical Sport Tourer estate version, and we’ve tested it in the UK.
It’s available with a range of petrol and diesel engines from launch, including the warmed-up GT version that’s been tweaked by Renault Sport. But here we’ve tried the much more sensible 1.6-litre diesel with 128bhp. It’s the one many buyers will go for, and it’s easy to see why: it claims impressive fuel economy of 70.6 mpg, while low CO2 emissions of 104g/km mean road tax is cheap as well.
The 1.6-litre diesel is punchy, too, with the 320Nm of torque coming through low enough in the rev range that it’s a relaxing car to drive. It’s a bit rattly, like most four-cylinder diesels, but that’s the only real criticism as it has plenty of shove and settles down nicely at cruising speeds.
The six-speed manual gearbox isn’t as slick as transmissions in rivals such as the SEAT Leon ST or Skoda Octavia Estate, but it’s still pleasant enough to use and the clutch pedal isn’t too heavy, either.
Light steering lets the Megane down in corners. But families will be pleased by generous safety kit, with auto braking coming as standard
Light steering is a bit numb around the centre, which takes the edge off the driving experience, and the chassis isn’t as composed as a Ford Focus Estate’s in corners; the Megane is set up to deliver a safe and composed drive, which it does really well. Various modes mean you can choose the weight of the steering, but they don’t bring big differences – the normal setting is fine for all types of driving.
What will matter for more people, though, is the ride, and on a mix of UK roads, we found the Megane to be pretty comfortable. The driving position and plush seats mean most drivers will find it easy to set the car up to suit them, while the chassis is clearly matched with other cars in its class for comfort. The cabin plays a big part in that, too, as the newcomer feels much more upmarket inside than the old Megane.
You get a portrait-orientated touchscreen on higher-spec cars like our Dynamique S. The display could be more responsive, but it looks good and has customisable features that make it feel right up to date. The whole dash, in tact, is excellent, and we’d consider it one of the best interiors in its class.
Good-quality materials are used throughout the cabin, and while there are some harder plastics in places it’s not a major concern fora family estate like this. There’s plenty of space up front and in the back, while leg and headroom are generous wherever you’re sitting.
The really important thing about any estate car, though, is the boot, and at 521 litres, it’s significantly bigger than the 384-litre load bay in the Megane hatchback. It can’t quite match the 587-litre space in the Leon ST, though, and the Octavia Estate beats both cars with 610 litres. However, while the Renault traits a tittle on carrying capacity, it certainly boasts a pretty face and we suspect that many buyers will be interested in the Megane Sport Tourer for just that reason; it’s up there with the best-looking family estates. The stylish headlights and tail-lamps add some drama to both ends of the car, while the grille and oversized Renault badge mean the front end is particularly distinctive.
Our Dynamique Nav has sat-nav, plus dual-zone climate control. That’s on top of Expression+ models’ air- con, daytime running lights and alloys
That’s not to say the Sport Tourer isn’t a practical car, though, as the boot is easy to access and the seats fold down into a flat load bay. Sliding in longer items is made easier still by the low loading lip, too. Still, if it’s room you need over anything else then you’ll have to look elsewhere; with the seats folded, the Renault’s 1,504-litre space isn’t a match for the Skoda’s 1,740-litre bay.
With Renault’s four-year/100,000-mile warranty, a five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP and tech such as adaptive cruise control and hands-free parking on the options list, there are plenty of reasons why the Renault is well worth a look, though.
NEED TO KNOW
A range of driving modes means you can vary the weight of the car’s steering, but six-speed box’s vague shifts take away from the fun
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Top speed: 123mph
CO2: 104g/km (est)
On sale: Now
As handsome, comfortable and efficient family estate cars go, the Megane Sport Tourer is right up there with the best. This dCi 130 model promises fuel economy in excess of 70mpg, while the interior is plush and comfortable. The compliant ride means it makes a great all-round family car as well. However, it’s not as spacious as its main rivals, which could be a sticking point for quite a lot of potential buyers.
We say: two decades after the original, Renault redefines the Frumpy Mpv
‘Seduction’ is a word used often by the new Scenic’s design team. And sure, seduction – especially the successful sort – is the first step on the road to MPV ownership, though that’s not really the point they’re trying to make. What they’re actually talking about is the styling, which, seductive or not, you must admit is pretty striking for a people carrier.
Much of that is down to the wheels: whopping 20-inchers, the same size as on a Bentley Mulsanne. They’re standard on even the most basic version, which is quite a talking point, but also a distraction from the Scenic’s number one job of looking after the family.
It’s 20 years since the first Scenic, and despite the proliferation of crossovers and SUVs, it remains stubbornly an MPV. This is the five-seat version (there’s also a new seven-seat Grand), and, as before, the rear seats slide back and forth and fold totally flat – although now they do so at the touch of an electric button, either a physical one in the boot, or a virtual one on the new portrait-style touchscreen.
The floor has been raised and the roof lowered, though the cabin accounts for 80 per cent of the car’s entire volume. There are storage wells in the floor, the sliding central armrest will hold a man-size handbag, and the slide-out glovebox is the size of a shopping basket. There are fold-down picnic tables for the kids, complete with a bungee string that twangs satisfyingly against the front seats. Good luck with that on long journeys, parents.
Amazingly the wheels don’t trash the ride, and except for some wind noise around the mirrors it’s a fairly polished thing to drive. Go for the TCe 130 petrol or dCi 110 diesel with twin-clutch ‘box, but don’t go overboard on options – the second most basic trim, Dynamique Nav, has all you really need. If you splurge on anything, make it this Honey Yellow paint.
What else? It could do with bigger door bins and more nooks for storage (the C4 Picasso is a little better in that respect), but it has the biggest boot in its class, and the best looks by far.
With groundbreaking design inside and out, Renault’s new electric concept gives us a glimpse of a beautifully autonomous future
French car giant Renault was suffering creative stasis when new design director Laurens van den Acker was appointed in 2009. Reimagining the entire visual language for a car company is a Herculean task, but he managed it and the Trezor ushers in phase two. An advanced carbon-fibre chassis underpins its swooping bodywork, but the real kicker is the Trezor’s all-electric powertrain. Renault has been one of the prime movers in the groundbreaking Formula E race series since its inception in 2014, and the company is also Europe’s bestselling electric vehicle manufacturer. So the Trezor’s 260kW, 350hp motor is battle-hardened and because electric power units deliver all their torque from a standstill, it will rocket to 62mph in less than four seconds.
The Trezor’s exterior channels some of the most influential car designs of all time: Jaguar’s XKSS and Pininfarina’s 1970 Modulo, among others. Its body is covered in tiny little hexagons that change form as they flow into the car’s curves. There are no A-pillars, so the screen wraps around in an uninterrupted flow, like the visor on a helmet.
Yet wood is also a major structural element; there’s a naturally finished wooden frame under the vast bonnet that houses sumptuous leather luggage. The occupants access the cabin via a massive single-piece canopy, which hinges forward on flawlessly engineered struts. Inside, the analogue and digital face-off continues, and though the Trezor’s lipstick-red cabin has a reconfigurable OLED instrument panel, saddle leather and plump carpet are old-school luxury signifiers.
“I think it’s a beautiful object,” Van den Acker says. “We’re a popular brand, and we need to make cars that are easy to like.”
They need to make this.
AFTER THE hard work, the reward. ‘After hammering my design team for six years on production models I needed to let the guys loose and dream,’ says Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker with a smile. The result is the Trezor concept: a classic, long-nosed, rear-wheel-drive, two-seater GT that’s lower than a Lotus Elise, powered by a 35obhp Formula E motor (for a sub-4sec 0-62mph) and accessed via a dramatic clamshell-style opening.
The curvaceous styling will be familiar, as exterior designer Yann Jarsalle admits: ‘Since the DeZir concept and Clio [a Jarsall creation], our exterior form language was set – very fluid and sensual. Now we’ve just played with it.’ So the Trezor’s language is familiar, if still stuffed with ideas. Take the matt hexagonal surfacing on the lower panels, which looks – and feels – superb and contrasts with the smooth bonnet and roof, which clamp down with well-defined shutlines. The hexagonal theme is continued in the bonnet vents too, which open to allow air to the battery pack.
The luxurious cabin riffs on automotive interior staples wood and leather. The dashboard uses wood structurally rather than as a surface veneer, while the leather on the seats is thick and robust, and inspired by the shape of a saddle. Don’t expect a production Renault GT like this next year, but do expect elements of this design – notably the driver’s screen (see below) – to filter through to its regular production cars soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the conceptual flourish.
Superhero movies on a tight budget are like automatic transmission cars on a tight budget. You have to make do with a lot of compromises for some mindless entertainment or for the sheer convenience of not using your left foot when driving. The gear shifts in a cheap automatic vary from ponderous to vague and slow. Even the best ones are deeply and rather unnecessarily contemplative. We, for one, have always believed a bad manual transmission is much better than an average automatic.
But then, stop-go traffic is a reality. And when you’d rather just drive than keep shifting your left foot and left arm in the endless cycle of clutch-neutral-first-second-first-neutral-clutch, and you don’t want to bother spending too much money, a cheap automatic is what you need.
And a cheap automatic is what the Kwid Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) is. Essentially one of last year’s better built-to-a-price car gets an equally built-to-a-price automatic. It doesn’t form a link to your mind.
It doesn’t learn or unlearn your driving habits. It doesn’t connect to your GPS to understand whether you are on a track or a winding road or in the city and re-alter gearing accordingly. It has five speeds. One reverse gear. And is not exactly a byword of immediacy. What it is thoughts a solid performer. Things seem a bit rough around the edges at first. But give the throttle a fair bit of poke, tune your senses to a light steering and about as light brakes and this Kwid AMT is like an affable, cute Panda You can always feel it shift gears with the momentary pause in the engine note.
Quite the same way when you engage clutch and up shift in a manual. Quite entertainingly, when you floor the throttle, the engine lets out a soft, quick growl and starts the ascend towards a whole lot of momentum. The 1.0-litre engine with this transmission takes some time getting to speed, but once there, the chassis does quite a good job of keeping things fast, stable and planted. On some closed stretches of road, the Kwid AMT crossed an indicated 160kph. It does get rather noisy, but this car at the bottom of the automatic transmission food chain remains rather planted. And has a wonderful air-conditioning unit. Issues? Noise and harshness.
The good thing is it comes with in-built Bluetooth for handsfree calls. The bad thing is you can’t have a conversation if you are travelling above 60kph. While the rest of the interiors are rather bare-bones and something that’s understandable, Renault could have given this car at least manually-operated toggles for the side mirrors instead of having to roll down the windows and adjusting the mirror with your hands. Inconvenient and leaves a trail of finger print smudge. But all things considered, this is an automatic that won’t have you wishing for a manual. Even on the highway.
THE NEXT GENERATION of Renault Sport cars will focus on chassis and electronics development, according to the brand’s boss, Patrice Ratti. “Our competition has turned out cars that are better [than previously],” Ratti said. “We want to keep our leadership in chassis. It is the basis of the RS brand.” Renault Sport will continue working on electronics, further developing the RS monitor, which shows real-time driving performance and dynamics. “There are some very interesting features with the RS monitor,” he said. “We want to keep the RS spirit. A lot of our engineers come from racing. All of the competition is very good, so we want to make something even better.” Ratti wouldn’t be drawn on details of the next Megane RS.
However, he said he was finding it difficult to work on long-term RS projects, with his time focused on ensuring the new Megane platform works for the RS version of it. He said: “We need to look at what it can do and how we can influence it – for example, bigger engines, bigger tyres, bigger suspension. lt is difficult to touch cross beams and the main structure, so we have to make sure we can fit specific parts in an environment where everyone is optimising everything -drag coefficient, CO2 emissions and streamlining.” Autocar has previously reported that the 2018 Megane RS, pictured testing under a Megane GT body, will produce more than 300bhp from a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, be available in both manual and automatic guises and get four-wheel steering.
Renault also revealed its updated ZOE in Paris. The electric supermini sees its range almost double, with up to 250 miles from a single charge – much further than rivals.
This improvement comes courtesy of a new Z.E. 40 battery. It offers nearly double the energy capacity of the current unit, from 22kWh to 41kWh. Renault has also quoted a real-world figure of 186 miles, compared with 106 miles for the current car. Yet the new battery is no bigger or heavier, and takes a similar amount of time to charge.
Three variants of the ZOE were announced in Paris: entry-level cars offer 76bhp, mid-spec models 87bhp and flagships 89bhp. There’s no word on whether all three will come here, and if the base price will be cut from £13,445. But existing ZOE owners can upgrade their battery for a 200-mile range.
EV CHARGE CARD BOOST
Owners of Renault electric cars who pay to charge their batteries at public points will only need one payment card from next year.
The Renault Z.E. Pass will enable users to pay to plug in at any charging point across the country with one smart card. It’s hoped that it will be compatible with all public charging points – Renault UK Is currently negotiating with the UK’s various charge point operators. The Z.E. Pass is already operational In Europe, however.
Renault has a habit of wowing its home crowd In Paris with stunning concepts, and the Trezor represents the latest chapter in the company’s design story under design boss Laurens van den Acker. His 2010 Dezir concept started Renault’s renaissance, and he earned it on with 2012’s Clio, moving through Captur, Kadjar and Mégane and finishing with the new Koleos SUV that was also given its debut at this year’s Paris show.
The Trezor previews the regeneration of the Renault range, likely to start with the next Clio in 2018. Those oversized C-shaped front lights, large air intakes and slimmer grille – along with the advanced L-shaped dashboard – are all expected to make it into production on the company’s new range.
“Much of the technology comes from the Renault e.dams Formula E racer”
Much of the rest of theTrezor‘s design appears to be fantasy, but with a grounding in reality – the technology underneath this concept is real, a lot of it coming from the Renault e.dams Formula E racing car.
The two battery packs are split front and rear to aid weight distribution, while the electric motor produces 345bhp and torque of 380Nm, getting the Trezor from 0-60mph in under four seconds.
The carbon fibre bodywork itself is a work of art, with a more feminine, smooth finish at the front, juxtaposed with a more masculine, hexagonal print at the back. The honeycomb pattern on the bonnet isn’t just for show, either – some or the parts pop up to provide cooling for the batteries. At the rear, fibre-optic lights lit by lasers twist to alter their output depending on braking effort.
The huge canopy, with its red tinted glass, glides open to reveal an equally red interior that’s trimmed with leather and layered wood.
Dominating the dash is one long curved OLED screen with a lower LED touchscreen that houses most controls, except for a couple of tiny touchscreens on the steering wheel. The Trezor features fully autonomous driving modes, so the rectangular steering wheel widens automatically to allow the driver to watch a movie on the screen.
Striking two-seat concept is set to shape the styling of Renault’s future production models and heralds ‘big changes’ in technology and design
Renault has previewed its next-generation design language with the unveiling of a high-performance electric two-seat GT concept.
The sleek coupe, called Trezor, which means ‘treasure’ in French, is the latest creation of design boss Laurens van den Acker, who has held the role at Renault since 2009.
Over the past six years and using the design language pioneered in 2010’s Dezir concept, to which the Trezor is clearly and deliberately linked, van den Acker has restyled every production Renault. He recently signalled the completion of his journey by unveiling a lightly revised version of the 2012 Clio. Now the cycle begins again, with the Trezor design study hinting at what will follow.
“This car signals a new beginning, not an end,” said van den Acker. “It aims to appeal to the emotions, like everything we do.”
“But it also investigates urgent questions, like how you configure lights for next- generation cars, how you accommodate passengers in a car that has an autonomous mode and how you integrate information screens into interiors without making them look alien. With due respect to Dezir, Trezor has a little less beauty but a lot more brains.”
The Trezor’s looks begin with its proportions. At 4700mm in length, it’s nearly as long as a Range Rover Sport, but its height of 1080mm makes it one of the lowest cars in existence.
There are big, confident bulges over the front wheels and powerful haunches at the rear. The short, fastback tail ends in a horizontal semi-circle just behind the wheels and the drag coefficient is just 0.22.
The 2776mm wheelbase is longer than that of a Range Rover Sport, but the overhangs are tiny.
“The rear wheels are driven by a single 350bhp Formula E motor”
The concept rides on 21in front and 22in rear wheels with gaps between spokes that make the shape of the Eiffel Tower, plus carbonfibre scoops to aid brake cooling.
The Trezor’s chassis consists of a central carbonfibre spine that connects to steel frames front and rear which carry the independent suspension. The rear wheels are driven by a single 350bhp Formula E electric motor mounted behind the occupants. Despite the two large batteries, one front and one rear, the kerb weight isjust 1600kg, meaning the car can accelerate from 0-62mph in less than four seconds.
Van den Acker describes the styling as “warm, simple and sensual”, but the sheer extravagance of the curves is what gives the big coupe its presence. A huge, one- piece powered canopy opens forwards to reveal a step-in cockpit with two deep and inviting leather-trimmed bucket seats, designed to provide comfort either when the car is being driven or in its selectable autonomous mode.
Instrumentation is entirely screen-based, with two large displays on the dashboard and three smaller ones across the rectangular steering wheel. The dash uses laminated ash wood, produced with the help of a French specialist, Keim Cycles, which makes £8500 wooden bicycle frames.
Also revealed when the door opens is a finely crafted, wood-framed luggage compartment, with space for two suitcases. Head restraints for the occupants are also carried on wood frames. The clear message from Renault’s design department is that wood is a modern material, far from finished in cars.
The Trezor’s controls are mostly app-based, with icons to enable desired functions. In autonomous mode, the steering wheel widens, like the curtains in a theatre, to give better visual access to the main fascia’s screens, on which the occupant could play a game or watch a movie.
There are a number of interesting design features. Renault diamonds set into the bodysides flash as the canopy opens. The bonnet includes automatic scoops that open to provide cooling air to the batteries when required. There are laser lights at the front, fibre optic lights incorporate tiny laser beams as decorations. The whole lightning set assumes an all-enveloping “technical” configuration when the car is in autonomous mode.
The Trezor will not appear in showrooms, but it undescores van den Acker’s belief that there’s more mileage in the visual language he began to create for new Renault production cars six years ago.
“There are more big changes coming over the next few years,” he said.
“High technology will invade everything. As a designer, we all have ideas about the direction of progress, but we can’t always be right, so we use concept like Trezor to help us find answers. It’ll be interesting to see what sticks from this one.”
Driving a purpose-built competition car on circuit is an enlightening experience. Whereas most road cars feel all at sea on track – not enough grip, far too understeery in their balance, body control much too sloppy – racing cars are altogether more capable on circuit. Of course they are. That’s what they’re built for. To drive a competition car on track really is to have your eyes opened, though, and for one simple reason: in a road car you concentrate on the car, but in a racing car you concentrate on the circuit.
It’s all to do with dynamic ability. Road cars, even sporty ones, tend not to have the grip, control and precision to really perform on circuit, where cornering forces are so much higher than on the road, so you have to make allowances for them. You eventually settle into a rhythm of managing the front-end push as you gently sail well wide of yet another apex before crawling back into the pits because your brakes are cooked. It’s frustrating and you never really tune into the track itself.
In a racing car, though, it’s a very different story. They’re capable enough on circuit that you really can turn your mind to the track and think about tackling it in minute detail. Running over that raised section of kerb but missing the serrated edge, for instance, or taking a wider line around the first bend to set yourself up for the following one. Eventually you stop thinking about the car altogether – what sort of engine it has, where it sends its power, even which side of it you’re sitting on – and you focus entirely on the track. Soon enough, it feels as though the circuit is simply rushing underneath you like in a computer game.
Put another way, imagine a speed climber. He needs a certain level of strength and fitness to be able to concentrate on the rock face, whereas most of us would be far too wrapped up in the sheer discomfort of it all to even begin thinking about the technical details of the ascent.
So in a road car you think about the car; in a racing car you think about the circuit. The reason for all of this? Well, the very best high-performance road cars do actually allow you to focus on the track because they have the requisite level of dynamic ability. The Porsche 911GT3 RS does it. Caterhams and Radicals do it. The Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R does it. You can see where this is going.
For the time being, this Renault Sport Clio RS16 is just a concept car.
Renault’s racing and high-performance division rather likes building completely off the wall performance cars and we’ve long praised it for that. This RSI 6 is its latest bonkers creation and it marks 40 years of Renaultsport. it’s also the fastest road car ever to wear the diamond emblem, which shows they know how to celebrate a birthday at Les Ulis. A feasibility study is on going, claims Renault Sport, but if the company doesn’t eventually build a run of 250 or so units I’ll stage a one- man protest outside its headquarters in just my underwear.
We first looked at the RS16 last issue, but to recap, it is a Renault Sport Clio shell fitted with the 275 Trophy-R’s running gear, a heavily uprated chassis and a set of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The result is 202kW in a B-segment hot hatch – that’s a first – and, given that it’s lighter and smaller than the Megane, the potential for even greater dynamic ability. The RS16 could be about to raise the bar.
Circuit des Ecuyers, an hour east of Paris, is like a big kart track: mostly second and third gear with one or two quick corners to which you can really commit. This sort of track isn’t going to tell us everything we want to know about the RS16 – and I can only guess how it might cope with a bumpy road – but after this briefest of test drives there will be very good reason to believe this could be the fastest and most capable small hot hatch ever.
The engineers are at pains to point out that this car’s steering system is unchanged from the standard Renault Sport Clio’s and should the RS16 make production the steering will be revised. There isn’t much fundamentally wrong with the concept car’s helm, but given how hardcore the RS16 is a touch more weight and physicality wouldn’t go amiss, in certain front-wheel-drive hot hatches you can actually feel the limited-slip diff working through the suspension and the steering, which allows you to measure throttle inputs really precisely. For now, the RS16 is a touch vague in that respect.
That’s the only significant criticism l can level at the car’s dynamics, though. In almost every other sense the RS16 is a masterful track-going hot hatch. The bucket seats and harnesses make a huge difference – In fact that’s one of the major differentiators between road and competition cars – and by being fixed in place you can be so much more accurate with your steering inputs. A suede steering wheel would really set the cabin off, though.
“The balance is sweet and the RS16 feels agile and responsive, particularly in quick direction changes”
Grip levels are really high but there is still a shade of understeer if you don’t manage the front end into the corner by trail-braking. Do so, though, and the chassis balance is brilliantly neutral, which is where a great deal of this car’s speed around a lap comes from. The RS16 doesn’t have the same lurid oversteer as the 275 Trophy-R, but there’s plenty of adjustability. The neat, uniform wear across the rear tyres shows how well this car works its rear axle.
The balance is sweet, then, and with good body control the car feels agile and responsive, particularly in quick direction changes, in the faster corners, meanwhile, once the front end has bitten it holds a lovely, tight line all the way through to the apex.
“The gearshift is brilliantly direct – what a pleasure it is to have a manual shifter in a quick Clio again”
The differential could be more aggressive – in one corner the unloaded inside wheel spins so furiously that I can actually see the tyre smoke out of the corner of my eye – but the engine certainly doesn’t overwhelm the front wheels with its swell of torque and on this smooth surface there’s no real sign of torque steer, either. The engine is strong and responsive with an eager top end and the gearshift is brilliantly direct – what a pleasure it is to have a manual shifter in a quick Clio again – while the Akrapovic exhaust emits a distinctive, blast-furnace soundtrack.
The Clio RSI6 is tremendously good fun to drive and, on this small circuit at least, it has enough dynamic ability that you absolutely can start to chase that perfect lap. Renaultsport, you must build this car.
Renault Clio RS16
Engine: 1998cc in-line 4-cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Power: 202kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 516lb ft @ 1900-5500rpm
Weight: c1230kg (164kW/tonne)
0-100km/h: 5.8sec (est)
Top speed: 255km/h (est)
Basic price: n/a
The MPV has suffered at the hands of the SUV and crossover. Where once the people-carrier seemed your best bet for transporting families and all the paraphernalia that goes with them, buyers have since been seduced by the rugged image of the faux by four. The Renault Scenic hasn’t been able to avoid this shift. Indeed, these days you’re much more likely to see a Kadjar instead. With that in mind, Renault has been rather bold with this, its fourth-generation Scenic.
Elements of SUV have crept into the new Scenic’s design: there’s a 40mm increase in ground clearance, more muscle to the bodywork and a shift to big, 20in wheels. That’s not just for glitzy models, either, because even entry-level Expression + Scenics are rollin’ on 20s, as they say. You might expect that to result in ride comfort only marginally better than that of a shopping trolley being pushed over corrugated iron, but the tyres have a taller profile than those fitted to most smaller-wheeled competitors. They’re relatively narrow, too, helping to keep costs down and CO2 emissions in check. The new Scenic is also more spacious than before and comes with plenty of safety kit. So it all looks very impressive on paper, but is it enough to tempt people out of their SUVs and back into an MPV?
First impressions are good. The Scenic is an attractive thing in the metal and much more imposing than its rivals. Getting behind the wheel, a tech-laden feel to our high-spec test car was immediately apparent. Analogue dials have been banished and replaced by TFT displays for speed, engine temperature and fuel level. Scrolling through the five drive modes changes the centre display and the priority of the information shown. It looks attractive enough but doesn’t show the variety of data of Volkswagen’s Active Info Display. Dynamique S Nav and top Signature Nav trims receive a colour head-up display to project speed, navigation information and other data. It looks good at a standstill but jiggles slightly on the move. It also seems an awfully long way down the expansive dashboard.
The top two trims also get R-Link 2, Renault’s 8.7in portrait-orientated infotainment system. You get plenty of functionality, including the ability to fold the rear seats down at the touch of a button. Unfortunately,
the menus can be confusing to navigate and slow to respond. The cabin is practical, though.
The generous glovebox pops open like a filing cabinet, and between the seats is a cavernous centre console that can be slid backwards and forwards. Quality is also pretty good. There are cheaper materials, but they’re largely in areas you won’t touch that often.
There are two USB ports and a 12V socket in the cubby under the front armrest, and the same again on the unit’s rear for those in the back. It’s handy, but sliding the unit to where it works best as an armrest hides the cupholders for those in the front.
Throw in underfloor storage, rear picnic tables for most models and a class-leading boot and it’s certainly family-ready, although three adults will face a squeeze to get on the rear bench and even two relatively tall adults may struggle for rear leg room. To drive, the turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine of our test car provides adequate performance two up but must be worked hard to cope with overtaking.
It does at least remain smooth, even at high revs, and is barely audible at a cruise. Despite its 20in wheels, the Scenic’s ride is no worse than that of most 17in or 18in-shod rivals. It’s no paragon of comfort, though. Pockmarked urban roads are certainly felt, although the ride becomes more settled at speed. Of course, French roads are far smoother than ours, so our definitive verdict will have to wait until later in the year when we get a right-hand-drive car on UK roads.
As for handling, the steering feels precise, with little correction required to keep the Scenic in a straight line. You’ll also find it’s easy to work out how much lock you need to get around a corner. There’s no need to take a couple of bites on every turn. But is it communicative or fun? No, not at all. There’s a fair amount of body roll and the non-switchable traction and stability controls will prevent anything from getting too lairy.
The styling may look exciting, but the driving experience will be familiar to most MPV buyers across Europe: safe but ultimately dull. If you’re after a distinctive yet practical family holdall, the Scenic should definitely be on your shortlist. It may not be fun to drive, but it’s perfectly pleasant and surprisingly comfortable, given its 20in wheels. We would be more tempted by one of the diesel engines, though. In something like this, the promise of cheaper running costs and a bit more low-end shove makes more sense.
The first drive-test of the new Renault Mégane was in December, last year. But the need to prioritise left-hand-drive models for the French market meant we’ve had to wait to deliver our final verdict on UK cars.
The first taste on European soil came courtesy of Renault’s flagship Mégane GT.
It will top the range until an even feistier Honda Civic Type R rival touches down in 2018. Here, though, we’ve got our hands on a more modest dCi 110 in well equipped Dynamique S Nav trim.
“It stands out like no other car in its class, and makes the old Mégane instantly out of date”
Bosses expect this to be the top seller. The familiar diesel engine is lifted unchanged from the Kadjar crossover, with 108bhp and 260Nm of torque. Our car came fitted with a six-speed manual box, although a seven- speed EDC dual-clutch is a £1,200 option.
The new Mégane certainly looks the part: it stands out like no other car in its class, and makes the old model instantly seem out of date. The neat C-shaped LED daytime running lights, sharp body creases and unique tail- light signature give a degree of road presence missing elsewhere in this sector.
Our car’s Flame Red paint looked brilliant, too.
In the cabin, Renault has transferred much of its expertise from larger models like the not-for-UK Espace MPV and Talisman saloon. You get the same portrait touchscreen on higher-spec cars, as well as a seven-inch display between the dials.
Everything is configurable, meaning you can decide which apps or functions to prioritise on the home screen. The display is remarkably responsive and the TomTom sat-nav is easy to use, while the climate control and screen heater are easily accessible via a row of buttons. The centre console looks great and trumps anything currently available from the VW Group.
But while the top of the dash and doors are coated in soft-touch plastics, it doesn’t feel as solid as a Vauxhall Astra inside, although it’s easily on par with Korean rivals like the Hyundai i30. Space inside is good, with enough room for tall adults in the rear. Yet boot capacity trails rivals.
All cars come well equipped, and Renault claims this new model offers best-in-class service, maintenance and repair costs. This has apparently contributed to an eight per cent rise in residual values across the board over any like-for-like predecessor. Expression+ versions get LED daytime running lights, alloys and air-con, while Dynamique Nav models add a touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors.
Move up through the trims and you’ll get things like a reversing camera and leather, while every new Mégane comes with a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.
Under the bonnet, there’s a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines. Our dCi 110 is an eager performer, making light work of short urban journeys and longer motorway jaunts. It’s pleasingly refined at 70mph, while the standard-fit 17-inch wheels on our mid-spec test car ensure it rides well without much in the way of road noise.
Yet while it’s tuned more for comfort than handling fun, an Astra is better resolved over a range of surfaces.
The steering is light, which makes parking around town simple, but it could still learn a thing or two from the Seat Leon, which better mixes driver fun with manoeuvrability. Switch the Multisense button (standard on Dynamique Nav and above) to Sport and things weight up, but it does little to add any sense of athleticism. Yet if you’re prepared to work the gears, there’s plenty to be had from this entry-level diesel.
In our experience, it’s hard to justify the extra cost of the dCi 130 for the tiny gains in performance, with this 110 offering suitable shove from low revs. It tails off towards the red line, but rivals suffer a similar fate. A dCi 165 will follow later; we’ll reserve judgement on that until we’ve driven all three back-to-back.
But what it lacks in outright handling, the Mégane makes up for at the pumps.
Our car emits an impressive 96g/km of CO2 and claims 76.4mpg, while even the EDC automatic model slips under 100g/km.
This further cements the dCi 110 as the engine of choice, as buyers of the dCi 130 wil
l not only travel fewer miles per gallon of fuel, they’ll also pay more company car tax and face a £20 fee for annual VED. A Ford Focus ECOnetic is even more frugal, but six- tenths of a second slower from 0-62mph.
Space in the back is adequate, but not quite class leading. There’s enough room for a six-foot adult to sit behind a similarly sized driver, although the middle seat is a bit high.
While 434-litre boot puts Mégane on par with some of the biggest cars in this sector, it can’t match a Honda Civic (which offers 477 litres) or a Skoda Octavia (590 litres).
We’ve waited a long time to drive the new Renault Mégane in the UK, but while this car makes small improvements across the board, it can’t quite challenge the market leaders for class honours. It looks great, rides well and comes packed with kit, but a Vauxhall Astra still offers all this and more.
Renault Mégane Dynamique S Nav dCi 110
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
Top speed: 116mph
ON SALE: Now
The Renault-Alpine A110 may be diminutive in its proportions but it has a massive and deserved reputation, particularly in its native France. Although wearing the Renault badge, this pocket rocket is a testimony to the focused dedication of one man—Jean Redélé, a passionate motor sport enthusiast and son of a Dieppe Renault agent.
Despite the world stampeding towards SUVs from the 1990s and into the 21st century, Renault has stubbornly refused to join the many manufacturers around the globe who were equally swift in meeting demand. Indeed, despite showing a concept off-roader as early as 2000, their first entry in the four-wheel drive stakes didn’t arrive until 2008, when credit crunch and world recession were about to puncture car sales and burst the SUV bubble in the process.
Don’t be fooled. This car is nothing like the girly ‘Papa! — Nicole!’ Clio of advert fame. The only thing it has in common is the `Va Va Voom’. The Clio RS (Renault Sport) was first introduced in 1998 as a flagship version designed to give the Clio a more macho image. The Renault engineers have pulled out the stops for the third generation.