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“It stands out like no other car in its class, and makes the old Mégane instantly out of date”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Mégane certainly looks the part: it stands out like no other car in its class, and makes the old model instantly seem out of date.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