Declan Colley: Megane PHEV offers glimpse of future 

Declan Colley: Megane PHEV offers glimpse of future 

Renault Megane E-Tech PHEV: It might not be the greatest drive of all time, but it is lovely to live with — packed with tech loads of passenger comforts.

Renault Megane E-Tech PHEV

Rating

★★★☆☆

Price

€25,690 - €31,865 as tested

Engine

A decent PHEV

The Spec

Top drawer

Verdict

A peek into the future

Renault call it ‘La nouvelle vague,’ which roughly means ‘the new wave.’ 

This is not a music industry struggling to come to terms with that post-punk period in the late ‘70’s and ‘80’s when fomenting public frustration with the extant business model used to promote behemoth rock bands which had little in common with their intended audience, forced serious change.

That ‘new wave’ saw the traditional record company model fold under the strain as the industry ushered in an era of unprecedented talent and creativity aimed at an increasingly sophisticated market which wanted to hear what it liked, rather than what it was told it should like.

Last week, Renault appeared intent on forcing a similar gravitational change on a motoring industry which in many ways mirrored that of the music business several decades ago.

Under the baton of the company’s new conductor, former SEAT boss Luca de Meo, Renault announced that here forth, the company brand will “embody modernity and innovation within and beyond the automotive industry in energy, tech and mobility services, for example.” 

As part of its strategy, the brand says it will lift up its segment mix with a C-segment offensive and will strengthen its position in Europe, while focusing on profitable segments and channels in key markets such as Latin America and Russia.

In very short order, Renault is promising that half its new car launches will be full electric vehicles (which it says have a higher margin contribution than internal combustion engines) and become a challenger in hybrid market with 35% hybrid mix.

This week’s tester, the face-lifted Renault Megane E-Tech PHEV is a small indicator of what’s ahead.

While Renault — or Groupe Renault, which incorporates the Renault, Alpine, Dacia and Lada, not to mention its increasingly fraught controlling interest in Nissan — aims to be at the heart of this motoring revolution, in the instance of this Megane it might just be a case of ‘from humble beginnings to huge success.’ 

The whole E-Tech thing is part and parcel of the Renault plan going ahead and we will see this nomenclature and technology being adopted across the company’s car and van range in the coming months. Indeed, we have Clio and Captur E-Tech versions here already, alongside the Megane.

However, Renault is not alone in this quest and its main rivals in the non-premium market would include the South Korean siblings, Kia and Hyundai, as well as the PSA Group (Peugeot, Citroen et al) and, most importantly, the VW Group, whose Volkswagen brand is leading the electric charge, while subsidiaries Skoda and SEAT are also beginning to pack an electric punch.

Somewhat surprisingly — and especially so given the opposition — the Megane only comes in the Sports Tourer variant right now, although the hatch will be along in due course. It is this — the estate — version we try this week.

Attractive in that very much ‘right now’ type of way that has characterised Renault designs for so long, this latest Megane is a very good-looking car. 

It might not seem so appealing in a few years’ time, as too often appears to be the case with the French manufacturers’ products, but for now it is on the money.

The car does benefit from the lead provided by the Clio which saw the company supermini given a new set of clothes and a bunch of new toys which actually demonstrate Renault’s determination to push their products closer to premium level. Now the Megane has got the same treatment.

The front-end look has been sharpened somewhat and the rear is tidier than before with more emphasis on the distinctive rear lights. 

Renault has also managed to package the whole hybrid element of the car without sacrificing either passenger space or cargo room.

The Renault Megane E-Tech PHEV interior.

The Renault Megane E-Tech PHEV interior.

It is inside the car, however, that the design team has really stepped up to the plate; the driving position is better than ever, the general sophistication of the layout and décor has been upped and the number of toys and the way you interact with them has also been boosted.

It might not be the biggest estate on the market right now, but for general family purposes it does not leave much to be desired. The very fact it is still selling well, while VW don’t even bother selling the Golf Estate in Ireland anymore, tells its own story.

Renault Megane E-Tech PHEV's stylish dash.

Renault Megane E-Tech PHEV's stylish dash.

Under the hood there is a 1.6 petrol engine allied to a 12-kWh battery pack which delivers a total power output of 158 bhp. It is allied to a six-speed automatic ‘box and the power is driven through the front wheels.

All good so far. But, even with nearly 160 horses to play with, the Megane does not deliver many driving thrills. Sure, you will be able to whisper out of your home without disturbing the neighbours and even manage about 40km of electric motoring, but even when you’re utilising all the power on offer, excitement is pretty lacking.

This is illustrated by the nearly ten second 0-100 kph time and the relatively desultory 180kph top speed as the car strains to carry the extra 200 kg weight from the batteries. 

As a result, there is also a debt to repay in the handling and ride department where the E-Tech does not quite deliver the same poise that the standard car offers.

Nevertheless, this Megane could not be called sloppy in either department and, in general, Renault seems to have found an acceptable balance which is not always the case with PHEVs. The claimed 1.2 l/100 km (217 mpg) fuel consumption is — as is the case with so many such cars — pretty mind-boggling, but wide of the mark.

Certainly, if you drive within pretty constrictive parameters, you might get somewhere near that, but somewhere around the 3.9 l/100 km (70.3 mpg) mark should be attainable.

This car is, in some ways, a peek through the window to the future. It might not be the greatest drive of all time, but it is lovely to live with — packed with tech loads of passenger comforts as it is — and can, provided you drive it properly, demonstrate quite an economic turn.

As the first step of Renault’s burgeoning ‘Nouvelle Vague’ it might not be the most revolutionary thing you’ve ever driven and it might not even be what Elvis Costello or Talking Heads were to new wave music, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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