I bet you remember the Renault Megane hatchback TV advert from 2003. The theme tune was Groove Armada’s ‘I See you Baby (Shakin’ That Ass)’ and, well, it featured lots of posteriors jiggling about with shots of the then new Megane hatchback’s distinctive rear end dropped in here and there.
Anyway, you’ve probably forgotten the car by now, even if it did have an unusually designed rear and a cracking theme tune. There’s been another generation of the Renault Megane since and it was pretty bland in the looks department, but the French company wants to relive its daring days of design, which explains the launch of a bold new look for the latest Megane hatchback earlier this year.
The scene is set by the track widths of the new car front and rear, which Renault reckons are the widest in the segment. That width is emphasised by distinctive new LED lights.
Up front, all versions get daytime running lamps in a large C-shape made up of ‘3D-effect LEDs’ and there are all-LED headlights available too. Those frame a prominent grille with a simply huge Renault diamond badge in the centre.
Depending on the specification of the car you’re checking out, be prepared for the interior to have a little less wow factor. The top-of-the range versions come with a large (8.7-inch no less) portrait-orientation touchscreen in the middle of the car, which is excellent, but without it, most variants look quite flat in that area.
Renault has at least attempted to reinvent its switchgear, so all models look and feel modern inside and the controls are tactile. The digital instruments help with the high-tech image too.
The GT Line version we tested was boosted with sports seats and blue contrasting trim details that help the cabin feel more special than the norm, but despite Renault’s claims, it seems no more spacious inside than others in the segment.
Yet it takes just a few minutes behind the wheel to realise that the Megane has beaten the opposition in one regard, and that’s refinement. We’re not quite sure how Renault has stifled the rumbles and grumbles of its 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine, a well-proven, but hardly whisper-quiet unit in most other vehicles we’ve experienced it in, but it’s remarkably smooth and silent in the Megane.
It makes for a relaxing experience, especially on long journeys on the motorway. Most Irish buyers will go for that engine, and with 110hp and 260Nm of torque it has perfectly adequate performance, though those that want more should check out the newer 1.6-litre dCi option.
It produces 130hp and 320Nm of torque and gives the Megane a distinct shot in the arm. It’s virtually as efficient and just as quiet. However, prices for models powered by that engine start at €26,490, while the 1.5 is priced from €21,490.
In fairness, Renault isn’t trying to say that the extra performance is worth a €5,000 premium on its own; it’s just that the 1.6-litre engine is only available on the higher trim levels.
The Megane is offered in Expression, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav, GT Line Nav and GT Nav specifications and in truth, all are well-equipped for the money. Prices start at €19,490, for one of only two petrol options in the line-up (the other is the top-of-the range 205hp Megane GT, a sort of junior hot hatch), and the entry-level Megane Expression comes with air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, electrically adjustable, heated and folding door mirrors and loads of passive and active safety equipment.
Although you need the Dynamique S Nav to get the fancy upright touchscreen system, the smart money goes on the Dynamique Nav below that, at €23,990 for the 1.5-litre diesel model.
It adds rear electric windows, alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen interface with satnav, part-leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and more to the specification, enhancing the Megane no end.
That’s just as well, as the Megane competes in the C-segment, probably the most crowded class there is. Don’t believe me? These are the alternatives I can think of off the top of my head around the same price, leaving out the more premium brands: Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Citroen C4, Fiat Tipo, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia cee’d, Mazda3, Nissan Pulsar, Opel Astra, Peugeot 308, Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Auris, Volvo V40, and Volkswagen Golf.
That’s quite a lot of competition, some more talented than others, and quite a number of showrooms you have to walk past on your way to Renault.
Nonetheless, the Megane still holds appeal, and not just because of its standout design.
AT A GLANCE
¦ Pricing starts at: €19,490
¦ Engine: 1.5-litre fourcylinder turbocharged diesel (110hp, 260Nm)
¦ Emissions: 96g/km (€180 per year)
¦ Rivals: Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Opel Astra
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