The new Renault Megane looks undeniably good in this new skin, but does it have the substance to match?
Photos by Azfar Hashim
Ahh… The French. Always known to give us beautiful cars full of design flair, even if it’s just a small little hatchback you drive to the supermarket with. The Megane nameplate is quite the household name, as over the years every model seems to have the sort of design that gave new meaning to the term ‘family sedan’. If the Japanese are safe, the Koreans also safe, the Germans nothing outside the box, it’s the French that gave us something to smile about.
Look back at the 1999 Megane. It goes against the usual boxy exterior others in the segment were busying themselves with; personally speaking though, it still looks relevant today. If Renault were to update the equipment level, spruce up the interior and then put it back in the market, I’m sure there would still be people signing on the dotted line for ‘em.
Its replacement was much different though, looking as though it had spent time in the gym. The 2003 model had a more spacious cabin, equally cavernous boot and the car’s unique selling point was the keycard that replaced the traditional key – something beyond its time in the segment. This Megane sold in numbers, and once again, the local dealer had a roaring good time.
For some reason, Renault decided to drop the Megane nameplate and replaced it with the Fluence. Somewhat, it harked back to the 1999 Megane, looking curvy and easily distinguishable than everything else the market offered. The naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre variant was very refined; this was then phased out and along came the 1.5-litre turbodiesel model. Knowing how the average family man in Singapore still did not warm up to the idea of a oil-burning sedan, the take up rate wasn’t exactly… inspiring. Still was a good car, nevertheless.
And with us today is the all-new 2017 Renault Megane sedan.
550-litres boot should be more than enough for daily use
I’m not going to bore you with all the design terminology, but my word, at one glance, it just draws you in. If you need to consult your wives on a car buying decision, letting her see this sedan will grant you an instant “yes!” for sure. (Heck, she might even throw in a hall pass while at that.)
There’s a handsome face all thanks to the pair of clamshell headlamps and ‘Wi-Fi’ grill combo, an attractive behind courtesy of slim lamps and detailed bumper; then when viewed from the side, it’s rightly proportionate without any exaggerated front or rear overhangs.
Inside is where the Megane continues to impress. All seats wrapped in leather/faux Alcantara combination; rear passengers get pampered with air-con blowers to boot. You can seat up to three average-sized adults and there shouldn’t be any complaints as both head and legroom are class-leading. With the standard sunroof, it feels equally airy for everyone too.
The cockpit is clearly laid out, which should be able to arouse a tech geek. You get a digital display ahead, and at the same time, a center console that seem to mimic the Tesla Model S’s. Perhaps, Renault understands that the Model S could only be a dream for most, hence they made it a mass affair here. You control everything via this tab-like console – climate control, radio, entertainment, Bluetooth and even Renault’s version of Audi Drive Select, ‘Multi-Sense’.
Techs aside, the seat and steering still fell short here. The driver’s chair felt as though it had only bigger-sized drivers in mind; and because of that, it will need some additional time to find your optimum steering position. A slightly smaller steering wheel would be better appreciated too…
Nestled under the Megane’s bonnet is a 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel powerplant, the similar unit employed in some of Nissan’s line-up. Interestingly though, it is mated to Renault’s dual-clutch automatic EDC ‘box, enabling the car to whip out 110 bhp and 250 Nm of torque from as low as 1,750 rpm.
Press the ‘Engine Start/Stop’ button and hear the engine clatter to life. Well, there is still that undeniable diesel clatter particularly when you stand next to the bonnet; but thanks to brilliant sound damping, you will not hear any of that uninspiring note at idle from within the cabin.
The Megane is at home when driven from town to town; in fact it does so with much verve, keeping unsuspecting compact hatches at bay particularly during traffic light grand prix.
Nope, that's not for any fan but the Multi-Sense button
Out on the expressway, this French sedan remains a lively ball of energy that shows no problem keeping up with traffic; you can choose to play racer by selecting Sport mode and selecting the gears manually when things get a little boring. That said however, it shows off its limitation by running out of puff early; beyond 4,000 rpm, the engine seems flat with nothing else in its back pocket.
If there's one word to describe the audio control button, 'tacky' would be it
Despite that shortfall, Renault made it up by displaying a high level of refinement. Driving along the expressway at speeds just beyond the legal limit, the Megane’s cabin is well suppressed against unwelcomed engine and wind noise; even tyre roar from the 205/50 R-17 Michelin Primacy 3 is barely audible. We didn’t get the chance to, but I reckon this car will be very comfortable and relaxing for passengers on road trips up to Malaysia. Good play there, Renault.
Handling wise, it is tuned to provide a nice amount of balance between handling response and ride comfort. Sure, it might be a tad on the hard side but at least when rough or uneven roads are met, the Megane can absorb it all with ease. Body-roll is kept at an all-time low, and this can be felt every single time a corner is taken enthusiastically; point it at a corner and it just goes around, flat and fast. This is one aspect that should worry the Ford Focus, which is still king in this particular department.
In all, the Renault Megane makes a very good case for itself. For the family man who wants a car that has the design verve, cabin practicality and refinement along with a respectable amount of handling finesse, you have it all in here.
However, if you like it but could not fathom the idea of owning a diesel-powered car, I'm glad to report that the local dealer will be bringing in the turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol variant soon…