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Tested: Renault Mégane 1.9dCi

2010-04-26 10:45

Hailey Philander

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Renault
Model Megane
Engine 1 870 cm3 four-cylinder commonrail with turbo
Power 96 kW at 3 750 r/min
Torque 300 Nm at 1 750
Transmission 6-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 9.5 seconds
Top Speed 210
Fuel Tank 60
Fuel Consumption 5.1 l/100 km (combined)
Weight 1 813 kg
Steering electric power steering
ABS with EBD and EBA
Tyres 205/55/ R16
Front Suspension Pseudo Mac-Pherson
Rear Suspension Flexible beam
Service Plan 5 Year / 100 000 km
Warranty 3 Year / 100 000 km
Price R264 900
I've admired the styling of the Renault Mégane for some time.

Sure, the first generation fell a little flat in the design stakes, but its follow up was light years ahead and proved to be an instant polariser. I loved it, and as I realised the model was on runout, remained quietly joyful at how well it had aged.  I also became a little panicked at whether the new model would be able to do better. I need not have been concerned.

Renault's design maestro Patrick le Quement and his team have managed to outdo themselves. New Mégane is a mighty conundrum - it looks completely different, but yet is instantly recognisable as a Renault.

The styling focus on the latest-generation model has shifted from the voluptuous rear of its predecessor to a deliberate in-your-face frontal treatment. In addition, new Mégane is all sweeping curves, bold lines (including "character creases" on its nose) and droopy headlamps to make the car appear at home in the current trendy car park and make it stand out from the rest of the C segment crowd. 

Profile is especially sporty, although a glasshouse that narrows to the rear and a sloping roofline could make rear passengers feel caged in

Mégane has definitely swelled in size, evidenced in its larger proportions, but also witnessed in the abundance of space within the cabin. This spaciousness is well hidden from the outside though, where the use of short overhangs and a dramatically raked roofline, make the car appear suitably compact.

Yet despite all the changes to its appearance, Mégane has managed to latch on to some of its redeeming qualities.

For one, while the Mégane has traditionally managed to trade on its attractiveness, it does back it up with some decent mechanicals. French turbodiesels have built up quite a cachet and the latest incarnation of the done-to-death 1.9 dCi unit from PSA is no real surprise.

Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, this engine is lively and responsive, yet with sufficient sound deadening in place to ensure the typical diesel rumble and grumble rarely filters through to the cabin. A revised variable geometry turbo ensures the power uptake is smooth and the unit produces 96 kW at 3 750 r/min and a very useful 300 Nm of peak torque from 1 750 r/min.

Both consumption and emissions on this revised unit are lower; Mégane is claimed to cover 100 km (on a mixed cycle) while consuming 5.1 litres of fuel and spews about 134 g/km of CO2 into the air.

Mégane's dynamic ability is also rather engaging. It rides on a MacPherson-like front suspension with a new horned subframe and a flexible beam at the rear, which is said to be more lightweight while offering greater torsional rigidity than the fashionable multilink setup.

A wider track makes Megane look especially athletic from the rear

This suspension arrangement, aided by the car's wider track, nonetheless has distinct handling advantages. Space between the wheels has increased by 28 mm on the front axle and 33 mm on the rear over Mégane II. This creates the impression that the car sits lower, while being noticeably more stable, particularly when negotiating corners at speed.

Although the ride is especially soft and comfy, body roll and other unwanted behaviour remains at a minimum.

Mégane drivers also have the assurances of an all-new electric power steering unit that is said to be more precise with greater steering feel. While the steering, for me, did feel marginally tighter than with other electric units, the more tactile experience offered by hydraulic power steering systems is still found wanting.  

Not surprisingly, the Mégane's ride is definitely skewed towards the comfortable side of the handling spectrum and will have you happily floating over dips and hopping across bumps.

Mégane is not wholly inadequate in the athletic department (and the diesel model will give you as many thrills as you can expect from a low revving oil-burner with a squishy gearshift action), but you do get the sense that the mothership's mandate to the Mégane team was "family hatch first". But Renault has a reputation for building blistering hot hatches too, so those feeling the need for speed should perk up from mid-year when the RS model is expected to make landfall in SA.

But I digress. Back to the daily-driving Mégane. 

Large dials are a bonus. Note position of satellite navigation controller alongside park brake lever

Inside the cabin, the high-line Dynamique specification offered as standard across the Mégane range translates into a family hatchback with a comprehensive level of trim.

Swaddled in colour coded mouldings and additional trim, Mégane also lists front fog lamps, heated and folding wing mirrors, one-touch power windows all round and a bespoke audio system as some of the standard items on offer. This, of course, is mostly what one has come to expect from the French, and I've been a fan of those fingertip audio controls ever since the Clio was first launched in this country.

The turbodiesel model adds an integrated satellite navigation system courtesy of Carminat TomTom. The system operates via a joystick-like controller in the centre console, but its entire operation proved too fussy for me to master. Luckily I (almost) always know where I'm going.

Another feature I found to be rather interesting was the "fully integrated" dashboard cowl (the little jutting peak meant to screen the instrument dials from harsh light and glare?). It may look and feel rather swish, but a gentle tug revealed a fair amount of flex which, in turn, caused me to ponder: "Just how long before this thing (the dashboard cowl on the test unit provided by Renault SA) starts to squeak?"

And of course, that little bugbear of mine from the start became easier it ignore with regular use, but still did not alter the situation. The stop-start button is inconveniently placed on the passenger side of the central hangdown, just to the right of the pedestrian's knee. Very annoying, indeed, although certain male members of the Wheels24 team found this feature to be especially useful...

Apart from these minor issues, the Mégane remains a pleasure to pilot with most (other) controls proving easy to master or intuitive to operate, even if the buttons on the stylish centre console initially seemed a little petite.

Another thing not requiring too much attention from Mégane's occupants is safety. Renault has it covered with six airbags (including two new thorax and groin bags), new generation head restraints and the assurance of a five-star rating from Euro NCAP.

ABS with EBD and EBA is standard. Stability control with understeer control is an option.


Very fresh and certainly exciting. Makes a delightful change from the usual meat-and-potatoes fare on offer in the C-segment.

The apparent quality of materials and general fit and finish is good. There are some odd points dotted about (the position of the start-stop button in particular), but can we dismiss it as French quirkiness?

The turbodiesel certainly won't get your heart pumping faster, but is ample for the daily suburban shuffle. It has enough torque when you need it for those swift overtaking manouvres and the cabin is comfortable, too. 

The Renault Mégane is a key model in the French manufacturer's local line-up and there must be great pressure on this model to perform.

Renault SA is the first to admit it has been plagued by service issues in the past and is quick to counter that it is on the way back into consumers' hearts (and pockets).

Mégane - and the slew of models the company has launched and will continue to launch into this year - could just provide some style to the equation as the company's plan gains traction.

The latest Mégane is a beauty, has a range of competent engines (although I have yet to experience the new 1.4 TCe unit) and is suitably comfortable for most day to day pursuits. In a cut-throat C-segment dominated by sensible choices, the Mégane is a moving and worthy alternative.

Would I buy it? I’d consider the coupe over the hatchback (aesthetically-speaking, I find the coupe to be infinitely arresting) and I would probably want to sample the new 1.4 TCe engine before making any kind of commitment.

What do you think of the new Renault Megane hatchback?  Would you consider it over "the regulars"? Share your thoughts here


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