Renault is bucking the trend in Australia by delivering staggering sales growth in 2011. In fact for the first time since the re-born French brand returned to Australia a decade ago, Renault is closest to matching the sales numbers of its strategic rivals.
The good-looking Renault Megane hatchback is a major contributor to Renault’s global success and, following in the footsteps of the 2.0-litre petrol model, Renault Australia has now introduced the competent diesel version.
Renault is a global phenomenon since the enigmatic former boss of Michelin tyres, Carlos Ghosn assumed command. Renault now owns Nissan, powers most of the cars on the Formula One grid (including Aussie Mark Webber’s Red Bull team), spends more money in motor sport than any other manufacturer, is enormously profitable and on the path of massive expansion.
No wonder the Megane is so good.
Renault Megane Overview
Renault Megane is one of Europe’s best-selling hatchbacks. The Car Showroom team has been advocates of the latest Megane since it arrived, powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine – we like its standout French style, excellent quality, contemporary interior design and crisp on-road dynamics.
Now Renault Australia has boosted the Megane lineup with the launch of two diesel-powered models – Dynamique ($27,490) and Privilege ($32,490). Both are powered by Renault’s impressive 1.5-litre diesel engine, driving through the French giant‘s new twin-clutch automatic transmission.
Backed by Renault’s 5-years/unlimited kilometres warranty and introductory three years of free servicing, the new Renault Megane diesel makes an enticing claim to buyers of diesel-powered hatchbacks.
Renault Megane Engine
Renault Megane is powered by an upgraded version of the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, diesel engine which propels the Renault Kangoo commercial van. It runs a particulate filter and is Euro 5-compliant.
During our day driving Renault Megane diesels, the quietness of this engine at all speeds left a lasting impression.
Maximum power is 81kW at 4000rpm and peak torque of 240Nm arrives at 1750rpm.
Here’s the impressive bit: fuel consumption is rated at just 4.5l/100kms and exhaust C02 emissions at 117g/km. With a 60-litre fuel tank, Renault says the Megane diesel has a range between refills exceeding 1,000kms.
Renault Megane The Interior
Renault does great interiors – it’s as simple as that. Again the Renault Megane diesel highlights that strength with its clever design, handy layout and quality material choices.
Renault also gets the tactile stuff spot-on with the steering wheel, gear lever, switches, dials and dashboard all soft-touch in a way some cars which cost twice as much don’t deliver.
The nice, leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel (both models) adjusts for rake and reach, however we would have liked more lumbar adjustment for the drivers’ seat to deliver an optimum position. Again we were reminded of the Renault Megane’s smart instrument layout which an analogue rev-counter and digital speedometer – very user-friendly.
Entry-level Renault Megane Dynamique scores a four-speaker single CD sound system while range-topping Privilege is boosted by an Arkamys system with integrated remote control satellite navigation.
Luggage capacity is 360-litres and the rear seat split-folds 60/40.
Renault Megane Exterior & Styling
Renault Megane diesel looks no different to its petrol stablemates. At 5,295mm overall length, and with a 2,641mm wheelbase, the Megane is one of the larger small cars and this translates into strong on-road presence.
Like the Ford Focus, Renault’s Megane looks distinctive, European, and classy. In fact the German-designed Focus and French-crafted Megane have a fresher, contemporary look that somewhat overshadows the conservative styling of the Volkswagen Golf.
We like the sporty and aerodynamic front end with streamlined headlights, contour lines from A-pillars forward and the shapely front grille. Ditto the rear end with the strong-looking C-pillars and curved hatchback glass (which pleasingly do not inhibit rear visibility).
Entry-level Renault Megane Dynamique models run 16-inch alloy wheels, while range-topping Privilege can be identified by 17-inch alloys and a glass sunroof.
Renault Megane On The Road
During our day with the Renault Megane diesel, Car Showroom put both models (Dynamique and Privilege) through their paces over a variety of roads in often damp conditions around Victoria’s Yarra Valley.
Not surprisingly, based on our previous testing of the petrol-powered Renault Megane, early-on in our high-speed mountain run, we forged a strong relationship with the chassis dynamics – balanced, European-taut, precise and sporty. Renault Megane diesel runs the same MacPherson strut front/ flexible beam rear suspension as its petrol siblings, but to handle the extra 60kgs or so weight in the diesel and dual-clutch transmission, higher rate springs are fitted in all four corners and the dampers are retuned firmer.
The other over-riding impression was the quietness of Renault’s 1.5-litre diesel engine. Sure you expect the latest European diesels to be refined at all speeds, but in that department, we’d suggest this Renault engine is jostling with some big-name rivals at the very front of the field.
Performance wasn’t lacking either – fast enough from a standing start and good in the mid-range. We changed gears manually through much of the twisty stuff – we’re like that – but when slowing to keep an eye out for speed cameras, we did leave the selector in ‘D’ and at no time was the Renault Megane lacking in punch.
Renault’s Efficient Dual Clutch six-speed automatic transmission – supplied by gearbox specialist Getrag - was an impressive gadget. The Megane’s version is a dry clutch which has less drag than the more common wet clutch designs (Renault admits engines with more power will require a switch to the wet clutch principle).
Renault says the dual clutch transmission delivers a shift time of just 290 milliseconds and reduces fuel consumption/C02 emissions by up to 17 per cent over a normal automatic.
We found up-changes as smooth as a conventional automatic, while down-changes had that racy ‘snick’ you associate with dual clutch transmissions. And in our brief encounter with crawling traffic in the Friday afternoon rush around Melbourne Airport, we did detect the usual little clunks you get from twin clutch transmissions in stop-start going.
Renault Megane Challenges
We drove the Renault Megane Hatchback Diesel within a couple of days of driving the new Mazda3 (the Mazda on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and the Renault not too far away in the Yarra Valley). So we were in ‘Small Car Mode’.
And really our only real criticism of the Renault Megane is the drivers’ seat which would benefit from more lumbar support (either extra cushioning or extra adjustment).
Renault Megane Verdict
Any Neanderthals still holding onto that old chestnut about Renault unreliability and service difficulties should be dispatched back to their caves. This is 2011; Renault dominates Formula One, is hugely profitable, has manufacturing plants all around the world (another massive one under construction in China), owns Japan’s Nissan and is one of the world’s leading automakers with a reputation for innovative design and first-class powertrains.
And notwithstanding its meager price tag of $27,490, the new Megane Hatchback Diesel is Renault at its best. That means superb, contemporary European style inside and out (in this segment only matched by the Ford Focus), a refined, fast and fuel-frugal diesel engine and slick on-road dynamics.
Specification-for-specification, the Renault Megane Hatchback Diesel goes toe-to-toe with any vehicle in this segment and gives more than a good account of itself. Throw-in Renault’s five-year/unlimited kilometres warranty, 2.9 per-cent finance and introductory three years free servicing and it’s a compelling package which simply must be considered by small car buyers.
And don’t overlook the petrol-powered Renault Megane if diesels aren’t your thing.
Renault Megane The Competition
Renault Megane Diesel takes on a world class field headed by the new Ford Focus. While you’ll need an extra three grand to get the Focus TDCi hatch (Trend model), the Ford enjoys a performance advantage with its 2.0-litre delivering 120kW/340Nm.
Mazda has just rolled-out a mid-life facelift for its top-selling Mazda3 which now drives better than ever and is even shaper value-for-money. The diesel-powered Mazda3 MZR-CD hatchback (six-speed manual only) - stickered at $27,360 - undercuts the Renault Megane by the sum total of $130 and Mazda’s 2.2-litre diesel is ahead on performance at 110kW/360Nm. Against that, we reckon Renault’s European style and classy interior materials do edge ahead of Mazda3.
Oozing French design flair like the Renault Megane, Peugeot’s 308 has just been facelifted and prices are down. The entry level Peugeot 308 1.6-litre diesel is now priced at $29,990 ($2,500 above the Renault Megane) and delivers similar performance (82kW/270Nm).
Against this lot, Volkswagen’s Golf is looking a tad staid in its styling, but there’s no denying the Volkswagen reputation. Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion (77kW/250Nm, five-speed manual only) is priced at $28,990 while the Golf 103TDI Comfortline 103kW/320Nm) starts at $31,990.
In our minds, a major factor in all of this is Renault Megane’s 5-years/unlimited kilometres warranty and introductory three years of free servicing.