The Renault Megane has been with us for four generations now, with the current version being introduced in 2016. The French hatch is now at the top of its game, with it being compared favourably against mainstays such as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, and Mazda3.
It’s immediate predecessor, though, wasn’t enough of a standout product to dissuade many from spending their dollars on the more established nameplates, but this version has much more promise, aiming to right nearly every ounce of flak its forebear had to endure.
With an all-new exterior that lends it some real flair and presence on the road, paired with a cabin that certainly has some top notch premium touches, this car is a departure from the typical Megane we might imagine in our minds.
As the mainstream are increasingly encroaching on the premium space in terms of design, features, and feel, Renault has similarly focused their engineering efforts in the fat middle of the market. The car itself is now bigger more technically competent while still presenting itself as a competitive value proposition against even the equally French Peugeot 308.
It adopts the CMF-CD (Common Modular Family) architecture shared with the Kadjar crossover, and with that sets the basis for a supposedly more sophisticated vehicle. This platform is also used by sister company Nissan in their Qashqai along with other Renaults like the Talisman and Scenic.
Buyers can choose from the entry-level Life, the better specified Zen, the cosmetically more convincing GT-Line, and lastly the sportier and quicker Megane GT which should be enough to sate driving enthusiasts who appreciate the extra performance without sacrificing too much in the way of comfort.
However, in this space, all the competitors the new Megane is going up against are also stronger than they’ve ever been - being merely good often isn’t enough to win the day. Add to that the older third-generation Megane's trailing popularity at the time, this new version has quite a task ahead of it.
“The bold nose, curvaceous profile, wide hips and lean tail-lights give the car an elegant and dynamic stance and strong proportions.” - CarAdvice
It’s size is masked quite well that you’d never guess it was any larger than before, though this may or may not translate to a more accommodating interior for all occupants. But on looks alone, it’s an area where the fourth-generation Megane excels in no matter which variant is chosen.
Even in entry-level guise it looks fetching with those C-shaped headlamps that are integrated with LED daytime running lights, a sleek body that’s full of attractive creases and curves. Sure, the 16-inch steel wheels are a letdown in the base ‘Life’, but things get much nicer as you move up the ladder.
The range-topping GT, though, does take the cake as one of- if not the most - handsome warm hatches in the class. It’s such a departure from the blandly designed exterior and interior of the older car and establishes Renault in great style, outdoing rivals in an area where its former attempt was criticised.
True, it doesn’t yet have the racier flourishes that only RenaultSport variants get but the GT moniker fits the car’s level of visually aggressive, however subdued, tone quite well. Though, if you’d figure the extra performance and enhanced suspension isn't necessary, the GT-Line bridges the aesthetic gap while maintaining a lower price and reduced running costs.
Engine and Drivetrain
“The range-topping Megane GT is great fun to drive, thanks to its more powerful 1.6-litre turbo engine, quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic…” - WhichCar
Renault keeps it simple with only two engines available for the Megane. Every variant apart from the top-tier GT receiving Renault’s TCe130 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 97kW and 205Nm.
It’s a motor that we’re already familiar with, responsible for propulsion in the Clio and Captur. A reasonably nippy performer that, of course, is more encumbered by the larger and heavier Megane, taking 10.3 seconds pull 100km/h from rest. Making up for that, though, is the impressive 5.6-litres/100km fuel economy figure that Renault claims it can achieve in combined driving.
The Megane GT does boast more power with a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine lifted from the Clio RS, producing 151kW and 280Nm of torque. Not quite up there with the Focus ST or Peugeot 308 GTI but enough to be considered quick.
Only the base ‘Life’ grade gets the option of being fitted with a manual transmission while the rest of the range receives Renault’s seven-speed EDC dual-clutch automatic to transmit power to the front wheels.
“The interior of both GT-Line and GT were fitted out with supportive, soft front seats. They held you in tightly and, aside from a high side bolster, didn’t make it hard to get in and out of them.” - Motoring.com.au
This is another area where the older Megane was criticised. Renault deserves commendation for so thoroughly eschewing any notions of that cabin and its deficiencies somehow returning here.
The dark material colours can sometimes translate to a gloomy atmosphere and some contrast material or stitching might have been a sound addition. But higher trims do get interior ambient lighting and Alcantara in the upholstery.
Overall the materials here do feel nice, with soft touch finishes throughout and even Nappa leather on the steering wheel and gear knob on the GT-Line. The layout, too, is improved with a more driver-focused dash and raised controls to have them easier fall to hand.
Second row passengers will be well sorted with plenty of knee room and head room. Although there is a transmission tunnel hump running down the middle of the car, it isn’t overly obstructive. That said, due to the wide rails that the front seats are mounted, passengers may not have as much space as they’d like for their feet to spread.
Open the boot, and there is a healthy 434-litres of cargo space. It’s not quite class leading practicality but certainly a more impressive showing than the Ford Focus’ 316-litres with the seats up. Fold them down, and the Megane makes 1,247-litres available. Though, it would have been better if Renault had make the load lip less pronounced.
Behind The Wheel
“The surprise here, though, is that this car so squarely aims for comfort over commanding grip and composure, and ease of use over driver engagement.” - Autocar
It does miss out on the more sophisticated independent rear suspension of some rivals. And though the CMD-CF platform is made to support it, the condition is that it will come bundled with all-wheel drive.
The Megane IV makes the most of its MacPherson front struts and and torsion beam rear setup to impress around corners. The steering isn’t anything to write home about but immediacy of response is up there with the best of them, particularly with the GT which has had its suspension fettled by Renault Sport. Speaking of the range-topper, it also receives the segment-pioneering 4Control four-wheel steering system that can help the car turn in at lower speeds and improves stability at high speeds.
In standard tune, the Megane delivers a very composed ride, tuning out the more rutted stretches of road often more handily than the defacto class refinement champ, the Volkswagen Golf. There’s a definite leaning here toward comfort in spite of the sporty exterior, but thankfully this isn’t to the detriment of body control ora sure-footed drive and, all told, it’s a well-judged mix of abilities.
Safety and Technology
“That 7-inch touchscreen may look nice, but the hardware buttons on either side quickly get smudged and covered in greasy finger marks.” - EVO
Renault is one of the first few manufacturers to really chase the 5-star safety rating obsessively back in the earlier days of the standardised crash tests, and Euro NCAP’s 5-star rating is another feather in the French manufacturer’s cap. ANCAP, though, hasn’t yet tested the car.
A 7-inch landscape touchscreen infotainment system is included as standard running Renault’s RLINK2, however in-built navigation is only granted to mid-tier Megane Zen and above. Optional to the GT-Line and GT, though, is the larger 8.7-inch portrait infotainment screen which does improve the experience but is aesthetically hampered by its thick bezels.
The Renault Megane hasn’t really been a top-ranking contender among the typical hatch buyer, though for a while now it has been a favourite among enthusiasts, but that’s in the harder, faster RenaultSport form.
This time, though, with the fourth-generation model in play, Renault has sought to reach the larger crowd with a car that scores highly on looks and everyday-accessible driving fun, while also offering a high quality cabin and modern amenities dressed over French flair.
There’s plenty of room for those 5 passengers too and an engine range that, while not wide-ranging, does offer benefits to most - if not all - buyers in this space, with decent power, refinement, and fuel efficiency. Renault’s newest Megane, now more than ever, deserves a spot alongside the best of them.
CarAdvice - 7.5/10“…you should put Renault’s new Volkswagen Golf, Peugeot 308, Mazda 3 and Ford Focus rival on your shortlist if you’re serious about finding a small car with a big point of difference.”
CarsGuide - 3.5/5 - “The new Megane does enough to whet our appetite but it all comes down to what you get for the money and we won’t know for another couple of months if Renault has pulled the cash or cachet lever.”
Drive.com.au 7/10 - “It feels like a well built and engaging, enjoyable car to drive. It certainly feels good enough to tempt some small car buyers away from the mainstream Asian hatchbacks into something with a little European flair.”
EVO - 4/5 - “Doesn't yet challenge the hot hatch class, but styling, cabin and chassis all impress. Now updated with pricing information.”
Motoring.com.au - 81/100 - “The new Megane looks promising from this first local taste test, with the chassis tune — especially in the GT — a stand out.”
Autocar - 3/5 - “All in, it’s clear that the fourth-generation Renault Mégane has a lot of potential. Here is a hatchback that is comfortable, quiet, well built and easy to drive.”
WhichCar - 3.5/5 - “Slick and European to its core, the Megane is easily one of the most eye-catching small hatchbacks on the market. Beyond that, Renault has made high equipment levels the Megane’s point of difference.”