I feel as though it’s a sign of my age (as if I needed another) that the Renault Megane is an astonishing twenty years old and in its fourth iteration.
Despite selling more than 6.5 million worldwide, the previous generations have often felt like a car in search of a market.
Meganes have always driven tolerably well and been keenly priced but cheap interiors and the lack of a USP meant that there was simply no reason to buy one as long as we lived in a world with the VW Golf in it.
A premium feel
As a result, Renault has invested a lot of time and money into giving the all-new Megane a more (marketing buzzword alert) premium feel.
And you know what? It has almost pulled it off; with the exception of a steering wheel that doesn’t feel very leather-like, and the odd small piece of trim that is still a bit Airfixy, it feels very nice in there. Looks good as well, thanks mainly to the Tesla-esque, tablet-style sat-nav screen.
Looks good on the outside, too. The new model is longer and lower than the old one and while it’s still shakin’ dat ass (now there’s an earworm for you…) it looks better than ever. Expensive. Upmarket. Premium, even.
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Scores highly on appeal and price
So the Megane has absolutely its showroom appeal – and it scores highly on price, too.
My car came with around £2,500-worth of optional extras yet, in stark contrast to some I could mention, I could have done without most of them and still enjoyed my week with it.
I’d happily pay the £500 Renault asks for the LED headlights, but probably wouldn’t bother with either the £400 diamond-cut alloy wheels, special metallic paint (£625), Bose eight-speaker stereo (£500), leather seats (£1,000) or sunroof (£550).
If there are some options you could skip, there are some that you shouldn’t. A three year/30,000 mile service plan costs just £299, while a four year/40,000 mile plan is £499, both of which seems like fine value to me.
All in all, the Megane represents very good value, especially as Renault has been known to do the odd deal in the showroom. (carwow suggest that savings of more than 15 per cent aren’t unknown, depending on the model you’re interested in.)
3 websites to save money on a new car
A car that delivers on the road
All of this would count for nothing if the Megane didn’t deliver on the road, and in this respect you need have no fear.
My test car had the lowly 1.5-litre 110bhp diesel engine with a lethargic on paper 0-62mph time of over 11 seconds, however, it felt much, much quicker on the road.
On a four hundred mile round trip to Hampshire I didn’t once feel like I needed more power and I kept up with maniacal Southern drivers (I’m a proper country mouse now, you know) with ease in the city and on the motorway and I still managed to get well over 60mpg overall. That’s as much performance and economy as anyone can reasonably ask for from any car that will seat five people and their luggage in comfort.
If you do need more performance then a more powerful 1.6-litre, 130bhp diesel is also available alongside two petrol engines; a 1.2-litre with 130 and a 1.6-litre with 205bhp.
Mrs Boyce absolutely loved the Megane and she’s a tough act to impress; most press cars leave her cold these days, other than to draw an anguished gasp when she learns how much new cars now cost. In her world a new car like a well-equipped Mondeo is still £15,000 but, to be fair, she’s getting much better and even she thinks that the Megane offers fine value.
So should you buy one?
Well, there isn’t any reason not to but I can’t help thinking that Megane is still in search of its hatchback niche. The Renault Kadjar, which shares a common platform with the Megane, is a very, very good car that has captured the zeitgeist of the moment perfectly.
The Megane, less so. It drives well, it’s cheap, and it’s premium enough to silence even your snootiest and most judgemental neighbours. If that’s enough for you, and you have a good Renault dealer nearby, then you’re not going to regret buying one for a moment. The trouble is, others still do it just that little bit better.
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Power – 110bhp
Torque – 192 lb ft
0-62mph – 11.3 seconds
Top speed – 116mph
Kerb weight – 1,387kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 76.4mpg
CO2 emissions – 96g/km
VED class – Band A
Towing capacity (braked) – 1,300kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 640kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £20,400
Price as tested - £22,925
The SEAT Leon is a VW Golf in a snappier – and much cheaper - suit. It drives brilliantly too and should be at the top of your shortlist if you’re in the market for a family sized hatchback or estate.
The best of the rest
The Vauxhall Astra is far, far better than the name might lead you to believe and is worth buying for its amazing headlights alone.
The Kia Cee’d comes with a whopping seven-year warranty, which turns it from a good family car into a very good one.
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