Car Test   R0271
 
October 2002
First Drive Renault Megane II
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.9dCi Hatch Dynamique
Renault is at it again. Hard on the wheels of the audacious Avantime and Vel Satis comes the third of the company’s newcomers with looks that you’ll either love or loathe.
  
   In fact, Megane II Hatch and Sport Hatch form the start of a complete renewal of Renault’s models in the vitally important lower-medium sector, currently dominated by Focus, Astra, Golf et al. Initially, 28 versions are available, but a further five body styles are in the pipeline: saloon, coupe/cabriolet, estate, Scenic and Grand Scenic.
  
   As well as radical styling, there’s a mind-numbing permutation of up-to-the-minute technology, equipment levels and options, some rare in mass-production models. There are also four additional option packs. See ‘notable features’ for highlights.
  
   Under the springy, pedestrian-friendly bonnet, four engines are currently on offer; we’ve tried the 1.9dCi and the 2.0 16v petrol. Not surprisingly the big diesel gives the smallish Megane urgent acceleration from 2000 revs and does so smoothly and quietly. It’s tractable at low revs, too, while high top gear in the somewhat notchy six-speed box, gives peaceful progress (2000rpm at 70mph) on a motorway.
  
   The less torquey but more powerful two-litre petrol is a little quicker to 60mph, but is both busier (with a growly period at about 3000rpm) and some 33 per cent less economical.
  
   There’s a quick, firm reaction from the suspension on patchy roads, but the ride is generally comfortable, and cornering roll that isn’t held in check is countered by the generously side-bolstered seats. Meanwhile the optional electronic stability programme with traction control and understeer control, will keep the car pointing in the right direction.
  
   Less impressive is the electro-hydraulic steering. This goes manageably light at parking speeds, but its artificial weighting and self-centring are just plain nasty; as is the way the steering wheel ‘nibbles’ in your hands on long sweeping bends.
  
   With the hands-free keyless entry and ignition having got you started, life behind the tilt-and-telescope wheel is further eased by a multi-adjustable seat offering class-leading front legroom and good headroom (without the sunroof). Most of the controls are well placed and vision is marred only by the wide rear pillars. The instruments and computer graphics could be brighter and clearer, though.
  
   While those up front are well catered for, pity the back seat passengers who ‘enjoy’ less space in all directions than in the (shorter) superseded Megane but, more importantly, than in all the newcomers’ rivals. None of these can match the Renault's extensive safety features, however, which include up to ten airbags.
  
   Boot space is somewhat restricted by the bustle-back styling and a restricted loading width. It’s wide, though (without a CD autochanger), and folding the 60/40 divided backrests and cushions doubles the load length.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • rear head restraints lower flush into seatback
  • finger-tip remote controls for hi-fi
  • speedometer calibrated 10, 30, 50, 70 etc
  • low insurance group ratings
  • lots of storage spaces, huge glovebox
and GRIPES
  • trip computer graphics illegible in bright light
  • 'aircraft throttle' handbrake quite heavy
  • small, fussy temperature and 'gas' gauges
  • all-or-nothing glass-roof sunblind
  • 'space saver' spare wheel on some models
VERDICT
There’s a lot to be said for the new Megane. It boasts an impressive set of engines, a classy cabin, exemplary safety features and an outstanding inventory of both standard and optional equipment. The downside is that it puts style before practicality (as taller back seat passengers will confirm), and with merely mediocre road manners, it proves not to be the Focus-beater we though it might be.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1870cc turbo-diesel, 8 valves; 120bhp/199 lb ft with direct injection, common rail delivery
transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
suspension front: MacPherson coil spring/damper struts, anti-roll bar
rear: torsion beam with coil springs and telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 6.5in alloy with 205/55R16V tyres; full-size (steel) spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with standard ABS, brake force distribution and brake assist
CO2 emissions 143g/km
0-62mph~ 10.5sec
official mpg 52.3
~ maker's figures

THE MEGANE II RANGE
size and type lower-medium (mid-priced) 3-door Sport Hatch and 5-door Hatch   trim levels Sport Hatch: Extreme, Dynamique. Hatch: Authentique, Expression, Dynamique, Privilege. Also available: Climate, Handling, Comfort and Luxury packs
engines petrol: 4cyl/1.4 litre/98bhp, 4/1.6/115, 4/2.0/136
diesel: 4/1.5/80, 4/1.9/120
  drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (6-speed on 2.0 and 1.9dCi); 5-speed stepped automatic with sequential shift available later
notable features include hands-free locks/ignition, auto wipers, tyre-pressure monitoring, 'see-me-home' xenon headlamps with speed function, reach/rake steering, trip computer, climate control, rear lateral and side curtain airbags

VITAL STATISTICS (cm)
length x width (folded mirrors) 421x180
front
- legroom 89-109
- headroom (with sunroof) 89-95s
rear
- typical legroom 89
- typical kneeroom 68
- headroom (with/without sunroof) 91-96
- hiproom 127
load space
(litres/cu ft)
415/14.6
load length (seats up/folded) 70-140
load width 105*-116
load sill height (inside/outside) 20/73
boot height 51
load aperture height 81
s without sunroof 92-97  * with CD autochanger fitted
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