Car Test   R0320
March 2003
  Renault Megane
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.6 16v 5door Privilege
Renault is developing a reputation as a mass-producer which is, nevertheless, prepared to go out on a limb to be more adventurous. This is expressed unmistakably in the latest Megane’s styling and the company’s willingness to incorporate up-to-the-minute technology for driver and passenger aids.
   The other major aspect where Renault appears to be ahead of the game is in secondary safety – it if it comes to the crunch. The Megane joins Laguna and Vel Satis in offering class-leading levels of occupant protection in an accident. This doesn’t mean just a plethora of features (like a high airbag count), but crash behaviour that integrates all aspects to maximise survivability and minimise injury. To occupants, that is – pedestrians are still not carefully considered.
   Megane stops well in emergency braking, too, although we don’t like the ultra-light, unprogressive brake pedal response; the new-generation Bosch anti-lock control ensures undiminished stopping power if you press too hard, however.
   Having dealt with styling (your decision) and safety, what else is special about this new Megane Hatchback? Well, not a lot really, except to say that we were unimpressed and unconvinced by the electronic gizmos, such as hands-free, keyless locking. Of course, you don’t have to have this on sensibly priced mid-range trim versions, and you’re not missing much. Basically, the thing responds erratically, and it’s hard to tell if everything is really secure at times, because ‘testing’ the boot release or a door handle is supposed to unlock everything again, in any case.
   Other problems with our test car included automatic headlamps that wouldn’t stay off, even when we tried, as well as footwell lamps and the radio that were similarly irrepressible. We thought the automatic climate control left a lot to be desired, as well, although it was better on ‘manual’.
   So, having explored the best and the most disappointing aspects of the Megane, what’s left is a curiously mediocre performer that’s surprisingly cramped in the back seat. The luggage space is fine and the front cabin accommodates all shapes and sizes in reasonable comfort.
   Driving this 1.6 Megane is no problem, once you’ve tuned into the rather stolid feel of the clutch, accelerator and steering. Indeed, when driven with verve, it responds rather well, feeling and sounding quite sporty. It pulls cleanly from low revs, but generally feels less adept in steadier driving – for example, the engine revs up of its own accord as you go between gears causing jerkiness. Most of this can be ‘dialled-out’ with familiarity, but it doesn’t flatter the unaccustomed.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Safety Euro NCAP
  • accuracy of various displays, including computer
  • raindrop symbols to denote intermittent wipe frequency
  • electric-folding door mirrors
  • lots of courtesy lights/lidded oddments stowage
  • hard-to-locate seatbelt clasps
  • heater won't stratify (stuffy or cold feet)
  • engine 'over-revs' between gearchanges
  • head restraint resetting too heavy-going
In terms of accommodation and road manners, this strikingly different-looking Megane turns out to be no real improvement over the previous one. It’s a shade slower and thirstier and fails to match the road manners of a Focus, or the uncluttered, interior space of a Civic. However, if you find its styling attractive, if offers such panache with the most respectable safety credentials you could wish for. Not our Car of the Year – unless another car collided with us, that is.

engine 1598cc, 4-cylinder, petrol; 115bhp at 6000rpm, 112lb ft at 4200rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 20.0mph/1000rpm in 5th, 16.2 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs
rear: torsion beam (dead) axle, coil springs
  steering electro-hydraulic power assistance; 3.2 turns lock-to-lock; 10.5m diameter turning circle between kerbs (15.9m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard brake assist/ABS (optional extra, electronic cornering stability control)   wheels/tyres 6.5in alloy with 205/55R16V Michelin tyres (6in steel with 195/65R15 tyres on lower-trim versions); full-size spare

body lower-medium (mid-priced) 3-door (Sport) and 5-door hatchbacks (to follow: 4-door saloon, 5-door Scenic MPV)   trim levels Authentique, Expression, Dynamique, Privilege for 5door, plus optional packs
engines petrol: 4cylinder/1.4 litre/98bhp, 4/1.6/115, 4/2.0/136
diesel: 4/1.45/80, 4/1.87/120
  drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (6-speed on 2.0 and 1.87 diesel), 5-speed stepped automatic on 1.6/2.0 petrol versions

HOW THE MEGANE 1.6 5DOOR COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Renault Megane 1.6 4/1598/115 3500 10.9 18.4/26.0 37/163 10/24 109 90/69 3.2/10.5 421
Peugeot 307 1.6 4/1587/110 3500 10.3 17.4/26.0 37.5/169 12/26.5 107 95/71 2.9/10.9 420
Honda Civic 1.6 4/1590/110 3560 10.5 17.8/24.5 42.5/157 16/26.5 107 102/76 2.8/11.6 429
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 4/1598/100 3440 11.2 16.3/23.6 41.5/173 21/26 108 99/75 3.1/10.4 411
Ford Focus 1.6 4/1596/100 3150 10.8 20.1/29.1 40.5/167 15/26.5 107 100/71 2.9/10.6 415
previous Megane 1.6 4/1598/110 3280 10.2 16.6/23.7 41.5/165 55/26 107 97/69 3.5/10.65 413

Good driving seat support with height (but not reach) adjustable wheel. Stolid accelerator and clutch feel - similar to steering. Keyless entry/ignition erratic in response - more bane than blessing. Instruments generally near-accurate, including trip computer.
Has hidden depths; in ordinary use, steering lacks clean, precise responses and jiggles over uneven roads. Yet when car is pressed harder, handling is roll-free and responsive, with nice cornering balance. Likes smooth, open bends.
Initial sharp-edged bump reaction is good, but there's too much after-reaction, prone to flounciness. Air-con won't stratify, so it's toes too cool or faces too stuffy. Thoughtful lighting, including footwell lamps and 'see-me-home' headlamps. Oppressive growl from engine around 60mph.

A shade slower than previous Megane 1.6, but pulls well from lower revs with no harshness; sounds quite sporty when revved hard, but this growl less welcome, cruising at 65mph. Workmanlike, if stolid gearchange and moderately weighted clutch.
  acceleration in seconds through gears 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 3.5 9.5 13.3
  30-50mph 4.2 9.1 12.4
  40-60mph 5.2 9.2 12.9
  50-70mph 6.7 9.3 13.6
  30-70mph 10.9 18.4 26.0
  max speed in each gear (* using 6250rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      30      54.5      80      101.5      116 (5800rpm)

Worse than before and heavier than class-average, yet not profligate in the warm-up period. Nice capless filler; generous tank capacity retains good range, but low-level lamp rather alarmist
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 24
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 30.5
    motorway (70mph cruising) 35.5
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 38
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 44
    overall mpg 37
    realistic tank capacity/range 53/430
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 32.1/49.6/41.5
    CO2 emissions 16.3g/km
    car tax band C

If you're involved in a collision, there's no better car in this sector to protect you. Impressive best stop but pedal response too fierce for our liking - an emergency stop requires less effort than the clutch! ABS response is consistent, however - just too much servo intrusion.
  from 50mph (with brake assist/ABS)
front impact     88%
side impact     100%
overall     94%
overall safety rating    
pedestrian rating    
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     24.5m
sudden 10kg     24m best stop
+ 4kg ie 14kg     24m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

A case of style before practicality - especially in the back seat; most superminis have more legroom. Load deck quite generous, however, although there's a rear taper effect and prominent sill. 60/40 folding seat jams against front seats, set even midway. Useful door bins and deep oddments compartments.
  in centimetres (5-door hatchback)
  length 421
  width - including mirrors 203
    - mirrors folded 180~
  height 146
  load sill height (inside/outside) 18/73
  turns lock-to-lock 3.2
  turning circle (metres) 10.5
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 85-109
    - headroom 94-99§
  rear - typical legroom 90
    - typical kneeroom 69
    - headroom 96§
    - hiproom 127
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 74-140#
  load length to facia No
  load width 113-117
  load height (to shelf/top of aperture) 51-54/82
§ no sunroof  ~ electric on Privilege  # rear seat folded

We were left unconvinced by the card that is designed for keyless entry and start up. Separate tailgate locking, but no way of preventing access to luggage from interior.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)  
self-locking (static + drive off)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
keyless entry   
'see-me-home' headlamps   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of" not available
NCSR - "theft from" not available
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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