Car Test   R0354
 
August 2003
First Drive Renault Megane
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.9dCi Sport Tourer
Any motoring anorak worthy of the name will tell you that there hasnít been a small-to-medium estate car in the Renault line-up since the early 70s Ė remember the R12 estate? Thatís a long time for a motor maker to be without a modestly sized load lugger, but that gap has, at last, been filled by the new Megane Sport Tourer.
  
   The newcomer is launched at the same time as both the big-booted Sport Saloon and the Coupť Cabriolet (the latter with a cleverly engineered folding glass roof).
  
   From the centre pillars forward, you canít tell one from the other, but those in the back can, because the Sport Tourer (and saloon) sit on the forthcoming Grand Scenicís floorpan with its 6cm-longer wheelbase. This means that rear kneeroom improves from cramped to slightly above class average. So, with good footspace and headroom, and with the backrest now slightly more reclined, the back seat is a more comfortable place to be.
  
   Thereís an extra 23cm of rear overhang in the Sport Tourer, as well. This benefits the load area, of course, which has a volume similar to that of the Focus Estate. Itís a practical, easy-to-load shape, but, annoyingly, the front seats have to be moved forward before the 60/40 split cushions and backrests (with head restraints in situ) can be folded forwards to give a long, flat load deck. In fact, itís all very familiar estate car stuff Ė nothing innovative here, except that thereís a sunken storage area in the spare wheel and you can opt for an opening tailgate window.
  
   With the hands-free keyless entry and ignition (standard only on Privilege) having got you started, life behind the reach-and-rake adjustable wheel is further eased by a multi-adjustable seat that offers class-leading legroom and generous headroom. Most of the controls are well placed and the Sport Tourerís extra window space results in excellent all-round vision. The instruments and computer graphics should be a lot brighter and clearer, however. Weíve no complaints about the amount of up-to-the-minute technology, equipment levels and options, though.
  
   Of the five engines on offer, we rate the 1.9dCi turbo-diesel as the best all-rounder, thanks to its eager pulling power and overall quietness Ė not to mention the promise of an overall 52mpg (it says here). Itís carpet-slipper quiet when motorway cruising, due to the tall sixth gear in the easy-shifting Ďbox. What a pity, though, that the engine is unpleasantly coarse and boomy in the 1500 to 2000 rev band, in a way that puts you off exploiting its low-speed umph.
  
   On patchy roads thereís a quick, firm reaction from the suspension, but otherwise the ride is comfortable, even when the Sport Tourer is unladen. The electric power steering is still let down by a lack of clean precision, however, and into a turn, thereís a nibbly, rocking sensation at the wheel rim. Yet when the car is pressed, handling is roll-resistant and responsive, with the optional traction and understeer controls keeping it pointed in the right direction. In fact, these driver aids form only a part of an impressive inventory of safety features, which includes up to ten airbags.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
Safety Euro NCAP
LIKES ...
  • rear head restraints lower flush with backrests
  • well-sited satnav screen
  • numerous lidded storage compartments
  • electric folding door mirrors
and GRIPES
  • trip computer graphics illegible in bright light
  • heater doesn't 'stratify' (no cool face/warm feet)
  • sun visors very stiff to unclip
  • murky instruments with red needles hard to see
VERDICT
The Sport Tourerís extra length benefits not only rear passengers, but also provides a regularly shaped and roomy load space at the tradesmenís entrance. This makes the new model an invaluable addition to the almost complete Megane range and, by putting practicality before style, makes it more of a Focus-challenger than we thought its cute but cramped, bustle-backed sibling could ever be.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1870cc turbo-diesel, 8 valves; 120bhp/221lb ft with direct injection, common-rail fuel delivery; 60-litre fuel tank
drive front-wheel drive, 6-speed manual. 31.8mph/1000rpm in 6th
suspension front: independent 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 brake assist/ABS and EBD. (Electronic cornering stability control optional)
0-62mph* 10.8sec
official mpg~ 39.8/64.2/52.3
maximum speed 121mph
CO2 emissions 141g/km
* maker's figure  ~ urban/extra urban/combined

THE MEGANE RANGE
size and type lower-medium (mid-priced) 3-door Sport and 5-door Hatch, 2-door Coupè Cabriolet, 4-door Sport Saloon, 5-door Sport Tourer, 5-door Scenic MPV (Grand Scenic to follow)   trim levels Authentique, Expression, Dynamique, Privilege plus four option packs
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/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, five-speed manual (6-speed on 2.0 petrol and 1.9 diesel), 5-speed stepped automatic on 1.6 and 2.0 petrol versions
notable features available hands-free locks/ignition, electrically folding mirrors, rear door sunblinds, 'see-me-home' headlamps, opening rear screen, 'smart' rear screen wiper, automatic wipers and headlamps, cooled glovebox, trip computer, integrated fuel filler cap, tyre pressure monitor


SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
  in centimetres (5-door estate - LHD)
  outside
  length 450
  width - including mirrors 203
    - mirrors folded 178
  height (with roof bars) 151
  load sill height (inside/outside) 0/56
  steering
  turns lock-to-lock 3.2
  turning circle (metres) 10.7*
   
  easy to park/garage?
  inside
  front - legroom 84-110
    - headroom 92-98ß
  rear - typical legroom 94
    - typical kneeroom 74
    - headroom 97
    - hiproom 127
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
580/20.5
  load length 99-169#
  load length to facia No
  load width 114-120
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 51/79
ß no sunroof  * maker's figure  # rear seat folded
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