Megane to stir up

family market

Renault Megane GT, static
Renault Megane GT, front
Renault Megane GT, rear
Renault Megane, 2016, dials, red
Renault Megane, 2016, screen, red
Renault Megane GT, boot
Renault Megane GT, interior
Renault Megane GT, seat detail
Renault Megane dCi, front action
Renault Megane dCi, rear action
Renault Megane, 2016, side
Renault Megane, 2016, interior

DESPITE an ever-increasing number of new car niches mixing things up in the family car sector, five- door hatchbacks still attract drivers in droves.

Thanks to its blend of style, internal space, low running costs and hi-tech kit, the Vauxhall Astra has been top of the tree in recent times.

Other long-term favourites such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf plus newer entries including the Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia, five-door MINI, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series are also in the top ten best sellers list.

The sleeker, sexier, fourth generation Renault Megane may soon be shaking things up in the hotly contested marketplace.

Now built in Spain alongside the Renault Kadjar, the Megane first appeared 20 years ago and with global sales exceeding 6.5 million has been a firm favourite across Europe.

In the UK, Megane has found 560,000 homes since 1996 but has fallen behind its rivals in recent years.

Having driven a couple of versions of the new car which will soon be in showrooms, I predict it will quickly be at the top of drivers' wish lists.

In the UK, the 25-model line-up will follow Renault's usual six trim level pattern - Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav, Signature Nav, GT Line Nav and GT Nav.

Standard safety features include ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, electronic stability control with traction and understeer control, cruise control, speed limiter, hill start assist, six airbags, side impact protection and Isofix child seat mountings.

Lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and automatic high/low beam headlights are available on all models above entry-level Expression+.

All versions have a two-way adjustable steering column, height and lumbar adjustable front seats, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, LED daytime running lights, all round electric windows, leather steering wheel and a four speaker DAB radio with fingertip controls and an AUX input.

Move up to Dynamique Nav and you get automatic headlights and wipers, electronic parking brake, rear parking sensors, electric heated and folding door mirrors, hands free keycard, automatic climate control and a Multi-Sense system which allows drivers to personalise driving modes and ambient lighting, and a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system which includes TomTom satnav with live traffic updates and Western European mapping.

Dynamique S Nav adds 17-inch alloys, a rear parking camera with front and rear sensors, tinted windows to the rear and tailgate and a bigger 8.7-inch touchscreen.

Top of the range Signature Nav gets 18-inch alloys, full LED headlights, black leather upholstery and electrochrome rear-view mirror.

Both the GT Line Nav and GT Nav models get a sportier appearance with a wider, lower air intake with a honeycomb pattern mesh flanked with lateral scoops. Dark metal 17 or 18-inch alloys and door mirror housings match the finish on the front air scoops and rear diffuser. The GT Nav also gets a rear parkin g camera and the larger 8.7-inch touchscreen.

Prices start at £16,600 for the entry-level Expression+ rising to £25,500 for the GT NaV 205 Auto EDC before any options are added.

Four powerplants are offered in UK models - two Energy TCe turbocharged petrol units - a 1.2-litre 130bhp with manual or EDC (efficient dual clutch) gearboxes and a 1.6-litre 205bhp in the GT Nav only mated to an EDC gearbox.

Turbodiesel alternatives offer a 1.5-litre 110bhp unit with manual or six-speed EDC transmissions or a 1.6-litre 130bhp engine.

The dCi 110 EDC emits 98g/km of CO2 compared to 96g/km for the manual version. The TCe 130 EDC offers 122g/km, two grams more than its manual counterpart.

Fuel consumption ranges from 47.1mpg for the GT Nav 205 to 76.4mpg for dCi 110 models with manual gearboxes.

Two models were on test at a driving day in North Yorkshire - a mid-range Dynamique S Nav dCi110 manual and the range-topping GT Nav 205 EDC.

The well-equipped diesel is expected to be the best seller. With 260Nm of torque, the engine is identical to that in the Kadjar crossover mated to the six speed manual gearbox. The seven speed EDC is a £1,200 option.

The Megane certainly looks the part. Its low-slung stance stands out like nothing else in its class. The C-shaped LED running lights, its sharp body creases and unique rear light signature all give it bags of road presence.

The 1,461cc dCi 110 proved to be an eager performer on the roads through Heriot country, making light work of both fairly quiet A-roads and busy motorway sections. It was very refined cruising at 70mph while the 17-inch alloys ensured it rode well with barely any road noise.

With a top speed of 116mph, the Dynamique S Nav dCi 110 accelerates from zero to 62mph in 11.3 seconds.

Steering is light which makes parking around town a simple affair. A decent amount of feel does come back to the driver but rivals like the Seat Leon and Vauxhall Astra can still teach the Renault a thing or two about delivering a bit more fun.

Switching the Multi-Sense button to Sport does firm things up a bit however and if you are prepared to work the gears hard a fair amount of oomph can be had from the diesel.

With everything from crash avoidance and self-parking to head-up displays and adjustable driving modes the GT Nav has an ace up its sleeve in its four wheel steering system.

At low speeds it turns the rear wheels in trhe opposite direction to those at the front, making it easier to park and more nimble in corners.

Above 50mph, both sets of wheels turn in the same direction to boost stability in faster corners. The GT Nav may not be the most fun or most exhilarating to drive but it is extremely easy to drive quickly.

The 1.6-litre 205 is certainly quick - getting from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 143mph. There is plenty of torque and it feels effortless to access it although it does get a little noisy when pushed hard.

Around town it will return 36.2mpg and average 47.1mpg. It has been given a Group 27 insurance rating.

It costs £25,500 before any options, which include a Bose sound system, adaptive cruise control, distance warning and automatic emergency braking, are added.

The cabin is a pleasant place to be. You can customise it if you want although the ‘neutral' mode with subtle blue cabin lighting seemed fine to me. There is plenty of rear space and a huge boot. The front seats hug you tight and the whole cabin exudes a classiness and build quality which would have been unattainable in a Renault even five years ago.

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