Renault Megane -

better for sharing

the cost

Renault Megane dCi, front action
Renault Megane dCi, side action
Renault Megane dCi, rear action
Renault Megane dCi, dashboard
Renault Megane dCi, dash detail
Renault Megane dCi, rear seats
Renault Megane dCi, boot
Renault Megane dCi, upright static
Renault Megane GT, front action
Renault Megane GT, side static
Renault Megane GT, rear action
Renault Megane GT, seat detail
Renault Megane GT, dash detail (2)
Renault Megane GT, dashboard

EVER heard of the Renault Talisman? Thought not; you're only likely to see one if you venture across the Channel or, perhaps cruise past the French embassy in London.

For the Talisman, successor to the old Laguna, is not sold here. Too big for Britain, you see, where our larger cars need posher badges to sell.

But the Talisman plays an important part in a car very much on sale here, and crucial to the continuing better fortunes of Renault in the UK.

Say hello to the new Renault Megane, a core vehicle in the French car maker's sales ledger on our side of the Channel and now presented in its fourth generation for our delight.

Bolder looking (much, and elegantly stylish too), the new Megane is longer and lower than before but, thankfully for our crowded streets, precisely the same modest width as before.

The wheels, with up to a sporty 18ins alloy rim available, are set further apart front and rear and across the body too, again helping the newcomer look energetically athletic.

Night and day, you are helped to notice the new Megane with rows of permanently lit LEDs at both front and rear, which the designers say helps make the car look wider (they always like that).

They will also like an interior that cuts down on buttons to the extent that just about any adjustments outside cabin temperature are handled by taps on a touchscreen whose generous size dominates the centre of the dash and adds an expensive feel; not quite in Tesla territory but the Megane inhabits a much more affordable part of the market.

Prices start at £16,600 and top out at £25,500 (for the moment) for a range that takes in four engines; a couple of diesels with 110 or 130 horsepower and a pair of petrol models, offering 130hp or - in the current range topper - a 205 horsepower GT with auto gears and a bit of attitude.

Later this year a Sport Tourer estate joins the five-door hatch and 2017 sees a low emissions hybrid diesel/electric version and a pure diesel with two turbos and a healthy 165 horsepower.

Helping the new Megane feel grown up are front seats from the car mentioned at the top of this story - the car you've never heard of.

In fact the Talisman donates much more than that to the common cause, including its engines and other oily bit you don't see.

Most important of all is the platform the car is built on. Again invisible to car buyers, this complicated piece of pressed, folded and welded metal costs billions to develop and sharing its start up investment makes everything more affordable.

You will find it under most current and forthcoming Renault cars and lots of Nissans too, thanks to the 'strategic partnership' between the two giant automakers.

Bits that you see that cost sharing has made more affordable are electronic features like a control centre letting you access everything from navigation (a TomTom system that is notably clear and easy to use) to phone, apps and radio.

Posher Meganes have a bigger touchscreen that mimics a smartphone or tablet with pinch and zoom movements, although these are best managed on smoother roads.

Depending on precise model you can use what Renault calls Multi-Sense technology to change, among other things, engine throttle response, steering weight, engine sound... even the hue of the interior lighting, perhaps opting for sporty red, eco green or comfort blue.

The new Megane has already taken a top marks five star safety rating in the official Euro test and Renault offers a full suite of driver assists from adaptive cruise control, through lane departure warning to overspeed prevention that reads traffic signs via a camera and slows you down to the legal limit. You can switch this and many other systems off if you're not in the mood.

First out on a modestly demanding test route in North Yorkshire, the £20,400 Dynamique S Nav dCi 110 diesel made a good initial impression, with much improved cabin quality over the old model and a cleanly minimal feel to everything.

Pulled well, too, and went quietly about the business of moving you about, even if the seats felt a bit short of under-thigh support and the ride a bit down on bump smoothing prowess.

It was a quiet place to spend a couple of hours, though, and a trip computer showing 53.5mpg at journey's end promised an economical time for a longer term owner.

Jumping into the reigning flagship, a £25,500 GT Nav 205 EDC and tackling some demanding moorland roads (when the dozy sheep retreated far enough) produced more smiles than before, even if 27.3mpg was less cheering.

Much more supportive front seats, a generally well behaved automatic dual-clutch six-speed gearbox and healthy dose of power turned the fun dial from four to eight - Renault will surely produce a turn-to-eleven version in due course.

The petrol engine stayed quiet and well mannered and the ride stayed the right side of too firm, with crisp steering - aided by the rear tyres doing some of the turning via a four-wheel steering system that felt over-eager to start with - making this fastest new Megane (so far) a fine introduction to the fresh faced range.

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