Megane goes touring

in spacious style

Renault Megane Sport Tourer, side action
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, front action
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, front action 2
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, rear static 2
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, rear static
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, rear seats
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, boot
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, front seats
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, dash detail
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, dashboard
Renault Megane Sport Tourer, boot 2

HERE'S a tip; if you want to really try a new car before you buy, get into it in the dark and take it for a spin on unfamiliar, unlit country roads.

Just getting back to base with sense of humour intact (and bodywork ditto) counts as a major plus.

Climbing out impressed is an unexpected verdict that speaks volumes about the new estate version of Renault's latest Megane, on sale in 25 versions from £18,850, or £1,600 more than the hatch launched earlier in 2016.

For your extra cash you get a car that's usefully longer than its hatchback sibling, the extra 27cms (or about 11-inches) producing a much bigger boot, up from 384 litres with the rear seats in place in the hatch to 521 litres in the Sport Tourer.

That is precisely the same figure as the outgoing car, which was a bit shorter (but the same width) as today's fourth generation Megane. Flop the rear seats forward with handles in the boot and total load area rises dramatically to 1,504 litres - the hatch must do with a more miserly 1,247 litres in similar circumstances.

Helping the Sport Tourer's everyday practicality is a boot floor that can be placed in two positions; low for maximum load space, but leaving a loading lip; or raised a little to give a floor that is flat and level with folded rear seats, easing the loading of bulky items.

There's more practicality, in the shape of storage bins either side of the load space and a flap that can be raised from the floor to split the boot into two sections, helping keep the supermarket shopping from flopping all over the place.

The 4,626mm overall length of the Sport Tourer makes it a touch shorter than Vauxhall's Astra Sport Tourer (4,702mm) but longer than both the Ford Focus estate and VW Golf estate, at 4,560mm and 4,562mm respectively.

The newest Megane inhabits a part of the market where company car drivers play keeping up with the Jones' - and everyone else in the office - and where even tiny differences in specification can be the difference between feeling effortlessly superior or a bit of a loser.

Which means there are all sort of trim levels to choose from, starting with Expression+ (there being no non-plussed model), heading through Dynamique and Signature to the lofty heights of GT Line and, topping out the current range at £27,450, for the GT, available only with automatic gears.

Two petrol and two diesel engines are available from launch, with the 1.2 and 1.6 petrols producing 130 and 205 horsepower respectively and 1.4 and 1.6 litre diesels, with 110 and 130 horsepower. Economy champ is the 110 diesel, registering an impressive, if real world unlikely 76.4mpg in the official average consumption test.

It is also the cleanest on the CO2 front with a tax-beating 96g/km keeping a smile on the company accountant's face. Even the worst of the new Megane Sport Tourers - predictably, the fastest 143mph) GT version with auto gears, manages a far from shabby 134g/km and official 47.1mpg.

The newcomer has a top five star safety rating from Euro NCAP and every version gets cruise control and hill start assist, while all but the entry level add lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and automatic high/low beam headlights.

Standard equipment across the range includes an electronic parking brake, filler cap with integrated cover (so nothing to unscrew), electric windows all round, Bluetooth (which links your phone quickly) and DAB radio.

The likely most popular Dynamique Nav version adds (you've guessed) satellite navigation, dual zone climate control, handsfree keycard, better sound system and rear parking sensors.

Top spec Signature Nav models have fancier alloys, full LED headlamps, auto dimming rear view mirror and leather upholstery with heated front seats. Fancy heated seats in any other new Megane Sport Tourer and you'll have to find £1,000 for the cowhide option.

Out on the road - in darkness with unfamiliar bends round every corner - the newcomer impressed with a supple ride and enough punch from its 110 horsepower diesel to see off the odd barely lit tractor.

In these circumstances you need a car that feels on your side (no surprises, please) and the new Sport Tourer came up trumps.

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