A STAPLE of the Renault range since 1995, the Megane is now on its fourth course of evolution, and it's probably the best.
Styling is fresh and different both inside and out and it delivers a lot of comfort for five with a reasonable bootspace to carry the family's weekend shopping or breakaway bags.
In common with other Renault models and the industry in general, the latest Megane is bigger than the model it replaced and the technology has been brought up to date as well, even if the petrol and diesel engines are uprated from familiar units.
We tried the most popular 110bhp turbo-diesel but there's a choice of 130bhp 1.2 turbo-petrol or 1.6 petrol units producing 115 and 205bhp, as well as 1.6 130bhp turbo-diesel. We also opted for the hatchback but a Sports Tourer estate version has now joined the range.
The hatchback range runs to 25 models in five trim levels with manual or automatic transmission from around £17,250 to £26,150.
Renault loves the 1.4-litre diesel engine because is comparatively uncomplicated with just two-valves per cylinder and has common rail direct injection, which means it quickly develops 260Nm at 1,750rpm, and its fairly quiet until you get towards maximum revs.
It's probably not as smooth as a multi-valve engine but you'd hardly notice and the emissions are low while the economy is high, although we never got anywhere near the suggested combined average. Nevertheless it regularly returned over 50mpg without trying.
What it lacked in acceleration compared to more modern engines it compensated with its cruising ability to stay at the motorway maximum without signs of straining, even when loaded.
The light clutch and direct gearchange made easy work of urban use while the steering had a good turning circle and reasonable feedback.
The brakes were good but sometimes emitted odd noises and the parking brake could be quite severe in operation.
The stalks were well placed with additional buttons on the wheel-spokes and others left to be located on the large central multi-screen, and I found this a slow system to navigate through and activate functions when you found them. Not the best of systems by a long way and potentially as distracting, or more so, than using a mobile telephone hands-free.
Displays on the console were clear and the instruments infront of the driver were simple.
Heating and ventilation worked well throughout the car and was straightforward. Oddments space was good and a lot of thought has gone into easily finding things.
For driver and passengers the access was good, the seats well shaped and supportive and the front pair had a reasonable adjustment range. Room was good.
Visibility was clear with a low waistline and big windows, good wipers and wash and bright headlights.
Noise levels were high from the tyres and suspension but the engine and wind noises were low.
The handling was safe and surefooted, the Megane tended to stay neutral through tight turns unless you went into them quickly but lifting off simply brought the nose back on line without drama.
It absorbed bumps quite well with a slight firmness initially but generally it coped well. Those familiar with older Mégane models may consider it not as softly sprung or compliant but it did not have a strong rolling sensation on bends.