► First drive in Renault's core Megane model
► Wide of track, tall of touchscreen
► Can it challenge the Golfocustra status quo?
This is the new Renault Megane. Not the rear-steering, Renaultsport-lite GT model we drove some months back, but the bread-and-butter dCi diesel, the one that needs to regain La Regie’s lost ground in the C-segment heartland.
New Renault Megane - what are the highlights?
As if to intimidate the opposition from the outset, Renault’s pushed the new Megane’s elbows out with the widest track in the segment. The front track’s a full 47mm broader than the previous Megane, and those widescreen wheelarches are exaggerated all the more by a generous quota of LEDs looped across the short overhangs. It’s distinctive, handsome even, if a tad fussy.
Built around the same Renault-Nissan mid-sized platform that underpins Qashqai and Kadjar, it follows the typical new car design rulebook to a T: use a relatively long wheelbase to increase interior space, an electric handbrake to make space for a big centre storage box, fit a big touchscreen and put LEDs everywhere. There are some surprising packaging shortcomings for a new car; rear legroom isn’t great, not helped by a particularly broad transmission tunnel, and rear visibility borders on supercar-obstructive.
What's it like to drive?
On the road, it feels as wide as it looks, with reassuringly planted handling. Supple ride, too. Key touch points – steering, pedal actions, gearchange – could offer more feedback, but if Dieppe can make the upcoming Renault Sport hot hatch version a little chattier, the foundations are definitely there for a decent driver’s car.
Somewhere among the touchscreen’s various menus there’s a long list of driving modes to choose from, each of them something of a compromise. Take Sport mode for instance, which by making the already synthetic-feeling steering heavier only serves to make the car feel leaden and stodgy, and sound it too in this dCi diesel’s case, as it artificially amps up the engine’s droney note.
That touchscreen dominates the interior and polarises opinion, both in terms of graphics (sparse or shonky?) and distraction factor. Trying to use it on the move can demand similar fine motor control to one of those hoop-round-the-wire buzzer games. The screen’s portrait orientation works neatly though, and it’s crammed with functions.
If this review sounds negative, that’s not the intention. The latest-generation Renault Megane is handsome, likeable, and a more colourful character than most mainstream hatches. But it’s no game-changer.