For those drivers with 2.4 children and who refuse to be brow-beaten into buying an MPV, there remains the estate car. And while some people will see estates as about as cool as stonewashed jeans, companies like Renault and Vauxhall are pushing their new estates as ‘sport tourers’. But is the fifth model in the ever-expanding Renault Megane range good enough to compete with the best mid-sized estates on the market?
A bit like Star Trek, buying an estate is all about space, isn’t it?
There’s much more to the Megane than that, but we’ll grant you that storage, stowage and a network of nooks and crannies are likely to be high on the list of any of the Sport Tourer’s potential customers. On that alone this car has much to recommend it with a load length of over two and a half metres with the front seat folded - albeit not entirely flat - and 1600 litres of space with the rear sets folded. Remember, this is based on a family hatch. Although a bigger car, the Insignia Sports Tourer checks in at a measly 1530 litres in comparison.
Does it turn as many heads as the Insignia?
It’s fairly easy on the eye, especially in comparison to your average bloated MPV. The roof tapers dramatically to the rear and our 2.0-litre dCi 160 came in Dynamique trim, with a sports kit that boasts front spoilers and extended sills and 16-inch alloy wheels. Inside, our test car was a sombre vision of black cloth, black rubber dashboard and black switchgear offset by just a small swathe of lovely carbon-effect plastic metal.
If it looks a much bigger car than the Megane hatch, that’s because it is, with an extra 62mm between the wheels. But one of the problems of that plunging roofline – and here the Sport Tourer can’t compete with MPVs – is that it impedes your rear view. And if you extend the headrests, your vision is further impaired, which is a pity as from the outside the arse of the Sport Tourer is its most eye-catching part. With their metal-look plastic surrounds, they have something of Mazda 6 about them, while their crescent shape calls to mind an F1 driver’s helmet.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Renault Megane Sport Tourer first drive
What's it like on the road?
The newest arrival in the Megane range has a dizzying level of engine options. There will be 15 in the UK, including eight diesels. On launch, we tested the quickest of the oil-burners, the two-litre, manual drive dCi 160, which claims a none too shabby 0-62mph sprint time of 8.8 seconds and top whack of 133mph. Although it certainly didn’t feel that rapid.
As a motorway tarmac-basher it has its merits, but there’s some lag in power distribution when you give it some beans. Another diesel option, the 1.5-litre dCi 106, could be the most interesting choice, not least because at 120g/km it qualifies for the £35 tax bracket.
There is obviously some trickledown through the Megane range as the ride and steering on the Sport Tourer does not feel appreciably different from the hatch. Renault have stiffened the front anti-roll bar by 6% to accomodate the increased length and weight of the wagon so if anything, its performance into corners felt flat and more saloon-like. They may be famed for the lightness of touch and chuckability of their hot hatches, but Renault have opted to go with steering that errs on the stiffer side for this load-lugger.
Who should be looking over their shoulder at the Sport Tourer?
The Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra Estates are the obvious ones, but both feel rather old inside, so the Mégane Sport Tourer has at least launched at the right time. The dCi160 we drove will be launched at an on the road price of £21,785. The nearest Focus equivalent – the 2.0 TDCi 136 Titanium – costs some £500 less while the 150bhp Astra 1.9 CDTi Design is only fractionally more expensive than the Focus.
There’s a chance of automotive cannibalism here too as the new Renault Scenic, launched a month before the Sport Tourer, could end up eating into its sibling's sales.
My fashion-loving sister says that stonewashed jeans are back on trend this year. Which sounds like it could be good news for Renault – but only if you make the right engine choice - there are enough trim and engine options to keep a Cambridge University research team busy for a week. As a sleeker, smarter-looking alternative to the emasculating dumpiness of the modern day MPV, the Megane Sport Tourer has its merits.
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