Nobody wanted to know until lots of shapely young ladies’ bottoms in Capri pants and miniskirts wiggled on to our TVs with an annoying jingle encouraging them to ‘shake that ass’. From that point on, drivers got the cheeky charm of the Megane’s styling and it started flying off the forecourts and into fleets.
Three-and-a-half years on and Renault has given its lower-medium contender a fairly mild workover to keep it in line with the new corporate look first seen in last year’s very low key revision of the Laguna, but the essential Gallic boldness has thankfully not been watered down.
The firm has also introduced some new engines, better interior trims and new colours to help refresh the offering.
At the front, there’s a new nose, and it’s been done pretty well. Often, mild revamps can look a bit ‘change for change’s sake’ but the more slanty lights and grilles, culminating in a more pronounced V, give the nose a dynamism that means it competes better with all the showing off at the rear.
But not to be outdone, the Megane’s bottom now has some new light clusters and in higher range models, a classier all-over paintjob which gets rid of that rather cheap looking black plastic strip that the previous model had.
The marketing people have now also added a Renault badge on the back. Previously, they had decided that ‘Renault’ did not have enough brand strength to make it on to the boot, and opted just for the diamond logo. Good to know they’re still earning their Euros…
Inside, the instrument cowling is still shaped like ET’s head, but is now slush-moulded in a bid to give the cabin a feeling of quality at the level of Astra, Focus and Golf.
There are changes to the way the satellite navigation and radio are integrated, although the system of tiny buttons and obscure symbols seems as nefarious as ever.
Also, Renault has added a strip of body-coloured plastic to the dash, better quality plastics on the central console, white backlit dials with ‘thinner needles’. Having left my Vernier callipers at home, we’ll have to trust Renault on this one.
Perhaps the most important changes have happened under the bonnet, especially in the form of new diesel engines.
Diesel makes up the vast majority of Megane sales, and it is easy to see why. While there is now a user-chooser-focused performance 150bhp 2.0-litre dCi with superbly low emissions of 144g/km, and an uprated 130bhp 1.9 dCi with a particulate filter, the real fleet star should be the 105bhp 1.5-litre dCi that manages about 60mpg on the combined cycle.
There’s also an entry-level 85bhp 1.5-litre dCi and five petrol engines should anybody feel the need to swerve DERV, and the top petrol version, the 2.0-litre Turbo 225bhp for the Megane RenaultSport, will no doubt be fun but expensive.
And, of course, the Megane still comes with those excellent five-star Euro NCAP crash test results which make it one of the safest cars on the road in its class.
Renault sold 25,000 Meganes to fleets last year and executives at the firm don’t have any grand plans to increase volume with the revised model.
Hitting the same number, they believe, would be a good result in a market likely to be down on 2005, and would therefore give them more market share. And yes, they are looking to do less low profit business this year, just like everybody else.
Behind the wheel
ON paper the 1.5 dCi 105 looks a good bet, and on the road, that hunch is confirmed. It is not a performance model by any stretch of the imagination, but it is quiet, refined and frugal. With 177lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed gearbox, it has more than enough shove for most purposes.
The 130bhp 1.9 dCi obviously feels quicker and the new 150bhp model is a further step up, but neither are as quiet or vibration-free.
That’s not to say they are poor, and with their excellent fuel economy figures any of the three would be a decent choice, but for a fleet looking for low running costs, the 105bhp version has to be the best compromise. The 2.0-litre 165bhp petrol, by comparison, comes a poor second to the diesels, and is thrashy and breathless, lacking the hefty kick of the diesels.
What is fairly standard across both petrol and diesel are new gearboxes which still have that wobbly, imprecise throw and a very light clutch with barely any feel. While no doubt perfectly reliable, they don’t do a good job of reinforcing Renault’s claims of improved quality feel in its cars.
The changes in the cabin have helped lift the interior ambience a notch or two, but it still has that feel of genetic shakiness, an innate impression of brittle bones (slightly rattly doors and yielding dash plastics for example) which seems to afflict French cars, and that German firms are so good at avoiding.
THE excellent diesel engines will be a major seller of this car. Along with all that ass-shaking, or course.
|Model:||2.0 Turbo||1.5 dCi 85||1.5 dCi 105||1.9 dCi 130||2.0 dCi 150|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||165/5,000||85/3,750||105/4,000||130/4,000||150/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||200/3,250||148/1,900||177/2,000||221/2,000||251/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||137||108||117||124||130|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||36.7||62.8||60.1||50.4||52.3|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||184||120||124||148||144|