About face: Renault’s updated Mégane

11 March 2014

2014 Renault Megane front view

Renault Mégane
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Good: Improved looks, excellent economy
Bad: Fiddly screen controls, bland interior
Price: from £16,745
Renault’s current Mégane hatchback first arrived in late 2008, meaning it’s feeling a bit tired today. But it has just benefited from a full massage and facial, and with hopefully renewed vigour it’s doing its best to look bright eyed and appealing again for 2014.

The most obvious change is to the Mégane’s nose, which now bears a family resemblance to more recent Renaults. Calling to mind the previous snout may prove a challenge, given that the outgoing look was among the more forgettable faces to emerge from Renault’s Paris design studio. Picture a Breville sandwich toaster on wheels and you won’t be far off.

2014 Renault Megane interior

Inside, changes are harder to spot – there’s a still a peculiar, laid-back instrument panel, an oddly distant central screen with fiddly controls down by the gearstick, and hopeless cupholders in the centre tunnel. But the overall ambience is of welcoming solidity, with reasonable materials put together well enough that nothing rattles – something that can’t always be said of more upmarket rivals.

As well as improved looks, the revised Mégane now offers slightly better value. Equipment levels have been raised and prices cut, though not to bargain-bin levels. Renault has pushed forward budget brand Dacia for that job, of course. With three major trim levels, seven engines and two gearboxes in the line-up, the Mégane hatch now runs from £16,745 through to £21,245 before options, and before haggling too. I imagine that any car old enough to need a facelift ought to be a prime prospect for a discount.

2014 Renault Megane rear aspect

According to Renault, the visible changes to the Megane are piffling compared to the work that’s been done under the bonnet. A new automatic stop-start system, plus energy recovery while braking and decelerating, has helped cut consumption by up to 25 per cent on some models, with attendant improvements in CO2 output.

Remarkably, Renault now sells the lowest-carbon cars in Europe, with a CO2 average across its sales last year of just under 115g/km. More efficient Méganes should help push the aggregate score down still further during 2014.

2014 Renault Megane side view

My test car offers the configuration that’s expected to be the strongest seller – comprising the 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine, manual transmission and mid-range Dynamique trim with integrated TomTom navigation. It starts at £19,245.

This is not one of the models that’s benefited from a 25 per cent CO2 reduction, principally because it was already cutting the mustard with a score of 90g/km, with combined-cycle fuel economy coming in at 80.7mpg.

2014 Renault Megane centre screen

Edging into the 80s will no doubt prove difficult in real life, though I think high-50s economy should be readily achievable, judging from my own results. Playing around with the awkward central screen controller I found an eco-driving section that gives general hints and tips on what you should be doing to save fuel, and there’s also a dynamic feedback screen telling you what aspect of your driving might be letting you down.

Peak power remains at 110bhp, which is enough to haul around the Megane’s 1.2 tonnes. That might sound hefty but it’s actually on the light side for a hatchback of this size fitted with a diesel engine – the nearest equivalent Vauxhall Astra is about 100kg heavier, for example, and a comparable Citroen C4 more than 200kg more.

2014 Renault Megane cockpit

Some of the improvements Renault has made don’t affect any on-paper stats but still make the car better. For example, the stop-start system now detects the resting position of all four pistons when the engine spins to a stop, and as a result it knows which cylinder will be first to need fuel on startup. The result should be cleaner, fractionally quicker restarts, and less likelihood that impatient owners will switch off the fuel-saving Eco system. Note that Stop & Start is not available with an automatic gearbox.

The 90g/km CO2 figure is no better or worse than before, but torque has been improved by 20Nm, with the dCi 110 now delivering 260Nm from 1,750rpm. Surprisingly, this has not trimmed the official 0-62mph sprint, which remains at a respectable 12.1 seconds. Perhaps Renault hasn’t bothered to have the new car officially retested. Climbing a few steep hills during my drive, the car felt reasonably swift and brawny, as long as you are prepared to stir the stick and pick the right gear from the six on offer.

2014 Renault Megane backside

The gearchange is good, with a clean and quick action and plenty of room for big shoes to shuffle among the pedals, including a generous clutch-side rest.

I also thought the Mégane rode pretty well, smoothing away bumps without any fuss. My mid-spec test car felt by no means sporty, despite the suggestion of dynamism in the trim name, but it was nicely refined and very comfortable while still managing to feel secure and predictable in a tight spot. This is presumably because all UK models now come fitted with an electronic stability system, as well as anti-skid cleverness and artificial understeer correction. All of which will do their level best to keep you out of the hedgerows.

On balance, Renault’s Mégane is managing to grow old with surprising quantities of grace. This year’s tweaks bring a big improvement in looks, the interior is far from shabby, kit is up to date, and economy close to the state of the art. It seems there’s life in the old dog yet.

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