Doesn’t it feel like we only had a new Megane about three years ago? Well we didn’t, it was in 2008, so now there’s a fresh one and here it is, outside my office, trying to look more grown up and expensive than the old model. Unfortunately, these efforts are immediately undone by the key, which is a woeful wedge of cheap plastic that actually creaks when you squeeze the buttons. A car key is a little avatar of the car itself and therefore a vitally important indicator of how you’ll feel about the whole thing before you even see it. So this isn’t a promising beginning. Fortunately, you don’t need to fondle the Megane fob to get inside because it’s all keyless, but first impressions don’t get much better once you’ve jabbed the bulbous starter button and selected a gear. This is the GT version, currently the sportiest and toppermost model in the range until RenaultSport pulls its finger out, so it has a seven-speed, double clutch gearbox, operated by a surprisingly tall and old school lever with horrible, low-rent action. A gearlever, even one needed only to slap the transmission into drive, should feel sturdy and precise, giving a suggestion that it’s linked to the finest mechanical parts, built to millimicron tolerances and swathed in a liquid gossamer of delicate oils to create a high quality piece of engineering that will last for an eon. The Megane’s lever does not hint at any of this. It’s light and flimsy and suggests that the mechanism below is made of thin plastics pinned together by people who don’t give a toss. Between this and the lousy key, it’s not a good start to the car even if, on first acquaintance, the actual driving experience seems okay.
This Megane sits on big alloys and is meant to be sporty so you might imagine it rides like a racing bike. Actually, it’s firm but not at all terrible, and this is a surprise. Almost as much of a surprise as what happens when you apply some steering at anything above walking pace and discover the alarmingly sharp turn-in. There’s a reason for this; the Megane GT comes with something called 4 Control, which is basically four-wheel steering like you used to get on a Honda Prelude. Or a Mazda 626. Or, if you’re bored of nerdy 1980s references, like you still get on various types of Porsche. The trouble is, the way the Megane attacks a corner is actually too sharp, making it feel over-eager and puppyish in a way that is at odds with its size and the dead-eyed nature of the electric power steering itself. There’s a similar mismatch between the engine, which is quite grunty, and the gearbox, which has moments where it gets confused and dithery. Putting it in sport mode makes the steering artificially heavier and the gearbox more aggressive, neither of which really helps. Not a completely terrible car to drive but one that needs more time at the proving ground.
Renault has designed some nice looking cars recently. That little Captur crossover is pleasant, and the latest ne-pas-pour-le-Rosbifs Espace is a tremendously handsome thing. There’s also a big car called the Talisman that’s quite nice, but not made in right-hand-drive. The Megane’s styling, I’m not so sure about. The front looks very wide and dramatic, to the extent that it appears out of scale with the rest of the car, like someone whose head is too big for their body. It seems like they’ve tried to make the back look wider than it is too, mainly by having the lights leak onto the tailgate but the effect is awkward, like something an American company would have tried in the ‘90s. Sandwiched between all this you’ve got the central section of the car which is actually quite bland and features a terrible window line that suddenly rises upwards on the back doors in the most weak and lazy way, as if they decided having a flat beltline was boring and just made a limp flailing motion at the clay model. It’s such a damp, wet handshake of a design feature that it irritates me. Particularly knowing Renault can do so much better. And then not offer it for sale in the UK.
Keyless entry and start isn’t a novelty. But somehow Renault has found a way to make this facility more annoying with a feature that makes the car lock itself almost as soon as you get out. So, you step from the driver’s seat, close your door, and by the time you’ve walked around the car to, say, retrieve your child from their car seat on the rear passenger side, all the doors have locked and, just to really piss you off, the keyless feature is disabled so you have to root around in your pocket to find the cracker toy tat they call a key. Today, after once again being driven nuts by this idiotic feature, I discover that the locking is triggered by the fob leaving the car’s detection zone. So you can foil it by getting out and sidling carefully around to the other side, as if trying to rub yourself against the bodywork. Yes, you look like a tit but at least you don’t experience the teeth grinding annoyance of your own car trying to lock you out or incarcerate your first born.
Keyless entry isn’t the only bit of tech on the Megane, as you might guess. It’s also got a big touch screen in the increasingly fashionable portrait aspect, from which you can control all the usual nav and stereo functions in the slightly sluggish, wipe-your-finger-on-your-jeans-and-try-again manner of an off brand iPad clone. The screen itself is surrounded by a flat, shiny frame which contains touch sensitive buttons for volume, the home screen, and driving data. That’s not its primary purpose, however. It’s primary purpose is to collect fingerprints and then show them to you as an unattractive greasy smearfest whenever direct light catches it. It’s sunny today and that makes it especially noticeable. With its variable sizes and styles of button below the screen and its cheapo air-con controls, the centre stack is not an attractive piece of design when clean, never mind when it’s covered in small flat clouds of hand grease.
This Megane is a bright and rather nice shade of blue. It’s good, and makes it stand out amongst all the greys and silvers on the road. But it also seems to attract the wrong sort of attention and wind people up. Perhaps it’s the car itself, or perhaps it’s me and this car is making me drive like a bellend. Either way, today a man behind me became annoyed by my attempts to make a perfectly normal left turn and then this evening a bloke in a Fiesta got into a total rage because I merged ahead of him, prompting him to dive onto the outside at a roundabout, put down his window and give the internationally recognised signal for ‘wankeeeeer’. Which was particularly surprising, as he was a driving instructor. It could be me, but given all the other design flaws in this Megane I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that those almost-monobrow tail lights accidentally show a flashing cock and balls when you brake.
Today I give a mate a lift and he rightly scoffs at the awful, 1980s aftershave advert bits of the interior. I don’t know why they thought so much blue trim was a good idea, but it’s not. Also, it’s getting to the point where we need to sit car makers down and stage an intervention about carbon fibre. The structural, functional stuff is all fine and dandy. The faux patterned shit plastered over dashboard trim fillets and the back of the key, as it is in this Megane, is the kind of nonsense that must cease. It’s not attractive and it looks cheap. And it’s not as if anyone gets into your car and thinks, oh wow, did this irregularly-shaped dashboard panel come off a Formula 1 car? No, they think, oh wow, you’ve been rummaging in the bins round the back of Halfords again. It’s got to stop.
The Megane is going away and, frankly, this is a relief. Stropping along a fast A-road it’s not bad, what with its lusty engine and tight damping, but even that is let down by the inadequate gearbox programming and the fake, over-dramatic way it turns-in to medium speed corners. Beyond that, there is little to love. It looks quite good, but only from the front. And its few plus points are horribly overshadowed by the driveline jerks, numb controls, joyless nav screen, stupid keyless locking logic and a dozen tiny ways in which it feels either underdone or wilfully cheapened in the vain hope that you won’t notice. I can’t think why you would have one unless you were a Renault enthusiast or a Renault dealer. If you’re definitely in the market for a practical but slightly sporty five-door hatchback you could save yourself £1400 by getting a Ford Focus ST and, having spent a week with the Megane GT, I can only recommend that you do.
The car talked about here is a Renault Megane GT Nav TCe 205 EDC. It has a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine making 202 horsepower. 0-62 takes 7.1 seconds and top speed is 143mph. It costs £26,150.
This is a sad read for me. I had a Megane 260R a few years back and it was wonderful in all the ways this one seems shite. How and why do car firms un-evolve something nice into something not?
That’s probably because the (full) RenaultSport versions drive and feel as if they’ve been built by an entirely different manufacturer. I wouldn’t bet against the RS version of this being another cracker, leaving all of us nonplussed about how sloppy, cheap and often frustrating the regular iterations of the same car feel…
I have a RenaultSport Clio and the gearbox gave up after 30k miles so I can confirm they are made of plastic by people who don’t give a toss.
Apparently Autocar disagree with you Richard. I never read Autocar. This must be why.
Matt Burt, Editor, Autocar, said: “Laurens van den Acker is as much an inspiring and visionary leader as he is brilliant car designer. Under his leadership Renault’s design has been transformed, with every car in the range instantly recognisable for good looks, whether we’re talking about the cheeky face of the Clio or the strikingly attractive new Mégane and Scénic models, set to be launched in the UK later this year. At Autocar, we admire his clearly expressed design direction, a leadership style that allows others to shine, and the fact that together, this team is producing such universally desirable products.”
That was me in the Fiesta.
Is it just me or are most modern cars designed by seemingly myopic & definitely overpaid halfwits whose idea of ‘style’ is to cram as many pointless swage lines, creases & ‘accents’ as possible onto an already unnattractive body shape?
Almost without exception, none of these utterly disposable & instantly forgettable abominations will stand the test of time or inspire fondness in the same way that vehicles from 30 years ago do… none of them would actually survive that long anyway.
Please say it’s not just me.
No, it’s not just you. Most current new cars seem to be wilfully overdone or miss-proportioned in the styling stakes and so end-up being pug ugly as a result.
I saw one of those new Piouses this evening in the flesh – and it really was as awful as the pics implied, even though I believed that surely it couldn’t be that bad.
Sadly it is, as is Proton’s hideous 2016 ‘replacement’ of my modest but clean-cut 2009 Persona, which most times I can’t help thinking looks the most handsome chariot in the car park.
My word! Where can you find an empty car park these days?
Ah – Yet another wag who thinks they remember what turns-out to be the wrong car…
Twenty six thousand, one hundred and fifty shiny pennies, or, as of right now, forty four thousand, one hundred and sixty three Canadian dollars, FOR THAT??!!
I think it looks great, more so from the back!!
I have always liked utilitarian Renaults and have given a series of them a battering over the years. The key is they have always been cheap but blimey the best bit of £27k can get you an awful lot more.
You seem to have made a typo with the price. You have said it costs £26,150,some mistake surely. or is the cost of Brexist!
We have a Renault Zoe with the same auto locking function – it only locks if you walk round the front of the car though, going round the back is fine. Which way did you go with the Megane?
But the big question everyone wants to know, is it going to be sold in Canada?
I’d save £20 grand and buy a Dacia Sandero in pauper spec, more honest and interesting. And better built. And more reliable.
It has that thing going on where there are so many lines everywhere that the car ends up blurred. Well not blurred, but any sharp line is lost in a sea of competing shapes. If you were asked to draw this you wouldn’t know where to start.
Pretty sure it was the Mitsubishi Galant, not the Mazda 626 that came with 4ws in the 80’s. You’re right about the Renault though, utter shit.
The late ’80s Galant did have four-wheel steering but, if memory serves, it was pre-dated by the Prelude and 626.
26k seriously? i thought it was less than 20ks worth.
Bugger! A quick check on Wikipedia confirms you’re right. I only remember the Honda & Mitsubishi.
I’ve driven a new Megane….and i really liked it.
It was only the 1.2 Dynamique S model however…so pretty much at the other end of the scale to this one, but i liked the interior (it didn’t have the blue bits which must help) and it was generally just a very nice and smooth car to drive. The engine was extremely smooth for a 3 cylinder and reasonably punchy. I liked the interior too and the absolutely pointless colour changing settings for the doors and centre console.
Very nice indeed and a vital alternative to more boring, generic stuff.
I’m equally desperate to try and flog a few of these woeful crates …
Never forget rule no. 1 of motorism….
1. Never, under any circumstances, buy a French car. Ever.
I can only agree with Broken Britain…
I had a Citroen AX once, and even though it was built in Spain it was still shit. I did drive a Kadjar recently and it seemed to work OK, but based on the price of a Megane presumably it retails for around £50k and is out of my league…
“Nothing French or Korean or Vauxhall”
Or if you must have interior of shitty plastics and woeful keyfob then grab a second hand MG6 and save £26,150.
Renault seem doomed to make their cars rather poorly until RenaultSport get their hands on them, at which point they become rather fast but still flimsy in every non-mechanical respect.
They have responded in a knee-jerk manner to their old keyless entry system, which would allow anyone to enter and start the car provided they were in the same county as the key fob. Maybe Renault should rebrand it as keyless exit?
Now hang on…we had a very compliant mid 90s Citroen ZX Elation as a dog car. With inventive use of black and silver marker pens it became the Felatio (sic), which we duly forgot about until the day the new owner came to drive it away…
One would have to say as well that the Focus ST for less money ticks all the boxes, except perhaps ‘slightly sporty’. ‘Really bloody fast’ would perhaps be a better sobriquet!
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Guaranteed to have dry joints in the dash which will give up outside of the warranty in spectacular style.
More chance of finding the scarlet pimpernel than this thing lasting 60k
Sacre bleu mom ami
OMG dat target practice. Authorization required I do believe. According to an itch in a stitch.
Yeah we’re all cool n whatever the date that was be. But still waiting for a connection here. Not too bothered to search for one.
This whole time travelling business, if you’re ever interested I can test drive a Meteor, but I’ll always be inadequate with Comets.
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