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Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy review: happy hardcore

Renault Megane RS Trophy

Nürburgring lap times are a Big Deal for hot hatches, and Renault has recently reclaimed the record. The Megane Trophy-R scorched around 14.2 miles and 154 corners in 3.7 seconds less than the Honda Civic Type R. Its time of 7min 40.1sec is also within spitting distance of a 2008 Porsche 911 GT2. That’s the pace of progress. Even so, the car’s price tag has dominated headlines.

A ‘standard’ Megane Trophy-R will cost you £51,140, but the fully-loaded Nürburgring Record edition is (deep breath) £72,140. Yep, for a front-wheel-drive hatchback. Most of that additional cash goes on carbon fibre wheels, which save 2.1kg per corner, and carbon-ceramic brakes. Other trick bits – included on all cars – include Öhlins adjustable dampers, Sabelt race seats, bespoke Bridgestone track tyres and a titanium Akrapovič exhaust. Just 500 will be sold worldwide, with 32 bound for the UK.

Read more Motoring Research reviews FIRST on City AM

The Megane Trophy here (note the absence of ‘R’) isn’t that car. It shares the same 300hp 1.8-litre engine and six-speed manual gearbox, but is 113kg heavier and comes with considerably less carbon. On the plus side, you get rear seats, sound deadening and proper infotainment. At £31,835, it’s also less than half the price of the ’Ring record version. What a difference a single letter makes.

Renault Megane RS Trophy

Not that the Trophy is exactly a soft option. Essentially, this is a faster, more focused take on the £27,835 Megane RS (keep up at the back!) with ceramic turbo bearings for an extra 20hp, grooved brake discs, the RS Monitor on-board telemetry system and the Cup chassis option. The latter includes stiffer suspension, a Torsen limited-slip diff and hydraulic bump stops. No doubt, this middle-tier Megane means business.

It looks the part, too, especially in £1,300 Liquid Yellow metallic. Where the Civic Type R is all OTT scoops and spoilers, Renault relies on taut, muscular curves. It bristles with kinetic energy even standing still. However, I’m far from sold on the Trophy’s unique 19-inch ‘Jerez’ alloys. Their design resembles the dated TSW Venom (remember those, Max Power readers?) and the red pinstripes are just naff.

Inside, the Megane is also a mixed bag. Its leather and Alcantara steering wheel feels great and the adjustable Recaro bucket seats are fantastic – albeit a pricey £1,500 option. It’s also decently practical, with five doors, ample rear legroom and a boot that swallows a baby buggy. Perceived quality could be better, though, and Renault’s portrait-style media system seems needlessly complicated. At least it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Renault Megane RS Trophy

God knows how the ‘R’ drives because the Trophy is sharper than lemon zest. It feels up on its toes, totally lacking in hysteresis. The secret is four-wheel steering, which bestows a rabid agility that seems almost unnatural. The Megane changes direction like no other hot hatch, diff biting hard into bends. It must be sensational on track – where it will oversteer in extremis – but the pay-off on the road is suspension that endlessly jitters and jolts. A comfortable car, this ain’t.

As for the revised engine, it’s responsive and aggressive, yet hardly overflowing with character despite the growls and pops from the centre-exit exhaust. The beefier brakes inspire confidence and the manual ’box suits the car well – probably better than the £1,700 paddle-shift auto.

The Megane Trophy stays true to its Renault Sport roots by being the most intense, involving car in its class. Does that make it best? Well, if you’ll allow me to clamber onto the fence… not necessarily. The new Ford Focus ST is a better all-rounder and the Civic Type R is more intuitive – if less exciting – to drive. It’s not all about lap times, after all.

Price: £31,835

0-62mph: 5.7 secs

Top speed: 162mph

CO2 G/KM: 183

MPG combined: 34.4

Renault Megane RS Trophy: in pictures

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Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

Renault Megane 1.6 TCE 205 GT Nav (2016) review

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)The new Renault Megane is such an important car for Renault, it couldn’t wait to let us drive it. We first drove it back in the tail end of 2015 but only now is it arriving in UK dealer showrooms. Time for a reminder of what the fourth generation of Renault’s Volkswagen Golf alternative is like.

A very good looking car indeed, that’s what it’s like. Easily the best-looking family hatch you can buy, no? The gorgeous design is particularly smart in some of Renault’s smart new colours, such as the Iron Blue hue our GT test car came in. Renault knows styling sells: the Megane will do well before people even get behind the wheel.

Prices and deals

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

The new Megane range starts from a very keen £16,600 but we went straight to the top of the range here with the 205 1.6-litre TCe GT Nav. Boasting a seven-speed EDC automatic as standard, it costs £25,500: that’s Ford Focus ST territory. The Ford perhaps is the exception though: a Volkswagen Golf GTI costs £28,500. The GT is a warm hatch Renault: the new Renault Sport Megane follows later…

Renault will happily give you £1,750 towards the deposit on its three-year PCP deal if you’re keen: with an APR of 3.99%, this means a GT Megane would cost £359 a month, with an up-front customer deposit of £3,301. That seems a bit steep to us: deals on rivals can take the monthly cost to below £300 a month.

What are its rivals?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

As mentioned, the new Megane GT is priced like a Ford Focus ST but has a 45hp power deficit; it’s not the full-fat hot hatch Renault’s planning to take on the Ford, Volkswagen and others. See it instead as a well-equipped, uniquely-styled warm hatch alternative to cars such as the Peugeot 308 GT and SEAT Leon FR.

Let’s hope the Renault’s bespoke styling and kit-packed cabin convinces customers: it looks pricey compared to a £21,285 Vauxhall Astra SRi Nav 1.6T 200 or a £23,610 Kia Cee’d GT. And back to that Focus ST: it starts at just £22,750, with even an ST-2 costing £1,000 less than the Renault…

What engine does it use?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

The 1.6-litre turbo engine is a Renault Nissan Alliance staple used in other hot models from the two brands; the Renault Sport Clio, Nissan Juke Nismo and Nissan Pulsar 1.6 DiG-T amongst others (well, two out of three ain’t bad…). 205 hp is complemented by 207lb-ft of torque. The dual-clutch EDC transmission is your only choice.

There’s something else too: Renault fits electronic rear-wheel steering to the Megane GT. With just 2.3 turns lock-to-lock, it’s very fast and gives the manoeuvrability of a much smaller car without trading stability at speed. Sector-unique tech, it’s a real standout feature of the GT.

How fast?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

The seven-speed EDC’s launch control function helps it consistently run 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, just a hair’s breadth behind a Ford Fiesta ST. As there’s more chance of them fluffing a gearchange, your traffic light grand prix status should be secure. It’s capable of 143mph all-out.

How do you use Renault launch control? Left foot on the brake pedal, pull and hold both gearshift paddles until ‘Launch Control On’ flashes on the dash. Floor the accelerator, release the brake pedal: cue the perfect launch.

Is it comfortable?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

Big wheels mean the ride is a bit flaky in town, but it smooths out at speed. This is intentionally more GT than hot hatch so, if anything, the suspension might feel a touch too soft when you’re really chucking it about: generally, though, it’s a reasonably comfortable middle ground, with generally good body control. It’s quiet too, and Renault’s kept road bump-thump noise at bay.

Will I enjoy driving it?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

You’ll find driving the Megane GT fascinating for one reason: the rear-wheel steering. This gives it stand-out agility for a family hatch: you can feel the rear end turning as soon as you move the steering wheel, making it very responsive and sharp. It’s not unnerving though: while not particularly purist, it does make the GT more interesting to drive.

Fuel economy and running costs

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

In common with many fizzed-up downsized turbo petrols, the 47.1mpg claimed economy of this 205hp motor is impressive (and aided by the EDC gearbox’s efficient shift patterns in auto mode). CO2 of 134g/km will keep it out of 2017’s punitive £500 VED tax band and Renault’s four-year warranty can be combined with a £499 four-year service pack to further control running costs. Just be careful of those big 18-inch diamond-cut alloys on kerbs…

What’s the interior like?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

The dashboard is dominated by a big Tesla-style touchscreen that works really well. It’s a feature of the pricier Meganes and is worth the upgrade as it’s a treat to use. The GT’s ultra-deep, bolstered front seats are excellent, and the configurable electronic dial pack is top-notch. The steering wheel is gorgeous too.

Is it practical?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

It looks superb yet still has five doors and a hatchback: this is good. What’s less good is interior packaging. It’s OK up front. The problem is the rear. Getting in and out is tricky and legroom is far too tight for a supposed family-friendly car. Time and again this is a grumble of French family hatchbacks: despite its all-new platform, the new Megane is no exception.

The boot is decent on paper with a 384-litre load space (four litres more than a VW Golf, note), although the oddly broad sill might make it tricky for some – loading items in will be OK but getting them out might be a stretch. Oh, and why, Renault, is there such a large upswept wiper patch on the driver’s side, blocking inches of forward vision in the rain?

Tell me about the tech

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

Four-wheel steering turns the rear wheels opposite to the fronts at low speeds, to aid agility, then in the same direction at high speeds to boost stability. Full LED headlights are paired with fine-looking LED units at the rear and, within the Tesla-style touchscreen, ‘multi-sense’ driving mode settings allow you to customise a whole host of settings even down to the engine sound.

What about safety?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

Renaults always perform well in Euro NCAP crash tests and this new one isn’t an exception: it scored five stars in 2015. Standard safety kit includes lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, speed limiter and understeer detection: AEB automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are a bargain £400 option.

Which version should I go for?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

The GT Megane currently only offers the warmish 205hp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine. If you want anything more economical, you’ll have to go for the cheaper GT-look GT Line Nav, which has 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel options. Next year, though, a 165hp twin-turbo 1.6-litre dCi will come in four-wheel-steer GT trim. We’d probably go for that one.

What’s the used alternative?

A Golf GTI is more expensive new but it’s certainly not secondhand: hunt out a nearly-new GTI or GTD for an appealing alternative to the Megane GT. If it’s not hot enough for you, also consider the runout Megane Renault Sport Cup-S (get one new, while you can, from £23,995, or much less if you can find a pre-registered one).

Should I buy one?

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

We’d probably wait for that twin-turbo diesel, frankly. Or maybe the full-fat Renault Sport Megane. The GT is interesting, with its sharp four-wheel steering and beautiful styling (honestly, it’s a peach to look at). But it occupies an odd middle ground: British buyers in particular prefer hot to warm and, when a Ford Focus ST is so comparatively well priced (and, ironically, so much more practical), it’s hard to see how the Megane GT might sway you. Unless, that is, styling really does sell.

Pub fact

Renault Megane 1.6 TCe 205 GT Nav (2016)

This may not be a Renault Sport Megane but Renault Sport has still had a hand in it, fitting bespoke springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. The chassis thus shows breeding missing from lesser Meganes and is a more satisfying warm hatch than most.

New 2016 Renault Megane range

Renault Megane is cheapest family hatch to run

New 2016 Renault Megane rangeCareful with your cash? You need a new Renault Megane – because running costs experts CAP have rated it the cheapest-to-run family hatchback on sale.

The best-in-class figures for service, maintenance and repair are for the best-selling Megane variant too: the 1.5 dCi 110 Dynamic Nav, which costs £19,400 on the road.

That’s not all: those buying on PCP car finance may find monthly payments are that bit cheaper than the outgoing car thanks to a huge lift in retained values for the new Megane.

Indeed, at 8% better than the old Megane, CAP has never awarded such a large residual value uplift for a new model compared to its predecessor.

This may, of course, reflect the weakness of the aged old Megane, but it’s still a good result for Renault – particularly as a key element of PCP affordability is how much the car is worth at the end of the lease deal.

Renault running cost result

According to CAP figures, the new Megane 1.5 dCi 110 Dynamique Nav will cost £1,291 to service and maintain over three years and 36 months – that includes consumables such as tyres, brakes and other maintenance items.

This too is 8% cheaper than the outgoing Megane and, more significantly, 3.4% cheaper than its closest (unnamed – any guesses as to what it is?) rival. The new Megane is also significantly cheaper to own than the old car: indeed, total cost of ownership has leapt from seventh-cheapest in class to second-cheapest.

This means the 1.5 dCi 110 Dynamique Nav model costs a staggering £1,975 less to own over three years and 36 months.

Jeff Knight, forecasting editor at CAP HPI, said: “Renault with the all-new Megane have not only created a convincing fleet offering in terms of Total Cost of Ownership, they have underpinned this with a striking design and equipment levels that will surely attract the future used buyer”.

Fastest hot hatches

The 10 fastest hot hatches around the Nurburgring

Fastest hot hatcheshe Nurburgring is the world’s most notorious racetrack. Its 13 miles of tortuously twisty tarmac serve as a proving ground for new cars – with manufacturers competing to set the lowest lap times.

As Volkswagen launches its new track-oriented new Golf Clubsport S, we’re celebrating the 10 fastest hot hatchbacks ever to lap the Nurburgring. Let the countdown commence…

Fastest hot hatches10. Volkswagen Golf R32 

Lap time: 8min 53.0sec

Golf GTI not fast enough? In 2003, Volkswagen launched the 240hp Golf R32, with the 250hp Mk5 version seen here following in 2005. It boasted a 3.2-litre VR6 engine and four-wheel drive.

Lapping the Nurburgring in less than nine minutes is no mean feat for a car as comfortable and family-focused as the Golf R32. Interestingly, the car was actually faster to 62mph (6.2sec) when fitted with Volkswagen’s DSG semi-automatic gearbox.

Fastest hot hatches9. Vauxhall Astra VXR Nurburgring

Lap time: 8min 35.0sec

A dedicated Nurburgring special edition? Yep, and Vauxhall built 835 of them to celebrate the car’s 8min 35sec lap time. A Corsa VXR Nurburgring followed in 2011.

For £1,500 more than the standard VXR, you got an extra 15hp, a Remus exhaust, white alloy wheels and lots of stickers. Alternatively, replicate the look yourself with one of those two-quid Nurburgring stickers off eBay…

Fastest hot hatches8. Ford Focus ST (2005)

Lap time: 8min 35.0sec

Fast and (usually) orange, the original Focus ST matched the 8min 35sec time of its arch-rival Astra. Its 225hp five-cylinder engine came from Volvo and is famously thirsty when driven hard.

Today, you can buy estate and diesel versions of the ST, but the 2005 original remains our favourite. Like many fast Fords, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but it’s more characterful than a contemporary Golf GTI.

Fastest hot hatches7. Ford Focus RS

Lap time: 8min 26.0sec

Brightly-coloured fast Fords, you say? Meet the daddy. The Mk2 Focus RS is a modern classic, with in-yer-face styling and a mighty 305hp turbocharged four-pot.

Ford hasn’t attempted the ’Ring in the latest (Mk3) Focus RS yet. However, with 350hp, it’s likely to be even quicker. We reckon the Ultimate Green paint seen here is worth a least 10 seconds off the lap time….

Fastest hot hatches6. Renault Megane RS R26.R

Lap time: 8min 16.90sec

Meet the first in a string of ever-faster Renault Meganes competing for top honours at the Nurburgring. The R26.R was the most extreme version of the ‘shaking that ass’ Mk2 Megane. Only 450 were made.

This isn’t your typical hot hatchback. The stripped-out R26.R has no rear seats, passenger airbags or radio. Crucially, it came shod with super-sticky Michelin or Toyo tyres, which were biased for track (and dry weather) use.

Fastest hot hatches5. Renault Megane RS Trophy

Lap time: 8min 7.97sec

Another Megane, this time the – even faster – third-generation car. The limited-edition RS Trophy boasted 265hp and a top speed of nearly 160mph. Heady stuff for a hot hatch.

More impressive, though, was the Trophy’s ability to go around corners. It lapped the Nurburgring in 8min 7.97sec – without resorting to the extreme weight-loss measures of its R26.R predecessor.

Fastest hot hatches4. SEAT Leon Cupra

Lap time: 7min 58.4sec

Spanish carmaker SEAT is known for breaking ’Ring records – its Leon ST Cupra 280 is currently the fastest estate to lap the track. The hatchback Cupra can’t make that claim, but it still edges under eight minutes.

The record-breaking (at the time) Leon was fitted with beefed-up Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres – both available as part of SEAT’s Performance Pack option. The Cupra has since gained an extra 10hp, potentially making it even quicker.

Fastest hot hatches3. Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy-R

Lap time: 7min 54.36sec

Our third Megane – and the fastest to date – is the RS 275 Trophy-R. The car was developed in response to SEAT breaking the front-wheel-drive record with the Leon Cupra 280, and it succeeded in taking the title back.

The 2014 Trophy-R was a serious performance machine with race-style Ohlins dampers, bigger front brakes and polycarbonate Recaro seats. With no air conditioning or radio, it’s more suited to track days than trips to Tesco.

Fastest hot hatches2. Honda Civic Type R

Lap time: 7min 50.63sec

As a statement of intent, launching a new hot hatch by setting a 7min 50.63sec Nurburgring lap time takes some beating. The bodykitted Civic really is as fast as its furious styling suggests.

Honda set its lap time with a car ‘in a standard state of tune’. However, it did admit removing ‘equipment such as air conditioning, the front passenger seat and audio equipment’ in order to ‘offset the additional weight of a full roll cage (installed specifically for safety reasons and not to add rigidity)’.

Fastest hot hatches1. Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S

Lap time: 7min 49.21sec

That brings us to the current Nurburgring record-holder: the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S. Built to mark 40 years of the Golf GTI, the 310hp hatchback has been dubbed ‘the GT3 of GTIs’.

The Clubsport S is even quicker than the four-wheel-drive Golf R and only 400 will be made. Thank a strict weight-saving diet, including a smaller battery, less sound deadening and no rear seats. Hey, nobody said giant-killing hot hatches had to practical.

2016 Renault Megane

New Renault Megane prices to start from £16,600

2016 Renault MeganeThe new Renault Megane costs from £16,600 and buyers can register their interest for the new family hatch now, ahead of its UK dealer launch this summer.

The press, including Motoring Research, first drove the new Megane way back in December 2015, but Renault was not then ready to confirm prices: it simply hinted they would be competitive with the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra

2016 Renault Megane review: first drive

The firm has exceeded expectations with a punchy £16,600 starting price though, particularly as it’s for a 130hp 1.2-litre TCe turbo model rather than a downrated low-power motor: a Vauxhall Astra 1.0T Design may cost £600 less, but it is also down 25hp.

Ford Focus prices start at £16,245 – for a base-spec 85hp 1.6 Studio.

A diesel Megane Expression+, the 1.5 dCi 110, costs £1,300 more at £17,900, but this model is not the one Renault will sell most of: the Dynamic Nav and Dynamic S Nav will be the most popular new Megane models.

The 1.2 TCe 130 Dynamic Nav costs £18,100, with the 1.5 dCi alternative costing £19,400. Renault also offers the more powerful 1.6 dCi 130 in Dynamic Nav guise, for £20,600. This doesn’t offer sub-100g/km CO2 emissions though, emitting 104g/km rather than the cheaper motor’s 96g/km.

Renault will also offer the new Megane in posh Signature Nav guise, as well as a 205hp 1.6-litre turbo petrol EDC auto range-topper: the GT Nav 205 costs £25,500. At 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, it’s warm rather than hot: the new Renault Sport Meganes are still to come.

Generous specification

All new Megane will have a decent haul of standard equipment, including alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, air con, cruise control, Bluetooth and electric front and rear windows.

Dynamique Nav versions include, as the name suggests, sat nav, plus rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, lane departure warning, speed limit sign camera, climate control and a 3D sound stereo. This trim line also brings a 7-inch central touchscreen to the new Megane’s centre console.

Dynamique S Nav, priced from £19,100 for a TCe 130, adds 17-inch alloys, rear parking camera and tinted rear glass, while Signature Nav has 18-inch alloys, full LED headlights and full leather interior. Both of these trims also have the full 8.7-inch Tesla-style central touchscreen that’s such a feature of the new Megane: given the £1,000 price difference between the two Dynamique models, we thus wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘S’ becomes the most popular variant of all…

The GT Nav tops the range at £25,500, with a sporty-focused haul of kit in line with Signature Nav trim. For those who want sporty looks without the expense, Renault also offers the GT Line Nav, based on the Dynamic Nav but with more of a ‘Renault Sport lite’ look: it costs from £19,600.

Renault Megane

Renault Megane review: 2016 first drive

Six months before it goes on sale, we’re among the first to drive the 2016 Renault MeganeRenault Megane

Overview

A decade ago, the second-generation Megane was ‘shaking that ass’ while shaking up the sales charts. Since then, Renault’s mid-sized hatchback has gone from one of Europe’s best-selling cars to an also-ran, dogged by bland styling, a low-rent interior and a poor reputation for reliability.

The fourth-generation Megane you see here won’t actually reach UK showrooms until June 2016, but we bagged an early drive at the international launch in Portugal. One thing is for certain: it may not have a bustle-shaped boot, but Renault has ditched the dull design. Has the Megane finally got its groove back?

If the new Megane looks striking in photos, it’s even more so in the metal. Longer, wider and lower than the car it replaces, it looks sleek and sporty – even in standard non-GT spec. Huge front and rear lights – both with distinctive LED ‘signatures’ – add a pleasingly premium touch, too.

Renault will longer sell three-door ‘Coupe’ or CC cabriolet versions of the Megane, citing insufficient demand (apparently many buyers have migrated to crossovers). So the range is five-door-hatchback-only at launch, with an estate version following in the autumn.

Inside, the Megane’s big selling point is a huge, portrait-oriented touchscreen. It’s not quite a budget Tesla, but you get the idea. ‘Virtual’ TFT instuments can be configured to the driver’s personal taste, while available safety equipment includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking. The Megane has already scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.

Engines for the UK are yet to be confirmed. However, the petrol line-up is likely to start with the 100hp 1.2 TCe, then 115hp 1.2 SCe (non-turbocharged), 130hp 1.2 TCe and a 205hp 1.6 TCe – the latter in the range-topping GT. Diesels will probably kick off with the 90hp 1.5 dCi, then 110hp 1.5 dCi, 130hp 1.6 dCi and 165hp 1.6 dCi.

Most Meganes will come with a six-speed manual gearbox (five speeds on the 115hp petrol). Renault’s semi-automatic ‘flappy paddle’ EDC ’box is offered on the 130hp petrol and 110hp diesel – and standard with the most powerful engines of each fuel-type.

Frustratingly, Renault won’t confirm prices until closer to the car’s on-sale date either. However, we expect the car to be closely competitive with the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, which means a start-price of around £15,500.

Renault Megane

On the road

We start our test-drives in the Renaultsport GT,  the flagship ‘warm hatch’ until the hot Megane RS arrives – probably in 2017.

This is the first time Renaultsport has lent its well-respected name to anything other than a full-fat hot hatch and there is a strong risk of diluting the brand. To help avert that risk, the GT has specially tuned suspension and – uniquely in this class – rear-wheel steering.

This ‘4Control’ system turns the rear wheels slightly in the opposite direction to the fronts to sharpen up the handling. Its effect is immediately noticeable on the road; in tight bends, the GT almost seems to pivot around its axis, catapulting you out of corners with impressive ease.

Unfortunately, the rest of the GT package is less well-rounded. Its ride is jittery over the sort of broken bitumen that swathes most British B-roads, the EDC gearbox is clunky on downshifts and its steering feels twitchy – especially in Sport mode. Despite its twin exhausts, the 205hp 1.6 turbo petrol engine sounds muted and rather characterless, too.

Thankfully, things improve on day two with the Megane 1.6 dCi. With smaller 17in wheels – the GT wore optional 18-inchers – and softer suspension, this car feels far more comfortable in its own skin. Ride quality is much improved, and the torquier 130hp diesel engine means it doesn’t feel much slower on the road (0-62mph takes 10.0 seconds, versus 7.1 seconds for the GT).

Indeed, the Megane diesel seems to have most bases covered. It’s a refined and comfortable cruiser with enough dynamic talent for when the Tarmac gets twisty. A Ford Focus is ultimately more fun, but the latest Megane runs it fairly close.

Renault Megane

On the inside

The Megane’s dashboard is dominated by a central tablet-style touchscreen. This measures seven inches across and is landscape-oriented on entry-level models; higher-spec cars get the 8.7-inch portrait-style screen seen here.

Renault says this is the ‘largest touchscreen in the non-premium class’, but is bigger necessarily better? We’re not sure. There’s no doubt the R-Link 2 system is easy to use, with bold graphics and intuitive menus. But the screen’s depth means frequently taking your eyes off the road – and there’s no supplementary joystick-style controller, such as that offered by Mazda. At least the optional colour head-up display helps avoid such distractions.

There are still a few cheap plastics in the Megane’s cabin, but it’s a vast improvement over the outgoing car. We’d put it on par with a Ford Focus for perceived quality. Particular attention has been paid to the bits you touch – steering wheel, gear lever, door pulls –which all feel pleasantly premium.

A special mention must also go to the Megane’s seats, which are the same as found in the larger Espace and Talisman models (neither of which is sold in the UK). They’re supportive and very comfortable, while the Alcantara (artificial suede) trim on GT models looks great.

Low-slung styling hasn’t unduly compromised space in the back; the car can still accommodate five adults in relative comfort. And the 434-litre boot is one of the largest in class. For comparison, a VW Golf holds 380 litres.

Renault Megane

Running costs

As noted previously, we don’t have list prices for the Megane yet. However, the car is likely to be a couple of thousand pounds cheaper than an equivalent VW Golf, for example. And if past form is anything to go by, Renault dealers won’t be averse to offering a discount. That said, if you plan to buy on finance, likely stronger residual values for the Golf could narrow the gap when it comes to monthly payments.

What about reliability? Well, early Meganes were pretty dismal in this regard, but Renault insists this has been one of the priorities for the new car. Its four-year/100,000-mile warranty is also better than the three-year/60,000-mile deal of many rivals.

In terms of fuel economy, the undisputed champ is the 110hp 1.5 diesel in Eco2 guise, which returns 85.6mpg and tax-dodging CO2 emissions of just 86g/km. The standard 110hp diesel achieves 76.3mpg and 95g/km, while the 130hp 1.6 diesel we drove manages 70.6mpg and 103g/km.

The petrol engines are also efficient, if not class-leading. Figures for the 100hp 1.2 Tce are 52.3mpg and 120g/km, and the GT returns 47.0mpg with 134g/km.

It’s worth remembering that, while most Megane buyers will opt for diesel, the upfront price premium (likely to be around £1,000) means lower-mileage drivers could save money by choosing a petrol engine.

Renault Megane

Verdict

The Megane has got its mojo back. It no longer has an ‘ass’ to shake, but it has shaken off the shackles of blandness to become one the most distinctive – and arguably most stylish – hatchbacks on sale. And yes, we know styling is only superficial, but those swoopy lights and curvaceous creases help set the Megane apart in this closely-fought class.

We’re less convinced by the Megane’s large touchscreen media system, but we suspect it will wow plenty of buyers in the showroom. If you’re the kind of person who always has the latest smartphone, the Megane could be for you.

We think the petrol GT model is a bit of an odd compromise. Like an office clerk shoehorned into a pair of trainers, it’s nimble but lacking in outright performance. The 130hp 1.6 diesel is a better and cheaper, covering all bases as any medium hatchback is required to do.

Renault hasn’t trumped the Golf or the newly-upmarket Peugeot 308 for desirability. Nor is it likely to match Kia Cee’d for value, or the Honda Civic for reliability. However, the Megane is a capable contender that, depending on prices when it reaches the UK in June, could be worth adding to your shortlist.

Renault Megane 1.6 dCi 130

Price: TBC (nearer to June 2016)

Engine: 1.6-litre diesel

Gearbox: 6-speed manual

Power: 130hp

Torque: 236lb ft 

0-62mph: 10.0 seconds

Top speed: N/A

Fuel economy: 70.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 103g/km

Renaultsport Megane 275 Cup-S

Big price cut for Renaultsport Megane range

Renaultsport Megane 275 Cup-SRenault has revised the Renaultsport Megane hot hatch range for 2016 – and cut prices to a bargain-level starter from £23,995.

The firm has rationalised the range down to a single 275 variant, replacing the outgoing 265 model. It’s offered in two guises, 275 Cup-S and 275 Nav.

As its name suggests, the 275 Cup-S has a 10hp power boost to 275hp, using the engine from the Nürburgring record-setting 275 Trophy-R limited edition car.

It also gets the more focused Cup chassis as standard: that’s a mechanical limited-slip differential, red-painted Brembo four-pot brake calipers, stiffer springs and dampers plus an uprated anti-roll bar.

The engine normally delivers 250hp, with the full 275hp being released in Renaultsport Dynamic Management mode: this delivers 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds and a 158mph top speed.

And all for £23,995 – a true bargain, that almost makes it rude not to indulge in an options list that includes Öhlins Road & Track dampers (£2,000), Akrapovic titanium exhaust system (£2,500), 19-inch alloys (£1,000) and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (£1,000).

For those after something (relatively) more genteel, Renault is also offering a Megane Renaultsport 275 Nav. This has the Sport chassis instead of the racier Cup setup, and a lavish amount of extra kit included heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control (building upon the standard air con of the Cup-S), auto lights and wipers plus hands-free entry.

If you really must, it costs £25,935.

Both new Renaultsport Megane 275 models are available to order now, with deliveries starting in November 2015.

Euro NCAP Renault Megane

Euro NCAP DOWNGRADES Renault Megane to three stars

Euro NCAP Renault MeganeEuro NCAP has released details of its latest tests with the big surprise that Renault’s ageing Megane has been downgraded from a full five-star result to just three stars – making it one of the worst-performing small family hatchbacks on sale in Western Europe. Read more

Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy

Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy: is this the new Nurburgring front-drive record holder?

Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy

Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy: the car that could reclaim Renault’s Nurburgring lap time crown…

Renault has revealed a new Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy special edition, a car that boasts a standard specification rather more specialised than many hot hatches… Read more

Mazda3 v Renault Megane: January sales battle starts early

mazda3meg1

You’ve probably seen two price-related news stories gracing our homepage – as Renault and Mazda have both released pricelists of their C-segment cars.

Read more