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2016 Renault Scenic review: can MPVs be sexy?

2016 Renault Scenic review: can MPVs be sexy?

2016 Renault Scenic review: can MPVs be sexy?

Apparently people still buy compact people carriers. Despite typical buyers of yesteryear part-exchanging their Scenics for crossovers by droves, Renault claims sales in the sector have actually shown a small incline over the last couple of years – and it’s aiming to cash in on that by giving the Scenic ‘sex appeal’.

How is the Scenic sexy?

Yes, revealed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, the Scenic (and its bigger brethren, the Grand Scenic) is ‘the very last word in seductive appeal’ (Renault’s words, not ours). It features a steeply-raked panoramic windscreen, along with a two-tone colour scheme and a wider stance than its predecessor.

There’s no doubt it’s aesthetically more pleasing than the Scenic of old, but how does it drive?

How does it drive?

The new Scenic and Grand Scenic are much better to drive. No, it’s not exactly a Caterham 7 (or even a Ford C-Max for that matter), but it remains composed in corners – and the lack of bodyroll should help keep child sickness at bay. The steering is on the light side… we’d like a bit more feedback at higher speeds, but it’s a breeze to manoeuvre through town (visibility helps there, too).

It’s on 20-inch alloys

It’s on 20-inch alloys

The Scenic’s handling is helped by the 20-inch alloys, standard on all models. We’re used to seeing stunning-looking cars on huge alloys at motor shows, but the attractive looks are often a little spoilt by speccing the entry-level model with 17-inch steelies. Renault is making a bold move with its new Scenic (and bigger Grand Scenic) by only offering it on larger wheels.

Doesn’t that ruin the ride?

A little. Renault says the 107mm tyre wall is the same as the 17-inch wheel on its predecessor, meaning you won’t feel every lump and bump in the road like you do in some cars fitted with big alloys. While it’s true that the Scenic has a moderately compliant ride, it’s not exactly the French waftmobile you might be looking for. We are yet to drive it on UK roads, but we suspect we might be longing for smaller wheels.

What about the cost of tyres?

Another drawback or big alloys is the pricier tyres that go with them. Renault says it’s been working with major tyre manufacturers to ensure it won’t cost any more to replace the tyres on a new scenic than if it was fitted with 17-inchers. A quick online search suggests you’ll have to budget around £120 a tyre to replace them on the new Scenic. That’s not cheap.

It is a bit noisy

It is a bit noisy

There’s only so much engineers can do to reduce wind noise created by something the shape of the Renault Scenic, but we were still surprised by how noisy it is at motorway speeds. Both the Scenic and Grand Scenic models had us checking to see if we’d mistakenly left a window slightly open. It could get very annoying on long journeys.

How big’s the boot?

If you’re considering a Scenic, you’re likely to be more concerned by practicality than how fun it is to drive. We’ll hit you with some stats: the Renault Scenic boasts a best-in-class 572 litres of boot space, while the Grand Scenic has 596 litres.

There’s a catch…

The Renault Grand Scenic is a seven-seater, and with those rear seats in place, boot space is pretty woeful (just 189 litres, or barely half the size of a Ford Focus hatchback). That’s the norm for this sector… give a compact MPV seven seats and a big boot and it’ll no longer be, well, compact.

That aside, is it pretty practical?

That aside, is it pretty practical?

Underfloor compartments along with a clever sliding centre console means there’s plenty of storage space, and kids should be fairly happy in the back. It’s not overly roomy if you’re carrying adult passengers in the rear, however – and the third row of seats on the Grand Scenic really are for occasional use only.

It doesn’t feel like an MPV

One reason that many previous buyers of compact MPVs have turned towards crossovers is that, in the old days, they used to be pretty horrible to drive. We’re not talking about the nuances of their handling, but everything from the bus-like driving position to the plethora of wipe-clean plastics in the cabin. While there’s still some of the latter (although the cabin is fairly upmarket), you sit relatively low down in the Scenic and the huge panoramic sunroof fitted to our test car made for an airy cabin.

Is it safe?

If you’re looking for a car to carry your kids, you understandably want the safest you can buy. The Scenic’s been awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, with reinforced steels used to keep your family safe in the event of a crash. There’s a host of technology, too – such as fatigue alert, which monitors the driver and tells them to pull over if they’re showing signs of being tired.

It’s got a neat 8.7-inch infotainment screen

It’s got a neat 8.7-inch infotainment screen

Buttons are out, huge tablet-esque infotainment screens are in. We’ve already seen Renault’s latest portrait attempt in the Megane, and it’s a fairly intuitive system to use. Standard on the top two trims, R-Link 2 looks great, but can be a little slow to respond.

But there are still some buttons…

Despite this, Renault hasn’t entirely eliminated the buttons from the dash. Some are a little awkwardly-placed (the cruise control looks to have been located for the convenience of front-seat passengers, for example), and others seem to do little more than act as shortcuts to some of the R-Links functions.

Talk to me about engines

Buyers get a wide choice of engines: from a 115hp 1.2-litre petrol to a 160hp 1.6-litre diesel. We tried the regular Scenic in 130hp 1.2-litre guise, and found it to be well up to the job of shifting the people carrier. It’s a little noisy when pushed, and the six-speed gearbox is a little clunky to use, but it’s a likeable powertrain overall.

What about the diesel?

What about the diesel?

We also spent some time driving the Grand Scenic with the 160hp diesel engine with the six-speed automatic gearbox. This is better suited to the hauling around the extra mass of the seven-seater. The auto ‘box is quick enough to respond (selecting sport mode allows hastier roundabout negotiations), and the diesel engine is a refined unit.

How efficient is the Scenic?

Officially, the petrol TCe 130 Scenic we tested returns 48.7mpg and emits 129g/km CO2. The top-of-the-range 160hp dCi diesel returns 60.1mpg and 122g/km CO2 in Grand Scenic guise. While the diesel would be tempting for high-mileage users, we wouldn’t automatically dismiss the petrol.

There’s a ‘hybrid assist’ model

For those wanting maximum eco points, Renault’s jumping on the hybrid bandcamp. It’s in a slightly half-hearted manner, though, with its ‘hybrid assist’ model. This combines the dCi 110 diesel engine with a 10kW electric motor which recuperates energy during deceleration and provides as much as 11lb ft of extra torque when required.

Is the hybrid assist worth the extra?

Is the hybrid assist worth the extra?

The result is a drop in CO2 emissions from 100g/km to 92g/km and improved MPG from 72 to 80. We don’t know how much it’ll cost when it makes it to the UK, but advantages in terms of road and company car tax are minimal. Worth the extra? Probably not.

What are its rivals?

The Scenic’s main competitor is fellow French MPV, the futuristic Citroen C4 Picasso – and you should also consider the Ford C-Max and Volkswagen Tiguan. Our first impressions suggest it should be high up on your shortlist.

Verdict: 2016 Renault Scenic

We remain to be convinced that there is much of a market for the Scenic and Grand Scenic – we’d sooner drive a Captur or Kadjar – but if you’ve decided a compact MPV will work for you, there’s a lot to like about the Scenic.

While we’ll stop short of describing it as ‘sexy’, it’s certainly a more interesting and appealing proposition that Scenics of old – and more attractive than drab rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, too.

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.

Renault Sport Megane 275 Cup-S

The last Renault hot hatch legend will be sold in Britain

Renault Sport Megane 275 Cup-SRenault Sport has built its last Megane III hot hatch and, because Britain loves them more than any other country, the era-ending right-hand drive variant is now on sale at Renault’s Dundee dealership.

The last-of-the-line Renault Sport Megane 275 Cup-S, in Liquid Yellow, is up for sale at Arnold Clark but franchise manager David Munton doesn’t expect it to be around for long.

Not least because Renault UK has now given it so much free publicity.

“As a long-time Renault Dealer, we know first-hand that Renault Sport fans are passionate about the brand,” he said.

“It’s great to have the final third generation Megane Renault Sport to ever be produced in our showroom – it looks sensational in Liquid Yellow and the optional Öhlins dampers and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are sure to be thrilling to drive on road or on track.”

Renault Sport Megane 275 Cup-S

Renault has sold more than 30,000 third-generation Renault Sport Meganes; launched in 2009 as the Megane Renault Sport 250, it’s been boosted to 265hp and finally to 275hp. It was sold in more than 30 countries but Britain bought the most.

Indeed, said Renault communications director Jeremy Townsend, “the UK is one of the biggest markets in the world for Renault Sport models so it’s fitting that the last ever third generation Megane Renault Sport should end up here.”

Renault Sport Megane 275 Cup-S

Although the final Renault Sport Megane 275 Cup-S were £23,995 bargains, the car on sale in Dundee costs a little more – because it has desirable options including:

  • Cup Chassis Pack (mechanical limited-slip differential, Brembo four-pot brake calipers, firmer springs and dampers, stiffer anti-roll bar)
  • Liquid Yellow metallic paint
  • 19-inch Speedline alloys
  • Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres
  • Öhlins Road&Track adjustable dampers
  • Alcantara steering wheel
  • Recaro seats
  • Renault Sport Monitor V2
  • R-Link multimedia and sat nav

Now Renault’s Palencia, Spain plant has built the final Renault Sport Megane 275 hot hatch, anticipation will be building for the Megane IV Renault Sport. Renault tempered expectations a little here: we’ve still a few years to wait, an insider told us: expect it in 2018…

Renault announces 66-plate offers: £1,500 off a Twingo and 0% finance

Renault announces 66-plate offers: £1,500 off a Twingo and 0% finance

Renault announces 66-plate offers: £1,500 off a Twingo and 0% finance

Renault has announced a series of offers aimed at tempting those considering a 66-plate car this September – including £1,500 off the list price of a new Twingo.

That saving is available across the Twingo range – meaning you can buy an entry-level SCe 70 Expression for £7,995, or a Colour Run special edition for £8,995. With a panoramic fabric roof plus any compatible ‘Exterior Touch Pack’ and ‘Interior Style Pack’ fitted as standard, the Colour Run already slashes £800 off the list price of a Twingo Play specced with the same equipment.

Following in the footsteps of Ford and MG, if you purchase a Clio, Captur, Kadjar or Megane through the company’s three-year Selections PCP package, you can save £500 following a test drive. This offer is on top of all existing offers, and runs from 22 August to 26 September – provided the car is registered by the end of September.

Renault announces 66-plate offers: £1,500 off a Twingo and 0% finance

In addition to that £500, Renault is also offering a £2,000 deposit contribution to Clio models. This means you can buy a Clio Play 1.2 for £159 a month over three years following a reasonable £947 deposit.

If you’re ready to switch to an electric car, the quirky Renault Zoe is available on a two-year Selections PCP deal for £189 a month, following a deposit of £1,499. Crucially, this includes the cost of leasing the battery – something that usually starts at £45 per month. You’ll also get a free 7kW wall-box for home charging.

Renault is also offering a deposit contribution towards the new Renault Megane when purchased through its PCP scheme. Adding the £500 test drive offer to a £1,750 manufacturer contribution means you can drive a new Megane from £219 a month following a customer deposit of £1,330.

Visit Renault’s website to find out more about these tempting deals – and check out the MR deals section to find out which other dealers you should be visiting.

Renault Clio: Retro Road Test

Renault Clio: Retro Road Test

Renault Clio: Retro Road Test

Revealed at the 1990 Paris Motor Show, sales of the original Renault Clio began in the UK a year later. That means it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – so we’ve gone back to the beginning to give an early Mk1 Clio the full MR Retro Road Test treatment.

What are its rivals?

What are its rivals?

A replacement for the Renault 5, the Clio was France’s answer to the Rover Metro, Vauxhall Nova and Ford Fiesta.

Which engines does it use?

Which engines does it use?

Buyers were given the choice of two petrol and two diesel engines. The model we’ve got on test here is the more powerful, fuel-injected 1.4-litre petrol, producing a hefty 60hp.

What’s it like to drive?

Which engines does it use?

Today, the original Renault Clio is an absolute delight to drive. Honestly. The cabin feels light and airy, with excellent visibility all-round. The engine, although asthmatic compared to the turbocharged units powering superminis today, is fine. Get it wound up and it’ll tick along with modern traffic without a fuss.

It’s surprising how refined the original Clio feels. This is an exceptionally good example (it’s from Renault’s heritage fleet), but the engine can barely be heard at low revs. Fortunately, it gets a more vocal as you approach its rev limiter – there’s no rev counter.

The steering is a bit heavy around town (no power assistance here), but it’s easy enough to dart in and out of traffic once you’re used to it. On the open road, it’s not the most communicative handler (and rolls a lot by today’s standards), but it’s OK.

Reliability and running costs

Reliability and running costs

French cars of this era don’t have the best reputation for reliability, but there’s not a great deal that goes wrong with the original Clio. They’re brilliantly simple. Of course, if you’re planning on running a car of this age it’s always worthwhile having breakdown cover, but we doubt it’d be any more likely to leave you stranded than its peers.

It’ll be cheap to run, too. More than 40mpg should be achievable on a day-to-day basis, and parts are cheap and readily available. Insurance is about as cheap as you can get.

Could I drive it every day?

Could I drive it every day?

Yeah, why not? Sure, don’t expect much in the way of creature comforts (although there is a radio that, in our test car, can only find Classic FM), and it’s probably wise to avoid crashing it.

How much should I pay?

How much should I pay?

The original Clio is yet to reach full classic status, so prices are very much in the banger territory – while they’re also getting too old to command a young driver premium. An Auto Trader search suggests you can pick one up for as little as £250, and we wouldn’t spend more than £1,000 on anything but the tidiest example.

What should I look out for?

What should I look out for?

It’s pretty standard stuff, really. Try to find a cared-for example, there must be many ‘one elderly owner from new’ cars out there. Avoid any that have been treated as cheap runarounds as they may have been maintained on a budget.

Rust isn’t a huge problem, but the arches do go, so look out for bubbles – and the automatic gearboxes can go wrong, so make sure you give it a thorough test drive. We’d prefer a manual, but make sure the clutch isn’t showing any signs of slipping.

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for a car that’s going to attract a crowd at a car show, this isn’t it. A Renault 5 or Citroen AX might be more of a classic, but there’s definitely a certain analogue charm to the Clio. If you find a good one, and look after it, it’s only a matter of time before all the rest will have disappeared.

Pub fact

Should I buy one?

For homologation purposes, Renault built the limited-edition Clio Williams. Named after the F1 team, the Clio Williams was powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and finished in a unique blue colour with distinctive gold alloys. It’s one of the most desirable hot hatches of the 1990s.

Renault Scenic 2016

New Renault Scenic revealed ahead of Geneva 2016 debut

Renault Scenic 2016Renault has revealed first images of its all-new Scenic, ahead of its world debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show next week.

The fourth generation Scenic compact MPV arrives two decades after Renault invented the downsized people carrier segment back in 1996 – and while sales of MPVs may be slipping, nearly five million Scenic sales to date suggest it’s still a significant segment for Renault.

Renault Scenic 2016

The new Scenic is the first to benefit from design guru Laurens van den Acker’s influence and, like so many modern Renaults, is significantly more stylish and appealing than the boxy vehicle it replaces.

It has a higher ground clearance and shorter rear overhang, while wider tracks front and rear give it a tougher, more planted stance. Like the new Megane, it has distinctive headlights including LED Pure Vision technology.

This is the first Scenic to feature a three-part panoramic windscreen, following the lead of the larger (and sadly not-for-UK) Espace.

Renault says it’s a “completely fresh take on the compact MPV”. We can see if we agree at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show next week: doors open on 1 March.

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 Clio 220 Trophy

Renaultsport Clio 220 Trophy (2015) road test review

Harder, faster, stronger – but is Renault’s new Clio Trophy better?

Renaultsport Clio 220 TrophyRenaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: What is it?

Stung by criticism of the standard Clio 200 hot hatch, Renault has responded with the Clio 220 Trophy. As its name suggests, it boasts an extra 20hp, plus 40% stiffer suspension, sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and a quicker-shifting semi-automatic gearbox. Can the Trophy restore Renaultsport’s reputation?

Renaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: What are its rivals?

The Ford Fiesta ST looms large over this sector, but the Clio also faces strong competition from the MINI Cooper, Peugeot 208 GTI and Volkswagen Polo GTI. The MINI is characterful but expensive, the 208 is at its best in pricey Peugeot Sport spec and the Polo is perhaps a tad civilised for its own good. And the Fiesta? It’s a modern classic.

03_renaultsport_clioRenaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: Which engines does it use?

The Clio packs a 220hp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine mated – controversially – to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. There’s no manual option. Use the launch control and it sprints to 62mph in 6.6 seconds, with a top speed of 146mph.

Renaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: What’s it like to drive?

A big  improvement on the standard Clio 200. In fact, on the right road, the Trophy comes close to brilliance. It turns in eagerly, and there’s no shortage of grip from the track-biased tyres (well, on dry roads at least). The EDC ’box blats through the gears and you can press and hold the paddle for multiple downshifts at once – Ferrari F12-style. However, when you’re not ‘on it’ in R.S. mode, the Clio feels decidedly ordinary. Its jittery ride that could prove wearing on longer journeys, too.

07_renaultsport_clioRenaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: Fuel economy and running costs

Stay away from launch control, R.S. mode and all the other things that make this Clio fun and you could manage a respectable 47.9mpg. CO2 emissions of 135g/km mean annual car tax (VED) of £130 at 2015 rates.

Renaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: Is it practical?

The current Clio is only available with five doors, and its 300-litre boot is one of the biggest in the class. It’s still on the small side for a family car, though – and we wonder how well its flimsy interior would stand up to repeated school runs. On the plus side, Renault offers a generous four-year/100,000-mile warranty on all new cars.

04_renaultsport_clioRenaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: What about safety?

Safety is one of Renault’s strengths, and the Clio in no exception. It gained a five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests and scored an impressive 88% for adult occupant safety, plus 89% for child safety.

Renaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: Which version should I go for?

If your heart is set on a Renaultsport Clio, the Trophy is the one to go for. It costs a hefty £2,650 more than the regular 200, but feels markedly more focused and fun to drive. Just be wary of pricey extras, such as the matte white paint of our test car (£1,300).

09_renaultsport_clioRenaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: Should I buy one?

You know what we’re going to say, don’t you? The Clio 220 Trophy is good, but it isn’t ‘Fiesta ST good’. While the Renault only really comes alive at ‘maximum attack’, the Ford simply feels special all of the time – whether you’re pottering or pushing it. The fact that the Fiesta costs up to £4,000 less than the Clio seals the deal. Even in top ST-3 spec, the Fiesta is still £2,000 cheaper.

Renaultsport Clio 220 Trophy: Pub fact

Renaultsport’s factory in Dieppe will soon become the venue for the rebirth of Alpine – a long-defunct French sports car manufacturer that used Renault engines. The forthcoming Alpine sports car may share its platform with the Nissan GT-R.

 

Renault Wind

Renault trumped! Why the Wind failed to set sail

Renault WindIt probably wasn’t Renault’s plan to name one of its cars after a mildly unpleasant human condition, but the condition in question was what some people thought of when the Wind was mentioned.

Which is a shame, because wind of the wind-in-the-hair kind was what this dinky little Renault was supposed to be about. A completely reskinned and rather stylish two-seat machine based on the Twingo, the Wind also benefitted from RenaultSport tuned suspension.

It was a combination that promised some satisfyingly deft moments on country backroads, especially as both the engines offered were decently perky devices, one a turbocharged 1.2 of 100PS, the other a 133bhp variably-valve timed 1.6.

The Wind’s cool roof

Renault Wind

But the most intriguing thing about the Wind was its roof. Hinged at the rear, it would perform a 180 degree flip into the boot as an encore to the near-dizzying rise of its long rear deck lid, which lifted near-vertically to accommodate the Wind’s top.

Renault Wind

The whole process was automated and took only 12 seconds, although you needed to be stationary for the car to perform its lightly spectacular transformation.

Renault Wind

 

And this design avoided the humiliating surprise potentially suffered by occupants of Ferrari’s limited edition 550 Barchetta, whose flip-back roof simply folded onto the car’s bootlid. Come the sudden downpour, that rain-collecting lid could part-fill before spilling its contents over your head as you closed the car from the rainstorm above.

The Wind’s system was much better thought-through and would doubtless have been more expensive to make too, even if it was less complex than the folding roof of your traditional cabriolet.

Not cheap to develop

Renault Wind

The entire Wind project can’t have been cheap to develop, in fact. Not only were no exterior panels shared with the Twingo, but neither was its interior, the car getting a bespoke dashboard, centre console and door trims.

It was just the kind of intriguing niche derivative that journalists often chivvy manufacturers to build, rave over briefly at launch, and then forget about. Your reporter is among the guilty.

And there was quite a lot to rave about. The Wind’s low weight – just 1173kg as a 1.6 – and well-sorted suspension produced an entertainingly nimble drive, its agility heightened by its small scale and relative peppiness.

In some ways the 1.2 turbo was the better buy, this engine generating barely any less torque than the 1.6, and earlier in the rev range. Carefully weighted, well-placed pedals, a slickety-snick gearchange and revvy engines made a modest entertainer of this Renault, even if it wasn’t blazingly fast.

Cool Wind

Renault Wind

Windy downsides? Despite being an open-top car, this Renault’s curiously high flanks, big and steeply raked windscreen and small roof meant that you didn’t feel particularly exposed to the sky above, even if you dropped the windows.

Its steering was a bit too numb, the 1.6 motor needed a lot of revving to give its best and the road noise yelling from its mildly fat tyres could be enough to have you longing to get out. The will to escape was not countered especially strongly by the Wind’s interior, either.

Renault Wind

It may have been bespoke, and flaunted an instrument binnacle shrouding some rather sexy dial shrouds, but the low-grade plastics surfacing much of its cabin were almost as disappointingly as the steering wheel, which could have come from one of Renault’s vans.

But for all that it was quite an agreeable car, a lot more fun than your average cabrio on the right roads, and it looked pretty different. Renault launched the Wind in the middle of the summer of 2010 with prices starting from £15,500 and a range of no less than six models, later expanded when the GT Line and Gordini were added.

That turned out to be a lot of derivatives for relatively few buyers, the Wind’s life abruptly cut short by the sales and profitability crisis engulfing Renault UK during 2011.

Wound up

Renault Wind

A persistently unfavourable pound-to-euro exchange rate meant that models had either to be sold at a loss-making competitive price, or the reverse. And the effect was to trigger a sharp decline in sales and profits, prompting Renault’s UK managers to initiate a rather brutal cull of their range.

All the company’s low volume models were to be deleted, including several supposedly high-volume cars that weren’t, like the Laguna, Modus and Kangoo, besides the niche Wind and Espace.

So early in 2012, after not much more than 18 months on sale, Renault’s unusual sports two-seater had gone from the UK, and would only live another year in mainland Europe, being deleted in June 2013.

The result was that the Wind made as much impact on the British car market as the softest zephyr nuzzling a doldrum-marooned yacht. Only 2300-odd were sold, because the Wind’s UK life was cut short.

An ill Wind

Renault Wind

Like many specialty models it was a bit of a firework car, sales climbing high at first, only to fall to earth like a spent rocket. You could see that in its sales graph, the Wind initially registering around 300 sales per month, then 200, then 100 by the end of 2012. So it was already fading out when it was dropped.

That Renault also terminated around a third of its dealers around this time can’t have helped, but neither did the Wind’s slightly effete look, which ran counter to its more dynamic innards. It was not a bloke’s car, and that closed it off to plenty of sales.

Now it’s almost forgotten, unsurprisingly given that the already small pool (or should be whirl?) of 2300 Winds is now being reduced by attrition. You don’t often see one.

For Renault the Wind was ultimately an ill one (sorry), but the good news is that the company has not been discouraged from selling niche models, the next to arrive stemming from the rebirth its sporting Alpine marque.

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Renault Kadjar review: 2015 first drive

01_Renault KadjarRenault Kadjar: Overview

You may have heard that the Scrabble dictionary was updated recently. New words including ‘twerking’, ‘shizzle’ and ‘ridic’ can now earn you points or perhaps even a triple-word score. One word that’s conspicuously absent from the Scrabble lexicon, though, is ‘crossover’. And that’s surprising, because these high-rise hatchbacks are fast becoming the most popular type of new car. Indeed, Renault says that one in five cars sold around the world today is a crossover.

It seems odd, therefore, that Renault has taken so long to bring a C-segment (VW Golf-sized) crossover to market. Especially since its alliance partner, Renault, launched the wildly successful Qashqai back in 2006. As you’d expect, the Kadjar is closely based on the Qashqai, and it follows the same formula: a roomy five-seat interior wrapped in swoopy, SUV styling.

Buyers have a choice of three engines: 130hp 1.2 TCe petrol, 100hp 1.5 dCi diesel and 130hp 1.6 dCi diesel. A dual-clutch automatic gearbox is available with the dCi 110 engine, while four-wheel drive is offered on higher-spec versions of the dCi 130. All other models drive through the front wheels only. The Kadjar will cost from £17,995 when it goes on sale in July 2015.

Oh, and don’t expect to see the word ‘Kadjar’ in any dictionary soon. It’s an abbreviation of the French terms for ‘quad’ and ‘agility’, apparently. Sadly, it will earn you nul points on a Scrabble board.

02_Renault KadjarRenault Kadjar: On the road

Car manufacturers usually bend over backwards to tell you how ‘sporty’ their new model is, but Renault didn’t use the S-word once during its press conference for the new Kadjar. Instead, the focus was on comfort – surely a higher priority for most crossover buyers than on-the-limit handling.

And yes, the Kadjar is comfortable, although its suspension feels firmer that you might expect. Speed humps and potholes are soaked up smoothly, but the ride feels jittery on uneven road surfaces. The larger 19in alloy wheels of Dynamique S Nav and Signature versions don’t help.

Tackle a twisty road and the Kadjar is competent if hardly, well… sporty. There’s a decent amount of feedback through the chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel and the six-speed manual gearbox feels slick. Nonetheless, that lofty ride height means a fair degree of body-roll when you push on. You can’t defeat the laws of physics.

Frustratingly, the 110hp 1.5 diesel engine, which is likely to be the bestseller, was not available at the launch. It’s on-paper performance is good, though, with 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds – or 11.7 seconds with the EDC auto gearbox. We tried the 130hp 1.2 petrol first, which hits 62mph in 10.1 seconds. An audible turbo whistle when accelerating lends it some character, yet it’s also smooth and very refined at speed. The 130hp 1.6 diesel (10.5sec) is noisier, but its extra mid-range punch is welcome on the open road. However, the price premium makes this engine difficult for most buyers to justify (see Verdict for more details).

03_Renault KadjarRenault Kadjar: On the inside

Inside, the Kadjar has a high driving position that allows you to literally look down on other road users. Unless they’re also driving crossovers, of course. The well-padded seats are very comfortable, although we found the pedals were offset to the right in our (left-hand-drive) test cars.

Its stylish dashboard is dominated by a large digital speedo and – in our car – flashes of tasteful carbonfibre-look trim. The quality of the plastics won’t worry the premium brands, though. Renault’s R-Link 2 touchscreen media system is standard on all but entry-level versions, and is a marked improvement on the original version. You can swipe between screens like an iPad and download a wide range of apps. Unfortunately, its relatively low position means taking your eyes off the road to use it.

The Kadjar is slightly bigger than its sister Qashqai, which translates into enough rear-seat space for three adults (or two adults in comfort) and an additional 42 litres of luggage capacity. Its 472-litre volume compares to 316 litres in a Ford Focus and 416 litres in a Skoda Yeti. Better-equipped versions have handles in the boot for one-touch folding of the 60/40-split rear seat, plus there’s an adjustable-height floor to make loading large objects easier. Elsewhere in the cabin, you’ll find plenty of useful stowage space and a front passenger seat that folds forward into a table.

Trim levels start with Expression+, then Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav. All come with six airbags, cruise control, hill-start assist (to stop you rolling backwards), air conditioning, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. The Dynamique Nav adds sat nav, along with R-Link 2 and automatic lights/wipers. Upgrading to Dynamique S Nav gets you 19in alloys, front and rear parking sensors, and heated door mirrors. And the range-topping Signature Nav comes fully loaded with LED headlights, panoramic sunroof and a thumping Bose audio system.

04_Renault KadjarRenault Kadjar: Running costs

Affordable running costs have been key to the Qashqai’s success. In essence it offers SUV-style without the hefty fuel and car tax bills. The same is true of the Kadjar, which boasts fuel-efficiency on par with many medium hatchbacks.

The economy champion is the 110hp 1.5 diesel, with a claimed 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km (low enough for free car tax). Impressively, those figures stay the same with the EDC automatic gearbox, although you’ll pay a £1,200 premium for choosing it in the first place.

The gutsier 130hp 1.6 diesel returns 65.7mpg and 113g/km, which still equates to annual car tax of just £30 at 2015 rates. Choosing four-wheel-drive (a £1,500 option) cuts economy to 58.8mpg and bumps emissions up to 126g/km, so Renault expects just 8% of Kadjar buyers to do so.

As you’d expect, the 130hp 1.2 petrol is the least efficient of the engines on offer; it manages a respectable 50.4mpg and 126g/km CO2. You’ll need to work it harder than the diesels, though – not a chore, but you’ll be lucky to match those figures in real-world driving.

Predicted resale values for the Kadjar are among the best in the class, which helps reduce overall running costs. Pricing expert CAP says the Renault will retain around 42% of its purchase price after three years and 60,000 miles. Compare that to 39% for a Volkswagen Tiguan, 38% for a Qashqai and just 28% for a Peugeot 3008.

05_Renault KadjarRenault Kadjar: Verdict

Renault had a head-start by basing its crossover on the successful and very capable Nissan Qashqai. And there’s no reason to think the Kadjar won’t be a strong seller, too; it’s practical, comfortable, efficient and competitively priced.

In fact, we think the French car looks and drives better than its Japanese cousin, so perhaps Renault has a winner on its hands. A Volkswagen Golf is ultimately a better medium-sized car, but if you want pumped-up 4×4 styling, the Kadjar should definitely be on your shortlist.

A word of warning when it comes to choosing engines, though. Renault says 80% of buyers will opt for a diesel, but the 1.2 petrol may work out cheaper unless you drive a lot of miles. Assuming you cover 10,000 miles a year, for example, the £3,100 premium for the 130hp diesel over the 130hp petrol would take you 14 years to recover via reduced fuel bills. Even paying £1,900 extra for the 110hp diesel will take six years to claw back.

Renault Kadjar 1.2 TCe Dynamique Nav

Price: £19,695

Engine: 1.2-litre petrol

Gearbox: 6-speed manual

Power: 130hp

Torque: 151lb ft

0-62mph: 10.1 seconds

Top speed: 119mph

Fuel economy: 50.4mpg

CO2 emissions: 126g/km