Good-looking. Refined and comfy. Clever PHEV version
Not an engaging drive
What is it?
The Renault Megane is, on the whole, a pretty but slightly uncompelling hatch. Soz, but there you are. Its smaller sibling, the Clio, has always been the one to enchant the mass audience. Insert your own celebrity sibling-rivalry analogy here.
But don't go away just yet. The RS (especially the Trophy-R) shows there's magic in the Megane range. And now there's another version that's unrivalled in its field. Its the Megane Sport Tourer E-Tech. Where Sport Tourer equals estate and E-Tech equals plug-in hybrid.
As a car for real family life, especially if it's on a company-car scheme, this could actually be a brilliant alternative to the default diesel crossover. Better looking, better ride and handling, potentially far more economical. And with gazillions in BIK savings.
So that's the car we'll be concentrating on in the review. But be aware the rest of the range shares a micro-facelift. It's an entirely predictable but not unwelcome go-over: LED head and tail-lights, lightly modernised trim, a pair of bigger tellies on the dash, more driver assist. You could have written that list yourself.
Here's why the E-Tech deserves to be taken seriously. Most PHEVs are just a normal turbo engine and DCT transmission, with an electric motor wedged between. Renault's E-Tech system goes much further. It's efficient, and yet light. You can read more technical details here.
In short, the naturally aspirated engine is specially developed to work with the unique multi-gear transmission and its electric motors. The engine can be very simple because it mostly runs in a small area of the load/rpm map. The brakes are a full blended system for proper regeneration.
This means it can operate economically even when the electric miles have been exhausted – and indeed it's the same system as fitted to the Clio E-Tech which doesn't have a socket. It's only really Toyota, Ford and Mitsubishi who have such a thorough approach to the PHEV powertrain. But their PHEVs are mostly crossovers not estates.
Our choice from the range
What is the verdict?
The Megane is a pretty car, quiet, and well-equipped. But so are some rivals. The Megane's trick is the smooth ride. Most cars this size have a sportier suspension tune, which you might not want for your family bus. And the ones that are this comfy are usually baggier than the Renault in the steering department.
But at Top Gear we value a bit of spirit in the driving. Compared with crossovers, the Megane is fine, but as a hatch or estate it's pretty unengaging. So across most of the Megane range we'd struggle to find a reason to send you to a Renault dealer.
But if your driving is mostly a commute, and you have somewhere to install the charge socket, the E-Tech is definitely worth a look. Again it's no ball of excitement, but it uses energy well, and is hassle-free and thrifty for long journeys.