Renault is on the attack with a bunch of new or upgraded models and with attractive fluid styling the latest Megane looks like Renault’s best shot at getting their foot in the door… again
Renault. Remember them? Technically they never left New Zealand, but then they were never really here either. Marketing budgets have always, understandably, been minimal for our market and French car brands can’t avoid being a boutique proposition here. Add previously unfavourable exchange rates and it’s no real wonder sales haven’t worried the likes of Audi or BMW. Despite the cars often demonstrating more flair aesthetically, amazing practicality, acceptable drive characteristics (jaw-droppingly brilliant in the Renault Sport range) and cutting edge safety.
OK, so you’re up to speed with what’s been happening – or maybe what’s not been happening – now let’s look forward. Renault is on the attack with a bunch of new or upgraded models and with attractive fluid styling the latest Megane looks like Renault’s best shot at getting their foot in the door… again.
Available in two trim levels and manual or CVT automatic the range wisely sticks to the basics for now but you’re not hard done by either. On the entry level car you get a USB / iPod friendly audio system, Bluetooth audio streaming (plays music files wirelessly from your phone) a cooled glove box and keyless, push-button start functionality, cruise control and speed limiter, auto lights and wipers, six airbags and stability control. It’s all packaged in a simple, but practical and stylish interior that avoids hard plastics in the key areas too.
So it’s easy on the eye, but now Renault NZ has managed to bring the car to market with an aggressive pricing strategy. The base model starts at $31,990; a CVT auto transmission adds $3000. Let’s put that into perspective. Hyundai’s latest shopping trolley for nana, the i20, will set you back a cool $26,990. What you get for a mere $5k leap in the Renault is worlds apart in quality, refinement and practicality.
Want more and a ‘luxury’ option package can be added to the CVT car that upgrades specification with leather upholstery, dual zone climate A/C, and parking assistance to top Megane offerings at $39,990. Through a technology joint venture between Renault and TomTom you can even specify an affordable $1450 integrated SatNav. (As mobile-based navigation solutions become more prevalent, TomTom globally are looking at becoming a satellite software provider rather than device manufacturer.)
The drive is typical of the brand; firm rides and superior handling characteristics are saved for the Megane’s harder three-door RS250 cup and Trophee variants, while the four door softens the experience to better suit the average punter.
It’s refined on the coarse chip, compliant and well behaved when pressed fairly hard, but vagueness to the steering and the expected pitch and roll of the comfy suspension, ultimately, invalidates it as a driver’s car.
The combination of the 103kW and 195Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine and CVT motivates the Megane with acceptable enthusiasm, and while it’s more economical than the six-speed manual sipping just 7.9L/100km (manual 8.2L/100km), the typical CVT frustrations around the revvy nature of their operation when pulling away from lights remain. Give me the manual thanks.
As a hatchback the Megane is blessed with the French’s clever thinking and practical approach to space. There isn’t the multitudinous seating configurations you’ll find in Renault’s Scenic, but the interior has been proportioned excellently between occupant and luggage-carrying requirements.
Back seat passengers don’t feel cramped for legroom and two adults would be comfortable here, three kids would also prove no problem for the rear chairs. Meanwhile you also have an adequate 405-litre boot which expands with the split fold seats. The sleekish roofline compromises space for taller items, but that’s hardly a deal breaker given the rest of the package.
Boutique option? Sure. And if secondhand Renault web searches are any validation, depreciation will not be kind, but finally you’re getting everything (and more) you expect from a Corolla here, value for money included. Especially when you factor the pseudo-premium brand perception and arresting looks.
See the Renault Megane for sale.