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Renault Megane 1.9 dCi 130 Dynamique 5-door

Click to view picture galleryThe previous Renault Megane
  hatch was famous for the ‘shaking
  derriere
advertising campaign
  but in her latest incarnation the
  French lady has become more
  rounded, more mature and a touch
  more sophisticated; more Parisian.
  And not just at the rear
...

THE MORE GROWN-UP FIVE-DOOR MEGANE Hatch range features sleek and elegant styling and, with prices starting from 13,735, will suit downsizers moving from Renault
's Laguna which itself has recently been significantly updated for looks. Both have improved quality with better specifications.

The new Megane Hatch is a complete renewal for Renault in a market slot where sport and passion are design features. The Hatch still has to compete with some very strong competition in the form of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf plus the Peugeot 308, Citroen C4 and Mazda3. So even with its new-found elegance the latest Megane is still going to find it tough in a declining market.

There are three trim levels for the new Megane Hatch: Expression, the best-selling Dynamique and Privilege. Air conditioning, loads of safety equipment, new-generation variable power-assisted steering, electrically-operated windows and heated electrically-adjustable door mirrors are included as core features on all models.

The top selling Dynamique Hatch specification includes additional items such as 16-inch alloy wheels, upgraded sound system with Bluetooth, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, cruise control, leather-trimmed steering wheel and front fog lights.

Active and passive safety systems for all models include as standard ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) with ASR (Anti-Skid Regulation) and CSV understeer control, ABS and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and the Hatch has, in addition, a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Currently there are four petrol and three diesel engines on offer, including a new high-efficiency 2.0 TCe 180bhp turbocharged petrol unit and new 1.9 dCi 130bhp turbodiesel. All dCi diesel engines meet Renault 'eco2' environmental standards for performance and manufacturing, with CO2 emissions from 118g/km for the dCi 86 engine option.

My test model — the likely best-selling model from the new range — was the Megane Hatch 1.9 dCi 130 Dynamique five-door with an on-the-road price of 17,585. However, with the market in a recessionary state deals can be had.

Renault's statement that their new Megane heralds in a new age of higher quality, better specification and driveability all seems true. This looks a classy 'motor' both inside and out and not just another family-sized five-door hatch. The strong styling lines and lower roofline with a rising waistline together give this five-door a coupe-esque side profile. The 'shaking' rear end has gone and is now more rounded and less radical but I didn't find the new front face that appealing and in relation to the rest of the car it looks somewhat bland.

“The handling is first
class for a family car
of this size...”
Inside the Hatch, the overall impression of a big improvement in quality is evident — it just feels and looks a better product. It is not all perfect but it is definitely easy to live with. Good quality materials are used throughout; the equipment levels are higher and the part-digital, part-analogue dials fit happily together although the centre console controls are a bit fussy and it takes time to get used to them.

Being long-legged, I found it difficult to get my legs under the steering wheel during entry or exiting the Hatch even though the seat and steering column are height and reach adjustable. Once settled, the driving position was good.

Rear passengers will find their seating area cramped and the headroom is not as good as on the previous Megane Hatch and neither is the boot space (372-1,129 litres); the split-folding rear seats will not fold down if the front seats are in their rearmost position. And because of the design's low roofline and slanting tailgate, rear visibility is also restricted.

The Megane Hatch hasn't earned a five-star rating from me — until now: the new model's ride comfort is first class and the suspension mops up the imperfections in our UK roads. The handling is also first class for a family car of this size. The ride can be a little jittery, but I'm happy to put up with that for the sake of some reasonable comfort without losing the Megane's very good roadholding capabilities.

The new 1.9-litre engine is also impressive, with 128bhp (130hp) and notable torque of 221lb ft from 1,750rpm. It is the 'pulling' power from really low speeds that impresses — the result, in part, of the use of a new design of turbocharger where the turbine blades spin up from low speeds more quickly to boost power. The resulting responsiveness mid-range and the 53.3mpg average fuel economy my test car achieved for all types of motoring conditions are just the right characteristics for the majority of today's motorists. As is the VED road tax Band C rating costing 120.

To finish an exemplary technical package is a six-speed manual transmission with all the right gear ratios that ensures just about perfect, effortless driving and rewarding performance with good real-life fuel economy.

Whilst everything is not perfect with the new Renault Megane Hatch — there will still be issues with residual values and there's the poor (for a medium-sized hatchback) rear head and leg room and restricted rear visibility due to tailgate window design — overall the product is a vast improvement in quality and driveability over the previous 'derriere shaking' model.

Plus points include the much improved quality throughout, higher levels of specification, classy design inside and out, excellent ride comfort and controlled handling and responsive fuel efficient engine. — David Miles

Renault Megane 1.9 dCi 130 Dynamique 5-door
| 17,585
Maximum speed: 120mph | 0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 53.3mpg | Power: 128bhp | Torque: 221lb ft
CO2 134g/km | VED Band C 120 | Insurance group 9E