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Renault Megane Sport Tourer Privilege TomTom dCi 130

Click to view picture gallery“Downsizing and down-pricing
  especially if the car you own, lease
  or run as company transport has to
  create the right image
has become
  something of an art. Which begs the
  question: Do I look posh in this?

TAKE, FOR INSTANCE, THE RELATIVELY NEW RENAULT MEGANE SPORT TOURER, priced from 15,855 to 23,975. This is a C-segment (or lower medium sector) vehicle but in perceived size and looks it could easily be mistaken for a D-segment Laguna (priced from 19,450 to 27,100). So, a good prospect for an image-saving downsize?

At 4,559mm long, the smartly-styled Megane Sport Tourer is only marginally shorter in length than the Laguna Estate (4,803mm); and the all-important estate load area is 486 litres with the seats up or 1,562 litres with them folded for the Megane against the Laguna's 501 and 1,593 litres. And for company car drivers, the Megane also offers lower Benefit-in-Kind tax levels. Both ranges have a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines and trim and equipment levels.

Despite the Scrappage Scheme, Renault's new car sales suffered in the recession — down nearly 30% last year (to 63,174 units) on 2008's total of 89,570. But this year, with new models in the showrooms, things have changed: sales for the first seven months are up by a very healthy 101% to 58,607 new car registrations.

Fleet and business user-chooser customers make up the majority of Renault's new medium- and large-sized car sales in the UK but retail buyers should not overlook the brand as the latest model ranges offer some well-priced and smartly-styled options.

If you need a family-
sized, work-and-play
estate car,
the Megane Sport Tourer
is a good option.
It seems well built
and its expensive looks
and styling
make it an attractive
I have just spent a week with the new-ish Megane Sport Tourer five-door estate; specifically, the 1.9-litre dCi 130 turbodiesel in top-of-the-range Privilege TomTom specification.

Priced at 22,090, this model is not the best buy in the range but it was the only car Renault could supply after another motoring journalist managed to damage my scheduled test model.

If it was me buying, leasing or contract-hiring a Megane Sport Tourer, I would be looking at the 18,915 1.5-litre dCi 106 Expression because it has a Euro 5-compliant engine, incurs no road tax in its first year (and only 30 for the following years) and has a reasonable 13% BIK company car tax. By comparion, the Euro 4 emissions 1.9-litre dCi 130 model gets hit with a 110 annual road tax bill and 18% in BIK costs — not that bad, but these days every penny counts.

There is nothing revolutionary, unique or particularly new about the Megane Sport Tourer over, say, the estate versions of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, the excellent VW Golf and the popular Peugeot 308.

That said, the Renault looks really sharp and classy: its rising waistline gives the side view a sporting stance, and makes the vehicle look quite long and substantial. At the rear, the load area is sensibly styled and doesn't sacrifice too much practical carrying space to fashion in the shape of a steeply, forward-raked tailgate.

The interior seems well built and laid out with good quality materials and a digital instrument panel. The rear legroom is good, as too is the headroom, so it measures up pretty well for family, work or leisure transport.

Core features for all models include electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, five height-adjustable head restraints, Renault's unique keycard entry/exit system, multi-function computer, remote central locking, anti-lock braking, electronic control handling and front, rear and side airbags.

The base Extreme model comes with a good radio/CD sound system, manual air conditioning and electrically-operated front windows. As usual, the more you pay the more you get and the Privilege version (as reviewed here) has more or less everything that would ever be needed. These items include 16-inch alloy wheels, folding door mirrors, automatic dual-zone climate control, electric windows front and rear, rear parking sensors and part-leather upholstery to go with the leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Ride comfort was fine even on the optional
17-inch wheels —
a little on the soft side
but after a few weeks of
driving cars with
sports specification
it made a refreshing and
comfortable change
The layout of the controls is generally good although the short, stubby stalks mounted behind the steering wheel are out of the driver's vision.

Ride comfort was fine even on the optional 17-inch roads wheels — a little on the soft side but after a few weeks of driving cars with sports specification suspension it made a refreshing and comfortable change.

The Megane Sport Tourer is not the most dynamic handling of cars in this class (such as the Golf or Focus) but for most people it will be more than acceptable. Road holding is sure-footed with the usual tendency for understeer when pushed but it is consistent so you know where the parameters are.

There are some fine new engines in the range, both petrol and diesel, but the 1.9-litre dCi 130bhp common-rail turbodiesel engine is still only Euro 4-compliant, so its production life span is limited.

Top speed is an immaterial 127mph with zero to 62mph taking a brisk 9.8 seconds. With 221lb ft of torque available from 1,750rpm, the mid-range response — without having to fully use the six-speed manual gearbox — made it tireless to drive and quite rapid when needed for overtaking dawdling traffic on single carriageway country roads.

The official Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 55.4mpg and my test car returned an overall 50.2mpg — good in this sector despite its Euro 4 rating. And the more modern 1.5-litre dCi 105bhp would no doubt suffice for most owners in this family transport sector.

Owners opting for a Megane Sport Tourer will get sharp, classy and expensive-looking styling, practical load space, a comfortable and well built interior and a compliant ride along with a good range of engine options. My only criticisms of the Euro 4-compliant test model is that this version is expensive to buy and run, and the predicted residual values could be better.

If you need a family-sized, work-and-play estate car, the Megane Sport Tourer is a good option. It seems well put together and its expensive looks and styling make it an attractive proposition but it is not cheap if the published prices are in fact the real-life transaction price. Given the economic climate, no doubt a deal can be had; if not, look at the much cheaper Kia Cee'd SW or Hyundai i30 Estate, both exceptionally good value and good-looking alternatives. — David Miles

Renault Megane Sport Tourer Privilege TomTom dCi 130
| 22,090
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds | Overall test MPG: 50.2mpg
Power: 130bhp | Torque: 221lb ft | CO2 134g/km