– Value-packed pricing
– Fair cabin features
– Decent ride and handling
– Not very fast
– Average rear legroom
– Some hard cabin plastics
The car-buying mentality of the common budget-conscious GCC expat usually does not stretch beyond a handful of popular Japanese brands. But then there are always a fearless few like us, who go ahead and experiment with something from the lesser-known brands, sans any paranoia, like the all-new 2014 Renault Megane 2.0 hatchback. Given its attractive price, we actually bought one.
In its latest iteration, the Megane has been around for quite some time, trying its luck in the compact hatchback segment here. It has evolved from its controversially edgy styling into a more modest profile, with cleaner lines, bulging front and rear fenders, and a swooping roofline. The external touches include daytime running lamps, 16-inch alloys, indicator lights on side mirrors, and not much else. The modesty continues into the cabin too, with a neat dash layout sporting a multi-functional display on top. A geeky bit is the absolute absence of analog gauges, replaced by a digital speedo and two separate monochrome LCD screens in the gauge cluster, which display the fuel level, engine temperature, cruise-control and speed-limiter information, trip computer, vehicle settings and various other info.
Apart from the soft-touch top dash, and cloth inserts in the doors and center armrest, everything else is expectedly hard plastic, albeit of good quality and tightly put together. The cloth seats are mildly bolstered, wide enough and comfortable. For a compact hatch, the Megane offers decent legroom and headroom throughout, although taller folks may not really prefer travelling in the rear seats. Boot space is remarkable though, at least when compared to rival hatchbacks.
Renault has always been famed for the tech features in their cars, and the Megane is no exception in its class, although many of the competitors have now caught up. Starting with the smart card-key for the keyless entry and push-button start, features include Bluetooth with music streaming support, an average-sounding 6-speaker audio system supporting AUX and USB, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a strong Nissan-sourced dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, cruise-control with speed-limiter function, rear parking sensors, four airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, and anti-pinch power windows.
Propelling the Megane is a four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine mated to a CVT transmission, both sourced from Nissan, making 140 hp at 6000 rpm and 195 Nm of torque at 3750 rpm. While it feels slower than a 1.8-litre Nissan Sentra, the Megane is still a decent performer, clocking 0-100 kph in 11.2 seconds during our December tests. On full throttle, it sounds as loud as a dying cat in a blender, but a less-heavy foot rewards you with much better mileage. Ignoring the ridiculously-inaccurate trip computer, our manual calculations revealed fuel consumption to be at 9.3 l/100 km, going as low as 7.8 l/100 km on freeway runs.
For the record though, we found our car to be a severe underperformer when brand new, with excruciatingly slow acceleration, terrible transmission lag and pathetic fuel efficiency. However, things gradually took a turn as our car sailed past 10,000 km, with the engine properly broken in.
Once up to speed, the Megane exhibits commendable composure, with very good resistance to crosswinds. The suspension is tuned in a typical European fashion. Though outclassed by the Ford Focus, the Megane does very good in corners nonetheless, and is fairly smooth on the road with some firmness felt on uneven roads. When pushed beyond limits, the Megane safely understeers. Feedback from the speed-sensitive electric power-steering and pedals are modest. Apart from the loud engine and CVT whine at full throttle, the interior is fairly quiet at highway speeds, with only some wind noise after 110 kph. Oddly enough, the CVT lets out some occasional howls and whistles in low-speed city driving, a phenomenon which we’ve never come across in any other CVT-equipped cars.
All in all, the all-new 2014 Renault Megane is a decent contender in the compact hatch segment which nobody really notices, as it manages all the basics well, but doesn’t do anything significantly better than its rivals. Couple that with Renault’s reputation here as well as competition from partner Nissan itself, the Megane is destined to remain a rarity in the Middle East. However, it does happen to be the only car in its segment to boast both European-grade handling and safety as well as Japanese-grade potential reliability and value for money. Add to that longer service intervals, cheap service costs and support from a reputed dealer, and the Renault Megane actually starts to make sense.
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