Renault is as aware as any manufacturer of the market’s move towards SUVs in recent years. In the first eight months of this year, 27,367 of its 50,837 registrations were for either the Captur, its best-seller, or the Kadjar, according to Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) statistics.
As Megane sales slumped towards the end of its life-cycle (down 35% in hatchback form and 54% as a coupé year-on-year) it was Renault’s loftier family vehicles that drove it to 15.4% growth year-to-date.
Now there is hope the all-new Megane might be able to add to that tally and take a chunk out of the big-selling trio of Golf, Focus and Astra who continue to battle against the SUV trend.
Paul Flanagan, managing director, Groupe Renault UK, said: “Obviously we have seen the C-segment move towards SUVs – a trend we have benefited from – but the bulk of sales are still in the more conventional hatchback style and the new Megane is well placed to take advantage.”
Prices for the fourth-generation Megane start at £16,600 in a range featuring six trim levels which top out with the £25,500 202bhp GT Nav 205.
Renault aims to take a big step forward in terms of quality, refinement and technology with its new C-segment contender. Among specification highlights are: Multi-sense programmable drivetrain; Renault’s R-Link 2 8.7-inch vertical touchscreen display; a configurable 7-inch TFT instrument cluster; and LED lighting front and rear with an automatic dip function.
Intelligent safety features are also present, with adaptive cruise control, active emergency braking, lane departure, blind spot and safe distance warnings, traffic sign recognition with overspeed prevention, an automated parking system and 360-degree parking sensors.
Among the technical highlights of the range-topping GT, meanwhile, are 4Control four-wheel steering and a seven-speed EDC dual clutch, automatic gearbox with multiple downshift and launch control functions.
Former Ford man Flanagan took up his post on May 1 with the Megane entering dealerships two months later as the brand celebrated a 21% year-on-year sales rise (44,570) in H1.
Flanagan said: “The technology and the quality of the new model really do represent steps up so I know our dealers will benefit from its inclusion in the range.”
Renault launched the all-new Megane with PCP offers on the entry-level Expression+ TCe 110 and Dynamique S dCi 110.
Both were pitched at 3.9% APR, the former commanding £219-per-month repayments with a £1,830 customer contribution (£1,750 dealer contribution), the latter requiring a, £2,140 customer deposit to realise £269-per-month repayments.
Renault offers a four-year/100,000-mile warranty and roadside assistance cover and service plans are available across the range, with a three year/30,000-mile offering costing £299 and four years/40,000 miles covered for £499.
The mid-range Dynamique Nav dCi 110 is expected to be the range’s biggest seller. It claims 76.4mpg combined cycle fuel economy, 96g/km CO2 emissions and RVs (36 months/60,000 miles) of 32% – up 7% on the outgoing model.
During the Megane’s recent UK press launch AM sampled the Dynamique S Nav dCi 110 (£20,400) and GT Nav 205 (£25,500).
Among the standard equipment are LED daytime running lights, cruise control, hill start assist, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB radio, 16-inch alloys, tinted windows and a leather steering wheel.
Dynamique Nav (from £18,100) adds automatic wipers and headlights with automatic high beam, rear parking sensors, lane departure and blind spot warning systems, traffic sign recognition, dual-zone climate control and a seven-inch touchscreen information system.
Dynamique S Nav (from £19,100) adds 17-inch wheels, a rear parking camera and the aforementioned 8.7-inch touchscreen R-Link infotainment system.
The Dynamique S Nav dCi 110 proved refined and frugal. Renault’s efforts to improve interior quality are evident through the swathe of soft-touch plastic which covers the dashboard and the Volvo-like central display.
Ambient lighting illuminates the centre console and door cards with neat pinstripes of lights and the seats are both supportive and comfortable, with good lumbar support.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance’s 1.5-litre turbodiesel is not be one of the market’s quieter engines, but the Megane’s sound-deadening maintains subdued progress.
Despite a modest power output, 192lb-ft of torque helps the dCi 110 to live up to its claimed 11.3 second dash to 62mph.
Sitting on Renault’s new CMF platform, the new Megane’s wheelbase is some 28mm longer and considerably wider (47mm front, 39mm rear) than its predecessor, while having the lowest roofline in its class (25mm lower at 1,447mm).
Inside there’s enough headroom for a 6ft-plus adult in the rear and the boot space is an impressive 384 litres, bigger than the Golf or Focus but well down on the similarly-proportioned Peugeot 308’s 407 litres.
The Megane is a comfortable and composed steer in Dynamique S Nav form. The surprise is that the sportier GT Nav initially has such a similar feel.
The GT’s specification – sitting above the leather-upholstered Signature Nav and sporty GT-Line Nav – features Alcantara seats, Renault Sport badging and stainless steel pedals. It looks like a genuine hot hatch.
Customers may find it feels softer and less immediate than expected of a car capable of a 7.1 second dash to 62mph and 146mph top speed, the engine refined, gear changes smooth through imprecise paddle shifters should you choose to use them.
The 4Control four-wheel steering adds precision.
In October, dealerships will see the arrival of a Sport Tourer, with a hybrid due in 2017 and a Renault Sport version, no doubt, in the pipeline.
Flanagan’s only concern is how the 170-strong dealership network will react to the ever-growing Renault proposition. He said: “You might struggle to accommodate all the new models we have launched in the past year alone in a showroom. We will have to be pragmatic about how many vehicles we send to dealers. At the moment I’ll take all the vehicles I can.”