- Published: Wednesday, 16 April 2014 18:09
SINGAPORE - The third-generation Renault Megane has been on sale in Europe since 2008, but it hasn’t had much of a field day here unlike its strange-butt second-gen predecessor.
Production issues and a general absence from the market have meant that cars like the Volkswagen Golf and even the Toyota Auris have been making more waves in the small hatch segment.
It doesn’t help that French brand sometimes seems a bit lost when it comes to planning for Singapore’s market. In other markets, the hatch is offered with a choice of 110bhp and 130bhp diesel engines, in 1.5 and 1.6-litre capacities, while the sole gasoline choice is a 1.6-litre, 115bhp version.
The car tested here isn’t the 1.6 petrol, but the lesser diesel version, which still makes Category A thanks to its sub-130bhp power output. It isn’t exactly news either, since the car was launched a few months ago, but we haven’t gotten our mitts on a test unit until now.
There’s a new face-lifted version which debuted globally, but that is slated for arrival in the middle of the year - like many nip-tucks, you can spot it easily by the fact that the LED daytime running lights have migrated away from the headlamp units. Still, this model has a subtly different front end from the third-gen at launch, so it’s technically a very mild, pre-facelift facelift. Only the French, we guess.
It seems the cards are already stacked against the Megane here, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a little diesel that could, or can rather, do quite a bit.
Like all diesel engines, the fun is in the torque figure, not the power, and the Megane puts out 240Nm from 1,750rpm, although the shove doesn’t taper off too quickly, as found in some small-capacity diesels. It’s not as broadly capable ‘everything also can’ as the best oil-burning engines, but it’s not far behind either.
The mill is paired with Renault’s new six-speed dual-clutch system (named Efficient Dual Clutch) which like Ford’s Powershift units, feels like it prioritises smoothness. Depending on your reference point and driving style, you may miss the crisper shifts of a German dual-clutch, or enjoy the fact that it emulates a conventional automatic closely.
Occasionally, in tight awkward places like carparks, the drivetrain will hedge its torque and slur the shift for comfort's sake, but it’s more of a minor quirk than a deal changer. Everywhere else, it’s a prime example of a ‘jobbing diesel’, torquey and easy to drive, cruises effortlessly and delivers good efficiency figures. Renault’s quoted 4.2L/100km is obviously very optimistic, but for a car with no start-stop, the Megane 110 dCi will consistently deliver sub 7.5L/100km even with heavy traffic. We suspect figures in the 5.0-6.0 range are possible with longer drives, but didn’t clock enough distance to test this out fully.
The nimble handling means the Megane is quite fun to pilot in all kinds of corners, and has a hint more of verve and eagerness in its responses, although the ride quality also seems a little stiff for a regular hatch, it’s entirely within the realm of the acceptable.
The interior features acres of plastic, which is sturdy and utilitarian enough, just not super-handsome to look at. Standard with the car is a well-stocked equipment list, such as keyless entry and go, navigation (with lots of entertaining voice options), Bluetooth connectivity and others.
Upfront is decent business, although things get a little squishy at the back. Legroom and headroom is fine, and boot space is good too at 372-litres, although it’s tricky to fold the rear seats flat because the cushions are sticky. Also you have to move the front seats forward a little, so it may not be possible if say, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the driver, but the seats will go flat after a bit of a tussle.
But one should consider the fact that, list price aside, you can buy the Megane for around $10k less than its official going rate when there's a special promo on, which is to say, most of the time. At equal pricing to the segment leaders, it can't go toe to toe, but for ten grand less it makes perfect sense.
Renault Megane 1.5 dCi
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,461cc, 16V, turbodiesel, inline 4
Power 110bhp at 6,000-6500rpm
Torque 260Nm at 4,000-4500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 190km/h
0-100kmh 11.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.2L/100km
Price $128,050 with COE
Also Consider: Volkswagen Golf 1.2
Photos by Derryn Wong