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Renault Megane II 1.5 dci review (2002-2008)
Bodystyle: 3- or 5-door hatchback
Engine:1.5 in-line 4-cyl
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test:October 2002
What is it?
This is Renault's high volume family car. It starts life as a three-door hatchback, the 'Sports Hatch', or the five-door 'Hatch'. This new Megane carries over elements of the controversial style of the Avantime coupe and Vel Satis luxury hatchback, but the design theme seems to work best of all with this smaller car. There is a wide choice of engines, including 1.4-, 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol, this 1.5 turbo diesel and three variants of the 1.9 turbo diesel. 2003 will also see the launch of a turbocharged sports model, plus five more body styles, saloon, estate, convertible, Scenic and Grand Scenic, the latter with seven seats.
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Where does it fit?
The Megane is in solid mid-sized family car ground, smaller than full-sized cars like Renault's own Laguna or the Ford Mondeo, but designed to be acceptable to young families who don't need quite so much space but would welcome the cost savings. Key competitors are the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Peugeot 307. 1.6-litre petrol engines are traditionally the strongest sellers in this class but the 1.5 dCi could well prove more popular in the long run. It costs very little more than the petrol engine, offers major improvements in fuel economy and C02 emissions (and hence company car taxation) and is, surprisingly, better to drive.
Is it for you?
This is certainly a size of car that appeals to a lot of buyers. Competition to sell is intense so the deals are usually good and the cars designed to have a great deal of appeal. Renault is at the forefront of extracting as many variants as possible from a single platform, so there is certain to be a model in the Megane range that will fit the bill. Of course those looking for a full-sized family car will find the Megane hatchbacks too compromised, but remember that the new Scenic, when it arrives, will offer more space than, say, the Laguna. The biggest issue about the Megane is likely to be the acceptability of the styling.
What does it do well?
The new Megane has enormous presence on the road, so buyers in this sector no longer have to put up with a car that looks like half a dozen others. The 1.5 dCi offers a sensible balance between price, performance and economy. It costs only a couple of hundred pounds more than the 1.6 petrol model, and although it doesn't have as much outright power, what there is comes on strongly at a touch of the accelerator. That makes it an easy, comfortable drive in any condition, with 60mpg entirely feasible. The Megane also feels well built and pretty classy from the driver's seat, with great forward visibility and a well-judged, comfortable ride.
What doesn't it do well?
That style has its downsides and the Megane in hatchback form lacks rear legroom and boot space. Neither is bad but there are many competitors that offer more. The seats are soft which gives comfort on shorter journeys but occupants may crave better support on a long trip. The six-speed gearbox on the top diesel and petrol models lacks precision, the five-speed on cheaper cars being much more satisfactory. Weight always seem to rise with new models and the Megane is no exception. The result is that the 1.6 petrol model has performance that is adequate, no better, while the 2.0-litre is disappointing, not particularly quick and rather too noisy at times.
What's it like to live with?
The last Megane earned many points for its strong performance in the EuroNCAP safety assessment - quite simply it was the best car in its class. Renault intends to better this with the new model. That's a very strong selling point for a car that is bound to be bought by a lot of young families. With standard power steering, central locking and electric windows, the Megane is easy to use on a day-to-day basis; air conditioning is standard on most models too. Insurance groups are particularly low, which helps running costs. So apart from the limited space, which may not be a serious issue for you, the Megane is easy to live with.
Would we buy it?
Possibly. We like the idea that it looks different to the run-of the-mill family car. The safety credentials are positive and the cost of ownership of this 1.5 dCi is low. There's a real quality feel about the car, particularly from the driver's seat. That said, there are areas where the Megane is bettered by others, notably in terms of rear passenger and luggage space. If that isn't an issue, the Megane has quite a lot going for it.
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