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Renault Megane 1.9 dCi 'Expression' sedan road test (copyright image) (copyright image) (copyright image)

by Ian Barrett

5th December, 2008

Home > Road Tests > Renault

Our readers will recall that we have previously sampledsporting versions of Renault's mid-sized Megane hatch, and havecome awayfavourably impressedby most aspects of their design and performance - with the notable exception of the oh-so-eccentric styling. That notched rear end is an acquired taste that many buyers will find just too hard to swallow. But there is a solution - enter the Megane sedan! With onedeft swoop of a stylist's pen, Renault have transformed their ugly duckling into a beautiful and elegant swan, while at the same time retainingmuch of the Gallic charm which makes French cars, well, unmistakably French!

In fact, Renault claim that the Megane sedan offers "a perfect blend of form and function" and this time we reckon they're not too far off the pace at all. Here is a carwhose styling can competewith the best of its European rivals, and come up smiling. We drove a Megane 1.9dCi 'Expression' for a week and found ourselves in a very well-balanced family sedan, whosecombination of 'Extreme Blue' metallic paintwork, with 'parchment' interior trim turned heads for all the right reasons - at last.The standard issue6.5x16" 9-spoke alloys, and front fog lampsadd tothatstyle very nicely. Incidently, the spare wheel is a full-sized steel one, admirably suited to Australian distances and road conditions.

And the Megane's good form continues within the bright and airy cabin. The sporty and functional dashboard lay-out and door trims complement what is a very roomy and comfortable exterior, in the very best Gallic tradition. And yes - controls are logical and well placed. Seats are supportive with a wide range of adjustment (lumbar and height for the driver only), and offer plenty of leg room. Combined with a height and reach adjustable steering wheel (with audio and cruise control buttons), there shouldn't be any shape or size ofdriver who won't feel quickly at ease. One unusual feature is the credit-card sized ignition key which slots into the dashboard below the starter button, and activates a checklist prior to starting the engine.

Climate controlled air conditioning with pollen filter and 'sunshine sensor' keep the weather outside where it belongs, while light and rain sensors activate both headlights (with 'see me home' function), and wipers automatically in the event of rain or darkness. In fact, this is a car which is very well equipped. Among the many other standard inclusions are multi-function trip computer, power windows (with anti-pinch facility) and mirrors, cruise control with speed-limiter, and airchilled glove box. In-car entertainment iscourtesy of a 4x15AM/FM unit with single CD and fingertip control.Thosewho want more will need to upgrade to the top-of-the-range'Privilege' specification, which gets all of the above features, plus leather trimmed seats, steering wheel and gear knob, a 6-stackCD player, 17-inch alloy wheels, and rear parking proximity sensors - albeit for a hefty price premium.

Adults andinfants alike will appreciate the side and rear pull-up sunshades, while storage spaces abound. Apart from theusual door pockets, there are clever storage bins within the armrests, driver and front passenger under-floor trays, a 6-litre central front armrest compartment, and a closed compartment tray in the rear parcel shelf. The 60/40 split fold rear seatsextend the large and functional 520-litre boot space, folding flat when needed to accomodate long or bulky items.One minor niggle is the fitment of fairly poor quality floor carpet, whichwe found very hard to clean. We consider the optional front and rear carpet mats a 'must have' accessory.

Renault are serious about safety, right across their range of cars. Every Megane comes witha 5-star safety rating. There are 6 airbags - driver and front passenger adaptive front and side, plus side curtain units front and rear. Front and rear seatbelts come with pretensioners. The doors come with side impactbars and honeycomb padding. ESP is standard, incorporating both traction and understeer control. ABS brakes (front vented, and rear solid discs) with EBD and EBA, shouldbring you rapidly to a screech-less halt in the event of an emergency.

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Handling and roadholding are exemplary, with struts on rectangular lower arms and anti-roll bar up front,and a torsion beam system with coils at the rear. Ride is a touch sporty, but comfortably well controlled. The result is a very well balanced front wheel driver, which cantackle the fast twisty bits with considerable confidence, and hence much enjoyment. As TV ads have suggested, this is quitea driver's car. By all means, let the chauffer take the back seat!

But adriver's car needs performance. And we're pleased to report that the 1.9-litre common-rail turbocharged and intercooleddiesel is happy to cater to this need. Putting out 96 kW @ 4,000 rpm, and a robust 300 Nm @ 2,000 rpm, and coupled to a very slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, this powerplant offers brisk acceleration, and exceptional flexibility on the road.Our only complaint with the test vehicle was a certain degree of vibration and harshnessbetween 3,000-3,500 rpm - but most owners will rarely need to venture this far up the range in normal driving. Generous soundproofing keepsany diesel rattle within the cabin to a minimum.

Sitting on 110 km/h in 6th gear had the engine spinning at aleisurely 2,000 rpm,making for very quiet and relaxed cruising at highway speeds. In fact, with 4 adults on board and cruise control engaged, the Megane easily sailed up the steeper pinches of the F3 between Sydney and Newcastle without dropping down a gear, and managed a frugal 5.4L/100 km for the trip.With a quoted combined fuel consumption rating figure of only 5.8L/100 km, the Megane 1.9 dCi certainly offers agreat combination of power and economy. One very nice touch which other car makers would do well to copy, is the 'clean hands'watertight fuel filler cap, which springs aside when the fuel nozzle is inserted.

The Renault Megane 1.9 dCi 'Expression' is a very complete package. It offers European style, performance and dynamics with a comprehensive equipment list,and isexceptional value for money at $27,990 plus on-road costs. Renault offers a 3-year/100,000 km Warranty with 24-hour Roadside Assistance. We thoroughly enjoyed our time behind the wheel of this elegant new swan.


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