"The Renault Megane is stylish and practical, and has an improving reputation for quality and reliability."
The third generation of Renault Megane is a solid family car. The five-door model is more practical and taller than three-door version, making it a more sensible choice for growing families. You can also get a three-door Megane Coupe, practical Sports Tourer estate and a four-seater convertible model. The five-door comes with a good range of engine choices, with the DCi diesel models offering the best balance of economy and performance. Inside, both the Coupe and hatchback models have the same dashboard, with a standard of quality that exceeds anything Renault has built before. But it's still not 100 per cent perfect – the stereo is too fiddly and gets frustrating, while the grey plastics make it quite dull to look at. However, there's no denying that Megane is a good-value, practical family hatchback. Renault has done away with the previous generations base model, so entry-level is now the Expression, followed by Dynamique and GT Line specifications. Take into account Renault's excellent 4+ aftersales package, which includes a four-year warranty, roadside assistance and servicing, and it's definitely a decent buy that stands comparisons with rivals such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The entire Renault engine range is relatively frugal across the board, but the best performance for your money definitely comes from the 128bhp petrol and diesel engines on offer in the Megane. Powerful enough to not need overworking on daily trips, you should also see fuel economy figures nearing 55mpg for the diesel and 42mpg for the quieter petrol. Opt for the ECO models and the mpg on the diesel goes up to an amazing 80.7mpg, with only 90g/km of CO2 emissions, which makes it exempt from road tax.
Interior & comfort
The Megane is a comfortable car, but how comfy a ride you get depends very much on the specification you choose. The lower-spec Expression and Dynamique cars are designed for comfort, so float smoothly over most bumps and potholes, with only the roughest roads really testing the abilities of the suspension. The top-of-the range GT models are set up for improved grip and handling so are extremely stiff in comparison and can be uncomfortable on the UK's ever-rougher roads. The interior is roomy, with lots of space in the back to accommodate even three adults on the rear seats – and yes, with decent shoulder and legroom. Taller passengers may have to slouch slighting thanks to the roofline, but the headrests are very comfortable. The view out of the rear windscreen is a bit compromised, so you’ll have to rely on your mirrors when reversing and parking, while cubbyholes are sparse with only a single cupholder in the front.
Practicality & boot space
The Megane has a 372-litre boot, but sadly the hatchback is far from being practical enough to lead the class. The boot beats out the Focus at 316 litres, is eight litres less than the Volkswagen Golf and is positively trounced by the Honda Civic's impressive 485 litres of space. If you fold down the back seats (with bases that flip up), the capacity increases to a much better 1,129 litres, with the load bay almost completely flat. There's also an extra 33 litres hidden under the boot floor. The boot opening is good on the five-door, but the three-door coupe is too tight, really, making loading bulky items trickier than it should be. Inside is where the Megane is really lacking, though, with a tiny glove compartment and a solitary cup holder that actually gets in the way of the stereo controls.
Reliability & safety
Renault's reputation for reliability and quality is improving at a steady rate – due in no small part to the Megane. Renault itself placed 21st in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, making it one of the most improved brand's of recent years. Perhaps more impressive though is the Megane's individual performance – placing 20th in the survey's top 100 cars. Customers praised its low running costs, strong brakes, solid handling and high equipment levels. As is traditional for Renault, the Megane is also a very safe car, securing the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. It's equipped with curtain, side, rear and submarine airbags (which stop the front occupants sliding out under their seatbelts) and a Visio System that uses a camera that permanently scans the road ahead at night, automatically adjusting the power of the headlights at speeds over 28mph. Now a tough and dependable car, the Renault Megane is a worthy alternative to the brilliant VW Golf and Ford Focus in the tough family car class.
Engines, drive & performance
The three-door Megane coupe comes with stiffer suspension for a sportier ride, but the five-door hatchback has a softer set-up that is very comfortable, especially when travelling on the motorway. Likewise, engine, wind and road noise is barely audible inside. The driver's seat, steering wheel and pedals are all adjustable, allowing the driver to easily find an excellent driving position that offers a good view of the road. The steering is good, but won’t be quite responsive enough to appeal to those who put driving enjoyment at the top of their priority list. All the engines offer enough power for decent performance, although the smaller 1.5-litre dCi 86 diesel and 1.6-litre VVT 100 petrol models are a little sluggish. All cars get a manual gearbox as standard, with an automatic only available on dCi 110 diesel – which is a shame because it's great to drive and is only marginally pricier than the manual. The high-performance 265bhp Renaultsport Megane model naturally performs the best, but, unlike the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, it's only available as a three-door, reducing its flexibility and appeal as a fast car for growing families
Price, value for money & options
While the five-door Megane hatchback does indeed offer good value for money, it doesn’t hold its resale value in the used car market as well the less-practical three-door coupe. All models are well equipped as standard, with Expression models getting alloy wheels, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. As their name suggests, Dynamique TomTom models come with integrated TomTom sat-nav as standard, while top-of-the-range GT Line cars have a sportier exterior, plus separate climate control settings for driver and passenger.