Renault Megane: old vs new

It’s all change for the Renault Megane, as the petrol-powered hatchback turns into an electric SUV

Renault has always tried to ensure that the Megane offers something different to the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Honda Civic. The first model was sleek and coupe-like (and came with coupe and convertible options), and it also allowed Renault to jump on the MPV bandwagon of the past by facilitating the creation of the original Renault Scenic. The mk2 Megane stood out thanks to an unusual design at the rear and sharp lines.

Admittedly, the third generation car didn’t stand out too much but the fourth-generation Renault Megane hatchback, which is just about to be replaced, brought back the style and provided an arresting alternative to the usual family hatches.

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Unfortunately for Renault, most buyers stuck with the old favourites and this time around, Renault is changing the formula more drastically than ever before. The new Renault Megane has become a crossover, and the petrol and diesel engines have been swapped for a fully electric powertrain. Instead of the Golf and Peugeot 308, the Megane E-Tech Electric squares up against the Volkswagen ID.3 and Peugeot e-2008.

But has the Megane improved by changing both its power source and its body style? We’ve compared the two to find out.

Engines and electric motors

The outgoing Renault Megane’s engine range was rather uninspiring for most of its time on sale. Petrol options were a 1.2-litre with 128bhp, or a 1.3-litre with 138bhp, depending on the age of the car. There’s also a version with slightly more performance in the form of the 202bhp GT but it’s very rare. The one that appeals to enthusiasts is the Renault Megane RS with either 276bhp or 296bhp, again depending on the age and spec. Besides the RS, the Megane isn’t really a car for those interested in driving, thanks in part to light, numb steering.

Diesel buyers are catered for by the 1.5-litre dCi with 113bhp, and this engine was the most efficient until the plug-in hybrid joined the range. It’s capable of nearly 63mpg, compared to 47mpg for the 1.3 TCe petrol. The petrol has a more respectable 0-62mph time, though, taking 9.4 seconds; the diesel takes over 11 seconds. At the time of writing, only the plug-in hybrid is available to buy new; it combines a petrol engine with an electric motor for a 30-mile electric range and an official figure of 234mpg.

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The new Renault Megane E-Tech Electric offers 40kWh and 60kWh battery options, with ranges of 186 and 292 miles respectively. The new Megane is good to drive, with rapid acceleration, quick steering and very little body roll. Zero-to-62mph now takes 7.5 seconds, almost quick enough to back up Renault’s claim that the car is an ‘electric hot hatchback’.

Styling

C-shaped LED daytime running lights and a bold nose means the Megane still stands out, despite being on sale since 2016. The side profile is rather more conventional but the rear end looks distinctive thanks to lights that stretch nearly the full width across the tailgate. RS Line models take some of the sporty intent from the full-strength Megane RS.

The electric Renault Megane carries on the tradition of bold styling. Z-shaped light bars fall below slim full-LED headlights, while the car has fluid-looking side panels and a rising windowline. That high waistline meets a sloping roof, sosome rear visibility is sacrificed for the good looks. The Megane also has glossy black wheel arches and gold detailing at each end, which are uncommon and may not be to everyone’s taste.

Interior

Renault gave the last Megane an impressive interior, with the highlight on top models being a large portrait touchscreen. Facelifted cars get physical climate dials, which are easier than using the screen, plus there’s a crisp digital instrument cluster. Material quality is good pretty much throughout the cabin, and even the Iconic trim comes with alloy wheels, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers and all-round parking sensors.

The outgoing Megane doesn’t feel as modern as the newer Renault Clio and Renault Captur but the E-Tech Electric version redresses the balance, with a state-of-the-art look that’s befitting of the car’s electric powertrain. There are two large screens that are part of one big unit, which even includes the air vents. The touchscreen is still portrait but is now angled towards the driver. Recycled materials are used in some of the car’s parts and overall the materials used feel more tactile than in the Volkswagen ID.3

Practicality

The outgoing Megane is surprisingly practical, with good amounts of headroom and legroom and a big boot. To the parcel shelf, there are 384 litres to fill, which just beats the 380-litre Volkswagen Golf, although there are nearly 100 litres of extra storage under the boot floor. A Renault Megane Sport Tourer estate is also available for buyers needing extra room, with up to 563 litres of space. It’s worth noting that the Megane E-Tech hybrid hatchback only gets 304 litres, meaning it has a smaller boot than the Clio.

Renault made it clear that the Megane E-Tech Electric was benchmarked against the ID.3. But while the Megane wins on interior quality, the ID.3 wins on passenger space. Rear-seat space is probably pretty similar to the old car, so a bit more legroom would be welcome - especially if the front seats are set low. A 440-litre boot is bigger than the ID.3’s and a false floor will be optional to make loading bulky items easier.

Verdict

If you can recharge the car at home, the Renault Megane E-Tech Electric wins this comparison. It’s fresher inside and out, and the new powertrain elevates the car from merely a mode of transport to something you’ll enjoy driving. Prices aren’t yet confirmed; expect it to cost more than the outgoing car but steeper initial prices will be offset to an extent by cheaper running costs. That the previous Megane is now only available as a plug-in hybrid doesn’t help its case because the PHEV is expensive.

A used Renault Megane is a good option if you’re after a secondhand hatchback, particularly because prices are much lower than for an equivalent Golf.

Check out used examples of the Renault Megane for sale on BuyaCar.

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