If you’re after an affordable, practical and comfortable compact saloon, then you’re likely standing in your nearest Honda or Toyota showroom mulling over what colour that Civic or Corolla should be. They’re the go-to cars in the C-segment but there’s another contender that just might be worthy of your attention, it’s the handsome 2018 Megane.
Renault has done a pretty good job on the all-new saloon, blessing it with an attractive exterior and fortifying it with lots of useful tech and kit — and then, it’s stuck a starting price on it that undercuts the Japanese pair by a pretty substantial amount. That it starts from Dh58,700 while the Civic and Corolla are in the Dh67k mark will be reason enough for many out there to sign on the dotted line — and it’d be a decent decision as it has plenty going for it. For instance, the modern-looking interior features high quality materials, satin-chrome trim and ambient lighting. Our Premium Edition tester has a large 8.7in tablet-like infotainment system (and 7.0in colour driver display), reversing camera, push start button, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control and automatic on/off headlights and wipers. It even has massaging seats! It rides on fancy 18in wheels, has LED headlights with C-shaped daytime running lights, front and rear foglights, front and rear parking sensors and keyless entry. On the practicality front, it not only affords plenty of leg and head room in the front row, it’s just as roomy in the second row and still manages to pack in a massive 503 litre boot — with a hands-free opening system. It’s got loads of safety featutres as well such as Blind Spot Warning, and Unstable Trajectory Alert which detects the driver’s fatigue levels and warn of potential accidents. And if you break out in a cold sweat when it’s time to parallel park worry not for the hands-free Easy Park Assist feature which is unique for the segment will do it for you. And when you throw in the latest-generation electronic stability control, traction control, braking assist, electronic brake force distribution, hill start assist, and a tyre pressure monitoring system, you have to wonder how Renault has crammed this all in.
Aesthetically it is identical to the hatchback right up until the rear doors where it takes on its own styling cues; the waistline at the rear sits a tad lower, the wraparound taillights albeit the same shape are larger and the back end also features small air vents in each corner of the bumper. Also, the black (faux) panoramic roof gives the Megane a neat two-tone look and overall, it makes for an attractive proposition and represents a genuine upmarket shift. However, it’d appear that the French carmaker left ‘performance’ at the bottom of its list of priorities.
The car that we get here has to make do with a lacklustre 1.6-litre four-cylinder which only has 115 horsepower and 156Nm of torque. Floor the throttle and it takes an age to reach 100kph but what’s worse is the fact that it’s been lumbered with a droning continuously variable transmission. The CVT is so bad that you’ll never want to work the upper limits of the rev range because when you do the motor sounds like it wants to explode. Other markets get drivetrains with far more potency, but you can live with this one as long as you don’t flog it. And apart for a very spongy brake pedal, there’s not much else that would really bother you. Take it slow and steady and it proves a nice companion, affording a smooth and softly sprung ride, while the ever so light power steering may not offer much in terms of feel but it sure makes manoeuvring easy.
The Civic and Corolla are the segment stalwarts but clearly there’s room at the top for others to join them as this stylish and loaded Megane has proved.