Difficult though it is to believe, the Renault Mégane is now more than 20 years old and its nameplate actually predates the Ford Focus.

Somewhat less impressive than its longevity is the sales volume, an area in which – the occasional spike in popularity notwithstanding – the model has consistently trailed Ford’s global champion.

It’s a similar story when compared with the long-term success of the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra, highlighting just how difficult it is to break out of the also-ran mould in a segment well stocked with household names.

Renault has occasionally been guilty of not helping itself.

Another tradition of the past two decades is Renault’s habit of reskinning its hatchback without dramatically altering the running gear.

Under the first generation, for example, was essentially the old Renault 19’s chassis.

The outgoing Mégane was built on a modified (that is, bigger) version of its predecessor’s architecture, too.

But not so this new, fourth-generation car, which now adopts the modular CMF (Common Module Family) platform already deployed under the Renault Kadjar.

Around it, the manufacturer promises a more sophisticated product. The car is again claimed to be significantly larger than the one it replaces. It is also substantially different in appearance, as Renault moves toward the house style already shown on the new Espace and Talisman (both unseen in the UK).

Notably, effort has been expended on the inside, where, alongside an overhaul of trim materials and finish, the Mégane receives an all-new infotainment system to replace the thoroughly outmoded R-Link set-up.

The engines – a typically downsized four-cylinder spread of two petrol and two diesel options – are more familiar, as is the six-trim line-up that begins at £16,600 for the entry-level Expression+ model.

An estate-shaped Sports Tourer and even a saloon (dubbed the Grand Coupé) will follow, but we’re focusing on the hatchback, tested here in Dynamique S Nav format and equipped with the stalwart 1.5 dCi diesel motor. 

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • Seventh generation Volkswagen Golf
    More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

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