25 June 2004

Believe it or not, this wacky-looking Renault Mégane pick-up truck is actually an early development mule for a new 4x4, snared by our spies for the first time anywhere in the world. Caught at a German test track undergoing extensive trials both on- and off-road, the SUV will appear in British showrooms in late 2006 as the eighth and final instalment in the Mégane range that already spans three- and five-door, saloon, estate, CC, Scénic and Grand Scénic.

Based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance C platform (Mégane, next Almera), the SUV will borrow 4x4 hardware from sister firm Nissan’s X-Trail. The Japanese partner has considerable all-wheel-drive expertise through the likes of the Patrol, Terrano and X-Trail, while Renault’s minimal 4x4 production experience lies only with the previous generation Scénic RX4 and the Kangoo Trekka.

Renault’s new SUV will be built solely in South Korea at the plant in Busan owned by Renault subsidiary Samsung Motors. Capacity is 240,000 vehicles a year and the car will be exported from Asia across the world, as well as being badged as a Samsung for sales in the Korean market.

The new car is said to be more on-road biased than the previous Mégane-based off-roader, the Scénic RX4, which lost out dynamically to rivals such as Toyota’s RAV4. There will also be a new styling direction, with a more ‘lifestyle SUV’ flavour than the RX4, as shown in our artist’s impression (right).

Power will come from the bigger engines in the Mégane range, which should mean the 134bhp 2.0-litre petrol and 1.9-litre dCi with 118bhp. Expect prices around £2500 above the equivalent Scénic, meaning a starter price in the £19,000 region. It’s not yet clear if the Scénic RX4 tag will be carried over to the new car, or whether Renault has a new branding idea waiting in the wings.

The RX4, Renault’s unloved first attempt at an SUV in 2000, sold just under 2000 cars a year in the UK before it was killed off just over 12 months ago. Renault hopes for better things from this new off-roader – especially in the wake of huge growth in the segment right across Europe.

The French market could be particularly fruitful, as local rival PSA Peugeot-Citroën doesn’t have a presence in the sector; the French, notoriously patriotic in their car-buying, currently have no home-manufactured SUV option.

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