A wide range of engines, handsome looks, and a reasonable interior - but the Megane is missing something significant

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From its launch as long ago as 1995, the Renault Mégane five-door hatchback fought tooth and nail with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra.

However, by the time the fourth generation landed in 2016, Renault’s focus was beginning to shift, and far fewer were sold than earlier generations.

It follows, then, that there are fewer examples on the used car market today than there are Golfs and Astras. Of course, that only makes the pleasure of finding a good Mégane sweeter still – not that the model needs much help there.

The fact is that the Mk4 Mégane ticks a lot of the most important boxes for used car buyers.

It is great value for money, with an approved used 40,000-mile, 2020-reg 1.3 TCe petrol costing only around £11,500; it’s attractive both inside and out; it’s solidly built; some versions are extremely well equipped; and non-GT versions, at least, ride very comfortably.

It’s a heavy car, but even the entry-level 1.2 TCe 130 petrol manages 0-62mph in just a little over 10sec in both its manual and automatic forms. However, we would aim for the later 1.3 TCe 140, which shaves a second off that time.

The 1.6 TCe 205 EDC is the warm offering. Although available only as an automatic, it zips to 62mph in just over 7.0sec. It has an impressive specification, including four-wheel steering and an engine breathed on by Renault Sport. It’s rare but worth having a steer of.

Late in the Mégane’s life, the 1.6 E-Tech plug-in hybrid arrived, touting 158bhp. We liked its blend of smooth power with a comfy ride, and its 30 miles of electric-only range offers ultra-low running costs for those who don’t do long journeys and can charge at home.

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Turning now to the diesel engines, which are all Euro 6 and so ULEZ-compliant. The 1.5 dCi 110 is economical, quiet and refined. In 2019, it was replaced by the slightly punchier 1.5 dCi 115.

The more powerful 1.6 dCi 130 is better still but was pulled in 2018. All are capable of high mileages, so you can buy with confidence.

The Mégane is a long and wide car, so it offers plenty of room for passengers, although tall drivers might have to slide their seat farther back than they would in other cars.

It’s a hatchback, rather than an MPV, so don’t expect much in the way of oddment storage, but what it lacks here, it more than makes up for with a very large boot.

On most versions, a large infotainment touchscreen dominates the dashboard, there are splashes of chrome and ambient lighting casts a sophisticated glow.

There are six trim levels, ranging from Expression+ (16in alloys, air-con, DAB radio, cruise control and Bluetooth) to GT Nav (the aforementioned four-wheel steering and even launch control). Our choice, and the most plentiful, is Dynamique Nav.

Although just one up from Expression+, it has features including automatic wipers and lights, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, part-leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and an Arkamys audio system alongside Renault’s R-Link 2 infotainment software on a 7.0in touchscreen with sat-nav.

Thin on the ground it may be, but if you are looking for a top-value family hatch, a Mk4 Mégane is worth ferreting out.


Engine: The 1.2 petrol and 1.6 diesel engines have a timing chain claimed to last the life of the car. The 1.5 diesel has a timing belt that needs replacing every five years. Oil changes, critical especially to chain and tensioner life, are every 10,000 miles, so walk away from any car that has routinely strayed beyond these intervals.

Gearbox: Owners have reported problems with the EDC automatic, so check that it’s responsive and changes smoothly in a variety of conditions. Manuals should be slick and precise, so don’t allow the seller to explain away sticky shifts and crunching synchros as characteristic.

Wheels: A tyre inflation kit was standard, but some cars were ordered with the spare wheel as a £200 option. It’s well worth having. Unsightly alloy wheel corrosion has been reported on some early cars.

Brakes: It’s important to check that the electronic parking brake fitted to high-spec versions works properly, because repairs can be expensive. Expression+ Méganes have a manual handbrake. Fresh brake fluid is required every two years.

Interior: Check for broken rear centre vents or stained cloth. Deep scratches and torn seals in the boot can let in water, so check the carpet there for damp, too. Make sure all the USB ports work (infotainment spares are expensive on all cars) and that, if fitted, there are no issues with the touchscreen. Higher-spec versions look and feel better than entry-level grades.

Body: Check the door edges for dings or scrapes and, on high-milers, the bonnet and windscreen for chips.


Renault Megane rear

Much like its rivals at the time rival the Megane sits on a modular architecture which underpinned a range of different front-engined vehicles of varying sizes.

The platform, named CLF, is based around five interchangeable modules: cockpit, engine bay, front underbody, rear underbody and the electrical systems.

The Mégane’s underpinnings – codenamed CMF-C/D – are not only shared with the similar-sized Renault Kadjar and the Nissan Qashqai but also the bigger Espace and Talisman.

Allied to the platform is a conventional hatchback chassis of front MacPherson struts and a torsion beam behind.

Independent rear suspension (favoured by a number of rivals) can be combined with CMF, but it was offered exclusively with four-wheel-drive models, none of which featured in the Mégane line-up. Which doesn’t necessarily mean the car wants for innovation: the range-topping warmed-up GT model, fettled by Renault Sport, includes 4Control, the first four-wheel steering system for the segment at the time.

Elsewhere, the suspension was revised, with particular attention paid to the dampers, bump-stops and bushings.

The steering is electrically powered and claims to be precise, thanks to the elimination of rubber mountings between the subframe and body over the preceding car.

Measured from the outside, the Mégane became usefully bigger. Overall length increased by 64mm, while the gain at the wheelbase was 28mm. (The difference is accounted for by a longer front overhang; the rear actually shrunk by 21mm.)

The car was made lower and wider, too, sporting what Renault claimed were the widest tracks in the segment. The new proportions were intended to make the model a more balanced prospect visually, although the Mégane does seem rather crowded by the thrusting family-look front end. It achieved a honed and more contemporary presence, but not necessarily a more harmonious one. 

The engine choice was more black and white. From launch, there were four to choose from, and none were entirely new. The unit we tested – the omnipresent 108bhp 1.5 dCi diesel – is the most venerable of the lot, having been recycled through Renaults and Nissans for much of the period. The other oil-burner offered – the 128bhp 1.6 dCi – was newer at the time but no less familiar.

Likewise the 128bhp 1.2 TCe, which underpins the petrol line-up and topped out by the 202bhp 1.6-litre turbo. A seven-speed EDC dual-clutch automatic gearbox is standard on the GT and optional with the 1.2 TCe 130, while the 1.5 dCi could be had with a six-speed EDC, although a six-speed manual was standard in most cases.


Renault Megane interior

This car's interior represented a huge improvement over its predecessor. Renault, however, did not cure its every quirk and shortcoming in one fell swoop, so there’s still a mixed story to report.

But overall, the car can be considered pleasant, usable and well equipped, although it was no standard-setter on material quality, practicality or passenger space.

The wheelbase may have grown, but the packaging is evidently flawed. The shallowness of the front footwells and proximity of the pedals force longer-legged drivers to use more of the car’s overall cabin length than they might normally do just to get comfortable, robbing those in the rear of space, with both foot and knee room remaining tight.

The boot is a good size and has a wide aperture, but its loading lip is high, there is no adjustable-height boot board and the rear seatbacks don’t fold entirely flat.

Cabin quality is good for the most part but quite poor in a few places. The leather sections of the seats are soft and tactile, for example, but some of the plastics of the climate control console show a disappointing finish.

Storage areas and convenience features could also be improved. The door bins lack useful width, the cupholders and centre cubby are both short on depth and the glovebox is the usual half-sized slight on the good nature of anyone buying right-hand drive.

The biggest difference between this cabin and the old car is ambition. Whereas the preceding Mégane’s was plasticky and plain, this one’s ambient lighting, flat-screen instruments, large, portrait-oriented multimedia screen and chrome trims make it feel more sophisticated.

On the equipment front there were six trims to choose from - Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav, Signature Nav, GT Line Nav and GT Nav. The entry-level trim adorns the Megané as standard with 16in alloy wheels, cruise control, front foglights, hill start assist and emergency brake assist as standard on the outside, while inside there is a DAB tuner, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, air conditioning, and electric windows.

Upgrade to the Dynamique Nav trims and you get auto wipers and lights, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, part leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, an Arkamys audio system, alongside Renault's R-Link 2 infotainment system complete with a 7.0in touchscreen display and TomTom sat nav. While the Dynamique S Nav added a reversing camera, 17in alloy wheels, and an 8.7in portrait touchscreen display to a burgeoning package.

The Signature Nav models get 18in alloy wheels, leather upholstery and LED headlights, while the GT Line Nav Megané gets an aggressive bodykit and sports seats. The range-topping GT Nav model gets all the equipment found on the Signature Nav model plus 4-wheel steering, parking sensors and a Renaultsport tweaked 1.6-litre petrol engine.

Navigation, entertainment, climate control and vehicle control centre zones are accessible on the 8.7in touchscreen.

It’s certainly a good-sized screen and has ‘pinch to zoom’ functionality, which was intended to make it feel like a tablet or smartphone to use.

It seems outdated these days, but responsiveness to your fingertip is pretty good. The navigation mapping detail is a bit sparse, though, and the graphics of the system in general are somewhat basic.


1.5-litre dCi Renault Megane engine

The relative performance of the Mégane we tested, powered by the K-type eight-valve 1.5-litre diesel, certainly showed room for improvement.

You can see the beginnings of a deficiency in the car’s 0-60mph time. In warm, dry conditions where excuses were few, we matched Renault’s 0-62mph claim (11.3sec) but couldn’t make the car go under 11.0sec to 60mph, whereas plenty of rivals will go close to 10.

Shorter-than-average gear ratios can’t do much to help the engine. Pulling in third gear is a challenge

The car’s relative shortage of torque compared with some rivals doesn’t show up in many of its in-gear acceleration times, because it’s shorter geared than many of those rivals; 30-70mph in fourth gear takes just over 15.0sec, which was pretty competitive for the time.

But you’ll do quite a bit more ratio changing in the Mégane than you might in other diesel hatchbacks, partly because of those shorter intermediate ratios and partly because the engine’s power supply feels quite soft and laggy below 2000rpm.

There’s certainly a driveability issue at play here, and that’s a bigger chink in the car’s armour than the outright shortage of performance with which we began.

Refinement levels are better. The engine gets vocal when extended, as you’d expect it to, but it’s fairly soft on the ear at low revs and under load. It does send some vibrations through the pedals at idle but, again, so many equivalent downsized, hard-working diesels do.

All up, you’d be perfectly happy with this engine as long as you accepted that you’d bought an economy car and were willing to drive it in a laid-back fashion. If you wanted the most rounded family five-door your money could buy, there’s a good chance you’d find it a bit wheezy and slow.


Renault Megane cornering

It is highly unlikely that Renault’s chassis engineers were tasked with adding greater overall dynamic reach to the Mégane range without necessarily adding greater breadth of ability to each and every car within it – because which car maker wouldn’t want its new model to be better in every measurable way than the previous one? But that is how our test car made things seem.

Truth be told, common-or-garden Méganes have for a long time bathed in a pool of dynamic glory, created by the separately developed RenaultSport versions, that was often little merited. The surprise here, though, is that this car so squarely aims for comfort over commanding grip and composure, and ease of use over driver engagement.

The car’s ride feels soft at all times. Absorbent at town speeds, nicely fluent on back roads and almost always quiet except when very big bumps present, it isolates the cabin very effectively, but in a way you’d much more readily associate with a big saloon than a medium-sized hatch.

The steering is light and quite indifferent in its pace and declines to weight up as cornering loads increase.

Handling response is good and pleasingly progressive at normal road speeds, with slowly gathering body roll leaving the authority of the steering unaffected. But it quickly deteriorates as the car runs short of grip, which it does without too much provocation, always front wheels first.

So comfort and stability are both strong, but there’s little here to sustain the keener driver.

In some ways, the Mégane feels very much like the archetypal French family five-door (supple and gentle riding, fluent through corners at typical speeds), and in some ways, it doesn’t. A modicum of steering feel and a slightly more tenacious front axle might be all it would take to restore the car’s joie de vivre across the board, but without either, the car feels like it’s missing something.

If keen road use makes the Mégane’s performance level and dynamic composure seem frayed at the edges, Millbrook Proving Ground’s Hill Route puts a sizeable hole in both, making it obvious that this car isn’t geared up for sporting tastes.

The car’s lateral grip levels are fairly low and its soft chassis rates allow roll to build quickly on turn-in, bringing on gentle understeer at an early stage. Decent traction and stability control systems keep you from disrupting with a hasty right foot what purchase the front wheels do have, but those systems are also now totally unswitchable.

Engage Sport mode on the MultiSense drive mode controller and the stability and traction controls do take more of a back seat, but the limited capabilities of the chassis are unmistakable. Moreover, there’s some muddled weight and interference evident through the rim during harder cornering, which is best avoided.


Renault megane lead

On the used market, the Mégane starts at a broadly comparable price point to its mainstream rivals from Ford and Vauxhall.

The entry-level trim is not poorly equipped (Renault’s focus on safety systems means adaptive cruise, active emergency braking and lane departure warning were applied across the range), but because it fails to include a proper infotainment display, most buyers will opt for at least Dynamique Nav.

Running costs should be broadly comparable to purchase prices, too, although the Mégane’s fuel economy isn’t quite on a par with that of its most efficient rivals.

The 47.2mpg average returned by the 1.5 dCi Mégane in True MPG testing is well shy of the Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex’s 56.3mpg result under the same conditions.


3 star Renault Megane Dynamique Nav S

The Mégane was less rounded than we expected when we tested it, although it has evidently come a long way on material cabin sophistication, with the technological appeal of its infotainment, and is plainly more desirable than any of its predecessors.

Renault may argue that, between its sports-suspended, higher-powered GT models and its more laid-back lower-rung variants, it has all tastes covered with the Mégane. But it’s not enough for only the sporty models to be engaging to drive.

Classier and more refined than before but still far from complete

We expect stronger and more flexible performance and broader-batted handling than this from a mature European hatchback. We expect handling panache as well as typically Gallic ride suppleness. And we don’t expect packaging compromises.

Having at least addressed the prevailing standards on interior quality, richness and equipment level (and done a good job on styling), Renault neglected to add engineering substance to this car, which drives more like the preceding Mégane in new clothes than a car truly fit for your driveway.

That means it misses a top five ranking – falling behind the then Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Seat Leon, Vauxhall Astra and Mazda 3.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Renault Megane (2016-2022) First drives