What's it like?
Key to the success of a hatchback is its ease of use. Anything that's finickity, a chore to drive or an ergonomic nightmare immediately drops down the class order, never to be seen in the best-seller lists again. Fortunately, the Renault has no major failings on this front.
Head out onto the road and you'll find it a fairly sweet-steering, smooth-riding hatchback. Sure, there's not a great deal of feedback through the wheel, but it's got plenty of grip and a tight turning circle.
The 1.6-litre diesel outputs a useful 129bhp and 236lb ft and, when you deploy all of that in earnest, it'll propel the Mégane from 0-62mph in 10.0sec. Decent in-gear pull makes motorway and cross-country work relatively effortless, too.
It's not the most refined diesel on the market, with a gruff note emanating through the bulkhead when loaded up or extended to its limits, but it's otherwise unobtrusive enough. Similarly, the six-speed manual 'box isn't the slickest around.
What is good is that it appears, in the real world, to be a frugal choice. Despite a wide mix of conditions and speeds on our test route, it returned 47mpg without effort. That would grant a 480-mile range on one tank.
Likewise, in terms of being a good hatchback, the Renault stacks up quite well inside. It's comfortable, there's lots of space both front and rear and its boot is bigger than that of a Volkswagen Golf. Practicality is bolstered further by big door pockets, a sensibly sized glovebox and myriad storage points.
Fit and finish is decent, too, with the only real detraction being some noticeable wind and suspension noise when on the move. The large tablet-like touchscreen is a little hit and miss, though. It looks smart and presents information clearly, but it can be reluctant to respond at times. It's likely to be an option on most models, mind, only appearing as standard on the flagship trims.
Should I buy one?
Initial impressions suggest that the new Mégane has the potential to at least stand up as a decent alternative to the established mainstream alternatives.
After all, it feels well built, is easy to drive and comfortable. To be a really viable contender in such a crowded and hotly contested market, however, it'll have to be priced and specified correctly, too.
Renault, at the moment, is suggesting that the diesel Mégane range will start at around £18k, with a model featuring this 130 dCi engine costing some £20k.
Consequently, with that engine and a decent amount of kit, it'll be put into contention with the likes of the super-slick Audi A3 and well-equipped versions of the Ford Focus, among many others. That'll be a tough battle to win.
If the Mégane ends up offering good equipment levels and lower monthly PCP costs, or lower list prices outright, then it could prove to be a more commendable choice.
2016 Renault Mégane Energy dCi 130 review
Location Cascais, Portugal; Price £20,000; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, diesel; Power 129bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1318kg; Top speed 123mph; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Economy 70.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 103g/km, 15%