What is it?
Here we have the distinctive fourth-generation Mégane in more practical Sport Tourer form. Since the last-generation version appeared on our roads, the C-segment estate class has been infiltrated by newcomers, most notably the Seat Leon ST, which, like the Leon hatch, ticks many boxes. The new load-lugging Mégane has some ground to make up, then.
Behind its distinctive nose, you’ll find a selection of four engines from which to choose at launch. They are two petrols and two diesels, including the Renault Sport-tweaked 202bhp turbocharged petrol engine, which is mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission and four-wheel steering. However, our slightly less energetic test car comes with the 128bhp 1.6-litre diesel mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
Renault will expand the Mégane’s engine range in 2017, with a more powerful diesel and a hybrid assist powertrain joining the fray. The latter will pair Renault’s 108bhp 1.5-litre dCi unit with an electric motor.
The new Sport Tourer dimensions is slightly longer than its predecessor but remains the same width, while Renault has gone to great lengths to give its new estate a more aggressive stance. It has achieved this by lowering the suspension and revising its geometry to reduce the roofline by 20mm, as well as widening the front and rear tracks.
Inside, the Mégane Sport Tourer is similar to the hatchback. It features Renault’s R-Link 2 infotainment system, with a higher-specification unit, which uses an 8.7in portrait touchscreen display, fitted to pricier trim levels. The rear seats have also been revised, with leg and knee room all being improved thanks to an 11mm extension of the wheelbase over that of the old Mégane.
The boot, however, comes with 521 litres of space available with the seats up, which makes it less capacious than the outgoing version.
What's it like?
Renault's 1.6-litre diesel engine is surprisingly inaudible, even during a cold start on our sub-zero test drive, and remains so until you exceed 3000rpm, at which point it goes from grumbling to clattering as you rise through the rev range. There's plentiful torque to exploit from as little as 1400rpm, making painless work of getting up to speed and carrying out safe overtakes. Progress is further aided by the relatively slick six-speed manual gearbox.
The Mégane's steering is light and precise, making it easy to turn in and judge how much lock is needed. It's relatively numb, however, which, in addition to pronounced body roll, means it's not as engaging to drive as some of its closest rivals.
However, out on rutted British roads, the Mégane does a remarkably good job of providing a cosseting ride. Only larger potholes cause thuds and vibrations to pass through the cabin, and it never loses its composure outright.
Inside, everything is logically laid out. Our mid-spec Dynamique S Nav test car sported a decent amount of soft-touch plastics and premium-feeling trim materials, with the lower-rent plastics left mainly out of sight.
Space is good, too, with plenty of room and adjustment for the front passengers. The rear seats provide ample knee room for even tall adults, but head and shoulder space is at more of a premium given the slightly sloping roofline.
As already mentioned, the ST's boot is slightly smaller than before, leaving it trailing behind the likes of Vauxhall Astra and Leon, not to mention the Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia estates. That said, the available boot space is quite practical, with a wide opening and no load lip making it easy to lift bulky items into the back. There's a quick-release function for the folding rear seats, too, adding to the convenience.
Should I buy one?
If you are looking for a practical family-sized estate then look elsewhere first: the Seat Leon and Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourers both offer far more boot space and practicality. However, given the Mégané's easy-going nature and supple ride, it's a viable alternative, but consider what your priorities are first: an easy life or more boot space?
If only a Mégane Sport Tourer will do, then this more powerful 128bhp diesel is the one to go for. it loses out slightly on economy and emissions, but its refined and torquey nature makes it the more compelling choice.
Renault Mégane Sport Tourer dCi 130 Dynamique S Nav
Location Gloucestershire; On sale Now; Price £26,950; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, diesel; Power 128bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1429kg; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Top speed 123mph; Fuel economy 70.6mpg (combined); CO2 rating/BIK 128g/km, 20%; Rivals Seat Leon Sports Tourer, Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer