Compared with the old load-lugging Mégane, the latest version sits lower and wider to emphasise the Sport aspect of its name. The trouble is that in doing so, Renault has reduced boot capacity so it’s now a little less than an Astra Sports Tourer and significantly worse than a long-roof Octavia. That’s not to say it isn’t practical - there are nice touches like handles to fold the rear seats in the boot, an adjustable load floor and the usual array of optional cargo restraints to make securing a variety of loads easy. It’s also good to see no step up from the boot floor to the rear seats when they’re folded, all the better to load up on flatpack furniture.
Rear seat space isn’t bad assuming you’re not too tall. Leg room isn’t bad at all for the class, but head room is limited by that lowered roof line. As for the front, there’s ample room and the seats are nice and comfy. Although we liked the return of velour, the faux leather felt very plasticky. Our test car came with Renault’s 8.7in portrait orientated touchscreen infotainment system. It certainly has plenty of functionality but we found the menus to be more confusing than they needed to be with many icons that were too small to hit accurately.
As for quality, there’s plenty of soft-touch plastic and of course the luxuriant feel of velour beneath you. The trouble is that there’s an awful lot of unattractive satin finish plastic, especially around the infotainment screen that makes the interior feel a bit cheap overall.
On the road, the Mégane’s suspension setup seems totally at odds with the Sport bit of its name. The springs feel soft, and on smooth but undulating surfaces, this means a relaxed feel that makes the pronounced body roll acceptable. Of course, the UK isn’t known for its high-quality road network – once on a roughly surfaced road, things quickly fall apart. Even on relatively small 17in wheels, the suspension just can’t cope with sudden shocks. At best, you hear the suspension thumping over the obstacle but most of the time you’ll feel it as well, shattering any calm there may have been.
It’s no fun either; the steering is too light in Comfort and Neutral modes, although, to be fair, the weighting isn’t bad in Sport mode. The trouble is that even with the nose ploughing on, that weighting doesn’t change. There is literally no feedback at all.
You’d best get used to understeer, too. Non-switchable stability control is quick to get involved and as subtle as a kick in the trousers. If there is fun to be had, we didn’t find it. As for the engine, it’s no ball of fire but it isn’t hard to achieve more than 50mpg if you drive very carefully. It’s also impressively refined for a small four-pot diesel.