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.