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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For It's inexpensive and the later models are well equipped

Against It has a frumpy image, it's dull to drive, unreliable, and the interior is cheap-looking

Verdict A safe, cheap and spacious small family car

Go for… 1.4 Expression

Avoid… 1.9 DTi 80 Sport

Renault Megane Hatchback
  • 1. Make sure the clutch works properly, because replacing it is a complicated - and expensive - job
  • 2. Head gasket failures have been reported, so check the inside of the oil filler cap for the sludge that can warn of problems
  • 3. Auto gearboxes have a nasty knack of failing, and rebuilds are costly
  • 4. Immobiliser faults can strand cars, although repairs can often be carried out at the roadside
  • 5. There have been complaints about poor-quality paintwork, and the body-coloured bumpers are prone to marks
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Renault Megane Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The Megane is an anonymous hatchback that looked very dated by the time Renault stopped making it.

The bold lines of later versions make this one appear old-fashioned, but it beats most rivals for safety kit – you get front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and a full three-point belt for the centre-rear seat on even the cheapest models.

Come to that, the car is generously equipped all round – all have remote central locking, most have air-con and CD players.

It scores well for practicality, too, with a roomy cabin, a fair-sized boot and a big hatch opening. However, the dash plastic looks dull and some of the switchgear feels brittle and cheap. There’s not enough space for phones, sunglasses and other bits and bobs, either.

On the road, too, it's basically pretty decent. The Megane rides well and keeps out most road noise, and the bigger engines make it feel quite spirited. All that counts against it is that the steering lacks feel and discourages you from making full use of the power.

Trade view

James Ruppert

1.8 RT Sport a bargain buy while 2.2dT Executive is the good value buy

James Ruppert
Used car guru

It’s not a car you’ll want to zip about in, so we’d go for the smallest petrol engine, the 1.4. This gives out 95bhp, which is good for its size. There are also a 1.6 and 1.8, should you want something a little stronger. They're also the only engines to be available with auto 'boxes, although these are very rare.

Of the diesels, the 105bhp 1.9 is much smoother than the 80bhp version, and uses less fuel, too.

In 2001 and 2002, Renault loaded more kit as standard on to the cars to keep them competitive, so even the entry-level model, the Authentique, had electric everything.

We’d move one up to the Expression, though, which had standard air-con, or the Expression Plus, which also had a CD player and electric sunroof. Dynamique, Sport and Privilege are the top trims, but they're rare and not worth the extra cash. Buy from used dealers for the best value.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Questionable reliability - there are much better cars

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

A Megane won't be expensive to buy, and it won't lose much value while you have it, so it won't cost much in that sense. However, they aren’t the most reliable of cars, so we’d budget for repairs as yours gets older. Routine spares are low-priced, but some expensive items may also be needed (see What I should look out for?).

Servicing is easy, simple and, on later models, determined by the car’s onboard electronics. So drive carefully, and you can add miles between scheduled garage visits. Keep away from main dealers, and you won’t pay much.

The car’s excellent safety performance keeps insurance cheap, and virtually every model falls within groups 6 or 7.

Fuel economy is also good. The 1.4 promises up to 30mpg in town and 42mpg overall, the 105bhp diesel gives 41mpg and 54mpg. The 1.8 is thirstiest, but still posts a respectable maximum of 28mpg in town and 37mpg overall.

Trade view

James Ruppert

1.8 RT Sport a bargain buy while 2.2dT Executive is the good value buy

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Megane is fundamentally a tough, long-lasting car, but some parts fail before time and cost plenty to fix. The What Car? Reliability Index and the JD Power customer satisfaction survey show it as far worse than a Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra or any of the major Japanese makes.

Heating systems, for instance, can corrode and start to leak after a few years. Replacing the unit inside the cabin puts things right, but this is expensive.

Clutches last a long time, but cost more than average to replace because the job takes so long. On top of that, head gaskets on 1.4s can fail and wreck the engine if the problem is neglected, while imobiliser faults can strand cars, although repairs can often be carried out at the roadside.

Auto gearboxes have a nasty knack of failing, and rebuilds are dear. But, while shock absorbers don’t last that long, at least they're relatively cheap to renew.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Questionable reliability - there are much better cars

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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