Last year, Renault launched the Clio small car and Captur SUV, and now it's face-lifted the bigger Renault Megane hatchback to give it the same family look.
The trouble is the Megane has always struggled to stand out in a class that includes some exceptionally talented rivals, including the Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf. So Renault has also given it more standard kit and cut the price of some versions. Is this enough to trouble the class leaders?
What’s the 2014 Renault Megane like to drive?
Aside from removing two engine variants and rebranding the remainder under the ‘Energy’ banner, there’s little to report in the way of mechanical changes.
We've driven two versions: the 1.5 dCi 110 diesel, which remains a strong, clean performer and is made more appealing by Renault’s £1200 price chop on models featuring it; and the refined and economical 1.2 TCe 115 petrol, which has also received a price drop – although by a more modest £275.
Both cars get a six-speed manual gearbox that shifts sweetly enough – an automatic gearbox can be added to the diesel for £1000. In the diesel, the manual gearbox's tall top gear keeps its engine quiet on the motorway and it still picks up well when you ask for a burst of acceleration without changing down. The 1.2-litre petrol is sprightly and smooth around town and also feels relaxed at motorway speeds.
Around town, light controls and the flexible engine make it very easy to drive. Unfortunately the steering offers little reassurance at higher speeds because it barely loads up when you turn the wheel and there's an overly strong self-centring action.
The ride is a little on the firm side, too, and you have to put up with a lot of wind and road noise on the motorway. At least both engines are quiet at all speeds.
What’s the 2014 Renault Megane like inside?
Inside, the changes are pretty subtle, which means the Megane retains some features that frustrate.
The infotainment system fitted to Dynamique models such as the one we drove is awkward to use, with lots of buttons between the seats and a fiddly stereo on the dashboard. It also features a touch-screen that is mounted high up on the dashboard requiring the driver to stretch to reach it. The screen also reflects badly in the windscreen at night.
Meanwhile, the steering-column-mounted phone and music controls are confusing and obscured from view – although familiarity may well lessen your contempt for the arrangement.
Whether you get on with the Megane's digital speedo and push button start is more a matter of personal preference, but the inaccessible cup holder in front of the gearlever is not.
Still it's not all bad news, because the soft-touch dashboard feels well-screwed together and the driver’s seat offers plenty of adjustment and support. A two-way adjustable steering wheel further improves driver comfort. However, rear passengers have to put up with restricted head and legroom.
Should I buy one?
The Megane competes in a very tough segment of the market and despite the improvements brought about by the mid-life face-lift, most of the old shortcomings remain. Put simply, the Megane lacks the refinement, practicality and driving enjoyment of the best family hatchbacks.
That said, clean, economical engines, a reasonably smart cabin and price cuts on the diesel models mean it is worth considering. Prices start at £16,745 for the 1.6 petrol, £17,570 for the 1.2 and you'll have to find £18,245 (before discounts) for the entry-level diesel model.
For most buyers, though, the Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia are much better buys.
What Car? says…
Specification 1.6 VVT
Engine size 1.6-litre petrol
Price from £19,590
Torque 111lb ft
0-62mph 10.5 seconds
Top speed 118mph
Fuel economy 40.9mpg
Specification 1.2 TCe 115
Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Price from £17,570
Torque 140lb ft
0-62mph 10.9 seconds
Top speed 118mph
Fuel economy 53.3mpg
Specification 1.5 dCi 110 diesel
Engine size 1.5-litre diesel
Price from £18,245
Torque 191lb ft
0-62mph 12.1 seconds
Top speed 118mph
Fuel economy 80.7mpg
Specification 1.6 dCi 130 diesel
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £19,745
Torque 235lb ft
0-62mph 9.8 seconds
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 70.6mpg