This is the new, fourth-generation Renault Mégane, which aims to take on well-established family hatchback rivals such as the Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.
It’s a very different car to the outgoing third-gen Mégane. It features new underpinnings, modern styling and a host of upmarket options, including a smart-looking 8.7in tablet-style media system.
Engine options include efficient turbocharged petrol and diesels, and buyers can select a dual-clutch automatic gearbox on some variants.
There’s also a high-performance GT model, which features a selection of Renaultsport upgrades, including a powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, sports suspension and numerous cosmetic changes.
Here, however, we’re testing what’s likely to be one of the more popular engine options. It’s a 1.6-litre diesel, badged the Energy dCi 130, which produces 128bhp yet returns a claimed 70.6mpg and emits 103g/km of CO2.
What’s the 2016 Renault Mégane Energy dCi 130 like to drive?
It’s an easy-going, fuss-free car that’s not difficult to drive, making it ideal for those wanting a straightforward hatchback.
The Mégane’s steering is precise and weighty enough so that it doesn’t feel nervous on the motorway. It’s got plenty of front-end grip, too, so high-speed corners don’t trouble it much. It also rides quite smoothly, while a tight turning circle helps make parking a breeze.
The 1.6-litre diesel offers up decent performance, dispatching the 0-62mph sprint in 10.0sec, and there’s a decent amount of mid-range pull. It’s not the quietest or smoothest engine around, and the gearbox is a little notchy but rarely annoys.
It looks like it will be a frugal choice, too. During our test the 1.6 returned an indicated 47mpg without trying. That’s a good result considering the mix of conditions and speeds on our test route.
It alsomeans the Mégane will easily cover more than 480 miles on a single tank, which will make it a good choice for those who regularly drive longer distances.
Similarly, company car drivers will appreciate its low CO2 emissions, resulting in affordable monthly company car tax costs. Private buyers will similarly appreciate the fact they only have to pay £20 in annual VED.
What’s the 2016 Renault Mégane Energy dCi 130 like inside?
As well as performing competently on the road, a family hatch has to be practical in order to be among the best in the class. Fortunately, the Renault does well on this front.
Up front you’ll find plenty of room, with big footwells and lots of adjustability making it easy to stretch out, while in the back there’s space for two 6ft-tall adults.
The cabin is otherwise comfortable and smartly finished, with soft-touch materials in the right places and some neat features such as adjustable ambient lighting colours. These help add a touch of class to the Mégane.
The new tablet-style media system looks good and its navigation and media functions work well, but its buttons can be a bit slow to respond at times, which can be frustrating. It’s also likely to be a cost option on all but the most expensive versions.
You get plenty of storage, however, with decent-size door bins and a 384-litre boot. That’s just bigger than a VW Golf’s, and bigger than the boots found in the Astra and Focus. You can split and fold the rear seats, too, should you need extra space.
The only other gripes, outside of some wind noise from around the pillars and door mirrors, was some knocking from the suspension over bigger bumps. It wasn’t loud enough to annoy, but it did detract from what was otherwise a peaceful cabin.
Should I buy one?
There’s merit to the new Mégane. It’s comfortable, practical, well built and easy to drive. At the moment, however, it’s tricky to say whether if it should be on your shortlist.
That’s because final pricing and equipment levels won’t be released until just before the car goes on sale, in summer 2016, meaning it’s difficult to reach a conclusive verdict.
Renault suggests the range will start at around £18k, however, with a version featuring this diesel engine likely costing somewhere in the region of £20k.
For now, as a result, it remains one to watch. It has its charms and could prove a worthwhile alternative to the established mainstream alternatives.
Low purchase or monthly PCP prices, in conjunction with a decent kit list, will give it an even better chance of being a more popular choice.
What Car? says...
Renault Megane Energy dCi 130
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £20,000 (est)
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 10.0 seconds
Top speed 123mph
Fuel economy 70.6mpg