Renault has just launched one of its most efficient small cars on the Australian market...
Renault Megane Hatch Diesel 1.5-litre dCi 110 DPF diesel engine 81kW/240Nm, six-speed EDC (Efficient Dual-Clutch) transmission:
Renault Megane Hatch Diesel Dynamique: $27,490
Renault Megane Hatch Diesel Privilege: $32,490 (Manufacturer’s List Price)
It might only have a displacement of 1.5-litres of diesel power under the bonnet, but rest assured, it goes better than anything in the same class and does corners like most other Renault hatches – very, very, well.
Renault has just launched one of its most efficient small cars on the Australian market in the Renault Megane Hatch Diesel. It looks good, is competitively priced, is chock full of goodies, goes exceptionally well and offers outstanding fuel economy. What’s not to like?
It also represents a further push by Renault to create a strong value proposition for the brand in Australia. Earlier this year the French car company moved the new car warranties from 3 years unlimited to 5 years unlimited on passenger cars with further warranty extensions on the Renault Sport and light commercial vehicle ranges.
Renault Australia CEO, Justin Horcevar, has only been in the job for twelve months, but you get the impression that he'll do whatever it takes to attract buyers to the Renault brand.
Already this year Renault sales are up by 100 per cent although, clearly that’s off a low base volume. That said sales year-to-date are 2,200 units with company ambitions at more like 3,500 units for the full year. Renault is still to launch the new Koleos SUV and new Master commercial van in 2011. In 2012, they will launch their first Electric Vehicle, which will be known as the ZE (Zero Emissions) Fluence in Australia.
For those of you who are largely unfamiliar with the Renault badge in this country, you can read on with the knowledge that Renault does what are considered to be some of the best handling hot hatches in the world.
We drove the Renault Megane RS 250 on track earlier this year and the entire motoring press corps in this country were unanimous in their praise for the car’s superglue grip and dynamics along with its ability to dissect a racetrack more capably than sports cars costing many thousands more.
On the road the Megane RS 250 is pure eye candy and comes loaded with a full suite of creature comforts and safety gear.
It’s the same story with the smaller Renault Clio R.S. 200 Cup or any of the other three R.S. editions available. They are so far ahead of the game in the handling department it’s just not funny. Put that down to some serious racing know-how and one of the most successful Formula One constructors and engine builder’s of all time. 2012 will see Renault supply engines to no less than four F1 teams. In fact, Renault is currently the largest manufacturer of race engines in the world. No small feat.
The real benefit to their efforts on track is Renault’s ability to engineer a superb chassis for their standard, daily driver road cars. That’s abundantly evident in the Megane and Clio model ranges.
Renault also excels when it comes to diesel engines and the new Megane Hatch Diesel will be another welcomed addition to the Megane line up here. Renault Australia have gone for one of the smaller diesel engines in the 1.5-litre powertrain, no doubt looking for the best possible compromise between fuel economy, emissions and performance.
While engine outputs of 81 kW/240Nm are nothing to write home about, the actual driving experience is anything but dull.
All 240 Newton-metres comes on-song from just 1750 rpm so there’s a plenty of pulling power to get this car moving along quite briskly on the open road. Throttle response is also good, so there’s little if any turbo lag during initial acceleration from a standing start.
Most impressive is just how well the Megane Hatch Diesel punches along a fast twisty section of country Victorian road. There would be few 1.5-litre diesel hatches of this size that could keep pace with it and the power delivery is very smooth.
It’s not just the engine either, the ride and handling is as good or better than anything in the small car segment, and that includes some very stiff competition from the Volkswagen Golf, the Ford Focus, and the Peugeot 308.
The Megane Diesel weighs in at 1366 kilos, but quick paced changes in direction are precise, responsive and very predictable. There’s a lot of grip too. Put that down to a well-balanced chassis, which displays minimal roll angle even when pushed. Renault engineers have re-tuned the springs and dampers for better weight distribution of the heavier diesel powertrain and dual clutch system.
Stopping power has bee well catered for too with good pedal feel and surefooted braking even under constant load.
Renault has clearly worked hard on the NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) management of their diesel cars, as this would have to be close to the segment leader when it comes to quietness inside the cabin. It’s not that you can’t tell it’s a diesel, because that’s evident at idle and under initial acceleration, but at highway speeds the diesel clatter is entirely muffled. So much so, that my driving partner (from another media entity) was unanimous in our praise for how quiet the cabin is under load.
The Renault Megane hatch Diesel is also marks the debut of Renault’s dual-clutch system in Australia and is partly the reason why this diminutive diesel hatch is as much fun to drive as it is despite it’s ‘green’ ambitions.
The fact that Renault calls it an ‘Efficient Dual Clutch’ is indication alone that the emphasis is on efficiency and smoothness rather than trying for an F1 style shift pattern.
In fact, this is a dual clutch that feels more like a super-smooth automatic transmission, at least on the up-shifts. With gear changes occurring in 290 milliseconds it’s slower than the traditional dual clutch units used by the German manufacturers, but the benefits are silky smooth shifts and none of the low speed jerkiness that has been characteristic of those used by Volkswagen. Of course, the Renault system doesn’t shift anywhere near as quick, but that’s clearly not Renault’s focus with the Megane Diesel with it’s optimised ‘creep’ control, which means a smooth get away in stop/start traffic conditions.
It might not drive or handle like typical ‘green’ car but fuel consumption of 4.5L/100km (combined) for a car that hold four adults in relative comfort is commendable. That level of consumption translates into a paltry 117g/km of CO2 emissions using diesel fuel and naturally, the engine is Euro 5 compliant.
Also standard on the entry level Dynamique Megane Diesel is Hill Start Assist. It’s a brilliant feature that prevents the car from rolling back if you’re stopped on an incline. It’s almost essential kit these days with dual clutch systems, given the manual-like behaviour in such traffic conditions.
The third generation Megane is a stylish bit of kit even in non-Renault Sport guise, and the interior is just as nice. It’s not just the suite of standard features that makes this car a mandatory addition on many shopping lists, it’s also the superior quality of the various materials used throughout the trim that impresses us. Everything is soft touch but it’s more the high-end feel and touch of the dash material and metal highlights that we like.
Particularly attractive as well as useful given the proliferation of speed cameras these days, is the oversize digital speedometer and yellow tachometer needle. So to is the clearly designed centre stack with intuitive HVAC and audio controls.
The Sat Nav unit, which is part of the standard kit package on the Megane Diesel Privilege is reset into the dash and easily seen in all light conditions.
The seats themselves have a high level of bolster and even the fabric on the entry level Dynamique is superior to what you would find in same segment vehicles.
The standard features inventory on the entry level Megane Diesel Hatch including safety gear is extensive and includes the following:
The Dynamique specification includes:
• Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)
• Anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
• 6 airbags – dual front, side and front/rear curtain airbags
• Cruise control and speed limiter
• Automatic lights and windscreen wipers
• Fog lights
• Engine immobiliser
• “See me home” function headlights
• Renault Smart Key Card (hands-free entry and ignition start)
• Dark charcoal cloth upholstery
• Leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob
• Height and reach adjustable steering wheel
• Variable power steering
• Height adjustable driver and passenger’s seats with driver lumbar support
• Adjustable front headrests
• Centre console with 12V power outlet at the rear
• Illuminated glove box
• Sunglasses case for driver
• Dual-zone climate control air conditioning with rear air vents
• Bluetooth with audio streaming
• 4x15 W AM/FM stereo (4 speakers /2 tweeters) with single CD/MP3 player and fingertip satellite controls
• Multimedia connection box with AUX input and USB support
• 60:40 split opening rear seats
• Body coloured, electric, heated, foldable door mirrors
• Satin chrome door handles
• 16-inch alloy wheels
• Full-size spare with steel rim
The range-topping Privilege adds:
• Rear parking sensors
• Black leather upholstery
• 4x30 W AM/FM 3D sound by Arkamys® (4 speakers /4 tweeters) with single CD/MP3 player and fingertip satellite controls
• Integrated satellite navigation
• Electric glass sunroof
• 17-inch alloy wheels
• Full-size spare with steel rim
In addition the new Mégane hatch diesel comes with 5-years/unlimited kilometres warranty and 24/7 roadside assistance.
The servicing interval is 15,000 km/one year.
Renault is serious about kick starting sales of the new Megane Hatch Diesel and is offering 2.9% financing along with 3 years free scheduled servicing for cars purchased until the end of October.
There’s a lot to like about the Megane Hatch Diesel and little if anything to whinge about. My guess is that it should be a big seller for Renault as long as they can get folks to take it for a test drive.