There is some decent competition in the sedan versions of hatchbacks, and they are increasingly popular for drivers who want added rear seat and boot space. But with a boot bolted to the rear, in most cases, they aren't exactly great to look at.
Enter the 2017 Renault Megane sedan. It is one that stands out amongst the crowd with its styling, unlike the Holden Astra and Mazda 3 sedan. Whether you love or hate it, it’s bound to get looks. And we have to say; surely it’s better looking than its now-departed stablemate, the Fluence?
Only two variants are available in the Megane range, and this one we have on test is the base model Megane Zen sedan, starting at $27,490 before on-road costs. It’s $4500 less than the Intens variant, missing out on blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, distance warning, side parking sensors, privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels and a larger infotainment screen.
But the Zen still gets a lot for that money, including front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, automatic headlights and wipers, dual climate control and satellite navigation as standard. Our Megane comes with the $700 ADAS package, which includes autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning.
Like the hatch, powering it is a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine, mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Is it enough to haul a nearly five-metre long sedan? Maybe. Hang tight for that answer.
As mentioned earlier, its looks are polarising. Whether it's the long tail lights that meet the Renault badge in the middle of the boot or the headlights that remind you of KISS makeup, it reeks of quirky French styling.
You’ve got to give it to Renault for persisting with the Smart Key Card. It was designed to put in your purse or wallet and resembles an Apple computer mouse, but is impossible to attach to your house keys. On the plus side, it is easy to find in a cluttered handbag!
A step inside the Megane sedan isn’t exactly an exciting experience, with a lot of black greeting you. Trying to break it up is a piece of cheap black plastic with white dots that are placed on each door and above the glovebox. It may have been a better decision to leave it off.
Apart from that, the dash materials are pretty good. The top of the dash and door trims covered in hard rubber, and the flat centre console can show fingerprints, as Renault has done away with hard buttons for its shortcuts.
A few things like the glovebox handle and cupholder (which is shallow) adjuster feel like they could break at any time. Speaking of the glovebox, it’s extremely narrow and deep, and just, weird. Although it does have two USB connections, adding to the other two USBs, an AUX jack and 12-volt socket.
Cranking up the Arkamys eight-speaker audio system is a little underwhelming, and after playing with the equalizer, it still produces a bland sound with no ‘balls.' The volume control is behind the steering wheel, as is the source selection via a strange scroll wheel.
One small feature that is lacking, one that is handy for us journalists, is an arrow to show which side of the car the fuel cap is on. But after a few weeks of ownership, we are sure you would start remembering which side of the car it’s on!
Renault’s R-LINK 2 infotainment system on the 7.0-inch touchscreen has its moments. Its response is relatively quick, but it does have a few annoying things that could drive you a bit mad.
The first thing we did was turn off the welcome sequence as it’s loud enough to frighten you every time. With no hard buttons for menu selections, just finger touches on the console, it can make it a challenge to press them, especially on a bumpy road, and it requires eyes off the road for longer periods.
The biggest gripe would be the time isn’t displayed while satellite navigation is in use or on the main menu screen. It requires going right back to the start screen where an analogue clock is shown. The driver information screen doesn’t even show the time.
Diving deeper into its settings and you’ll find some fun features to play with, including an option to change the sound of the parking sensors and adjusting the brightness and colour of the rear-view camera image. Lookout Photoshop.
Jumping into the back seat, you’ll find dual ISOFIX points, rear ventilation, and one 12-volt socket. However, it is not a hugely comfortable place to be. A cushiony part seems to be in the wrong place and digs into your lower back, the armrest is that small that your arm slides off, and head- and legroom is adequate. The back of the front seats are covered in a soft vinyl and have two large map pockets. Cabin noise is quiet enough to put a baby to sleep or easily hear a conversation between the two people seated up front.
Its boot size is impressive at 503 litres, sixteen-litres below the Honda Civic’s 519L. It increases to 987L once the 60:40 back seats are folded. A full-size temporary spare wheel is found under the boot floor, but you need to tackle it to open as the two tie-down latches get in the way.
So how does the Megane sedan drive? Not bad. The 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine does sound tiny considering the size of the car. However, it is small for a reason. To meet strict emission regulations in Europe, it has been downsized to produce 97kW of power and 205Nm of torque. But don’t let those numbers scare you away.
Weighing around 1300kg, the engine gets the car moving quicker than you might think, although the figures don’t justify it, reaching 100km/h in 10.9 seconds.
The majority of the testing we did in the sedan was at cruising speeds, with fuel economy reading 6.0-litres per 100km, under Renault’s combined reading of 6.1 litres which betters Honda Civic and Holden Astra. Not bad for an engine that works hard, revving at 2300 at 100km/h. Matt Campbell got a reading of 8.6L in stop-start traffic in the Intens variant.
Its seven-speed dual-clutch EDC automatic gearbox is a letdown, though. When pushing, the gear changes are lurchy, enough to push your head into the seat. It will settle down if you take it easy.
In the wet, the front wheels can spin when taking off, even when the foot is not planted on the go pedal. As with most Renaults, the cruise control switch is located in the middle of the front two seats, which is insane, as you have to take your eyes completely off the road to engage it.
The cabin noise is well suppressed, with engine and tyre noise on par with the Holden Astra sedan. The 16-inch alloy wheels look pretty good for an entry-level model, and with more rubber, comes comfort. It has no problem dealing with speed humps and small ruts.
Renault has a very respectable five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and includes five years of roadside assistance. You will need to book it in every 12 months or 30,000km for a service, with each visit costing a maximum of $299. It has not been tested by ANCAP yet, but in 2015 it received a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
The Megane sedan is one of the most stylish sedans on the market and is packed with a lot of safety features that make it even more attractive.
Saying that, it's only suited to a certain type of driving.
If you are looking for a city car, then we would recommend looking elsewhere. The lurchy transmission and smaller engine leave it behind the likes of the Honda Civic or the Mazda 3.
However, if you do a lot of freeway or country driving, the Megane will cruise quietly and comfortably, with good fuel economy and the peace of mind of a lengthy roadside assistance.