I recently had the chance to drive the new Renault Megane Sport Tourer – the estate version of the Renault Megane, Renault’s answer to cars like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. The Megane Sport Tourer model was only launched in August 2009 and is still a relatively uncommon sight on our roads. Renault hopes that it will take a chunk out of the market share currently enjoyed by the Focus and Astra estates and other small estate models such as the Peugeot’s 308SW.
The Sport Tourer is available in a wide range of specifications, ranging from the basic-spec Extreme model up to the top specification Privilege (luxury) and GT (sporting) versions. Prices start at £15,885 for the cheapest Extreme model and range up to £23,975 for the range-topping GT dCi 160. The diesel-powered Expression dCi 106 that I drove has a list price of £18,915 at the time of writing.
One thing you can say about Renault is that it does not hesitate to introduce new styling concepts. The current Megane is the third generation Megane model and bears little resemblance to either of its predecessors, the blob-like Megane 1 and the angular Megane 2 (see here for my review of a 2008 Renault Megane Scenic). By way of comparison, the appearance of the Ford Focus has changed very little over the same period of time.
I’m not sure whether such regular style overhauls are a good thing or not – but the new Megane Sport Tourer certainly looks modern and quite stylish from the outside. My car’s combination of metallic paint, silver roof bars, alloy wheels and clear light lenses worked well in my eyes and the carefully-styled lines of the new model emphasise the Renault badging and give it a purposeful but stylish appearance. This car is far too rakish to be called an estate, but suits the Sport Tourer moniker very well.
Driving & Performance
The Megane Sport Tourer I drove had Renault’s 1.5dCi 106 diesel engine, coupled with a five-speed manual gearbox. This engine is one of the workhorses of Renault’s stable and will make a sensible, if unexciting, choice for many owners. It pulls cleanly from quite low revs and seemed to have a broader powerband than it did in the previous generation Megane Scenic dCi I drove in 2008.
Performance was adequate, but not exciting. This could be due to the extra length and weight of the Sport Tourer – it is not a small car and is actually slightly larger than both the Focus and Golf estates. Drivers planning a lot of motorway miles might do well to pay extra and get the 1.9dCi 130 model, instead.
Handling and ride were pleasant and remained composed even on pothole-ridden country roads. The steering was a little over-assisted – there was not much feel to it – but there was nothing to complain about and the car felt composed through corners and on bumpy sections of road. The brakes always felt like they had plenty in reserve – if anything, they were a little more impressive than those in the Ford Focus Econetic I drove earlier this year.
Interior & Comfort
I’ve always found Renault seats pretty comfortable, if a little on the soft side. The Megane Sport Tourer proved no exception and I did not need to spend much time adjusting the seat to get comfortable before I started driving.
Legroom is good and rear passengers don’t have to suffer in the way that they do in the hatchback Megane – Renault have stretched the Megane’s wheelbase by 62mm for the Sport Tourer and given it a much longer body – it’s 4.56m long, and is not a small car.
The dashboard and interior are pretty much the same as the standard Megane and are perfectly acceptable, although they do not quite match up to the standard set by the VW Golf. Renault’s penchant for slightly quirky dashboards continues in this car and the key card and engine start/stop button are a novelty that while mildly entertaining, don’t seem to serve any useful purpose.
On the other hand, I found the digital speedometer clear and easy to read – I reckon it takes slightly less time to look at this than it does to look at a traditional analogue speedo, which has to be a good thing. The other instruments were clear and simple, too. The centre console houses the stereo, air-con and heating controls and is a relatively conventional thing that poses no problems, although my car didn’t have the optional built-in Carminat Tom Tom satellite navigation, so I’m not sure how easy this is to use.
CO2 Emissions & Road Tax Costs
The advantage of the 1.5dCi engine, of course, is lower emissions and fuel consumption. The Megane Sports Tourer I drove qualified for Renault’s eco² badging and had CO2 emissions of just 120g/km and an official combined fuel consumption figure of 62.8mpg. The CO2 rating means that it falls into emissions band C for road tax purposes – meaning £0 tax in the first year of ownership and £30 per year thereafter (at current rates).
The car I drove was a 10 reg and had done just under 3,500 miles from new, with two main drivers, mostly on short, semi-urban trips but with a few longer trips mixed in. According to the car’s trip computer, average fuel consumption to date had been about 52mpg, which seems pretty reasonable (the official urban figure is 51.4mpg).
As an estate, or Sport Tourer, one of the main purposes of this model is to carry stuff – much more than its hatchback equivalent. Here, the Sport Tourer scores well, thanks to its large dimensions and well-designed loadspace.
The rear seats fold flat and the front passenger seat also folds flat – allowing for some quite long loads to be carried inside the vehicle (decking planks and flat-packed wardrobes, for example).
With the seats up, the boot offers 486 litres of space – and this increases to a maximum of 1,567 with all possible seats folded flat. This is more than both the Golf and Focus estates, despite that fact that these two cars have a much squarer rear profile. The Sport Tourer’s rear seats also offer a 60/40 split so that a passenger can be carried alongside a long load.
The Megane Sport Tourer is not a car to buy for driving pleasure. It is, however, a sensible, capacious and user-friendly family car that is competitively priced and will make a lot of sense for many buyers.
Quality wise, I can’t help feeling that it does not quite match the standards set by new Fords, let alone new VWs. However, it’s cheaper than both and is plenty good enough. As a six-footer, I found the seating comfortable and there was enough space in the back for me not to wince at the thought of a journey as a rear-seat passenger.