The Renault Mégane 1.2 TCe (130) Dynamique Nav
This is the 2017 Renault Mégane 1.2 TCe Dynamique Nav. From the outside it looks quite up-to-date, particularly with the outsize, horse-shoe on-its-side-shaped daytime running lights on. And there’s more than a hint of Hercule Poirot’s fine moustache in the illuminated tail lights’ extravagance. The general feel though is of a sensible pair of shoes, ones which would be equally suited to a spot of gardening, or out for Sunday lunch. Long gone are the days of the eye-catching, plump-rumped second-generation car.
Inside this particular silver vessel, there lies waiting a sea of depressing, not quite matching black. The seat facings come clad in three different materials, with leather-look bolsters and two different cloths, which prove very grabby. Be careful how your behind makes touchdown, you won’t shift it once it’s down.
Setting off, the first thing you’ll notice is that the clutch has a ridiculously high biting point and a very springy action, which catches you out first few times. Like, when is this car going to move..? Then, WAYHEY! You might even miss the traffic lights change completely, but at least you’ll be laughing. The gear change may sound resistant and even obstructive but is actually fine, quite slick and pleasant to use, if a little long-throw. The steering is unremarkable, a feel-free zone typical of electrical assistance.
Competence in matters of execution builds with the engine, which passes itself off very well. In terms of numbers, think more of the 130hp than 1.2-litres. It’s quiet and willing, the only let-down being a curious and unpleasant vibration through the pedals at idle, but this only lasts until the stop-start cuts in. Cruising at 70mph demands 2,300rpm, relaxed for a petrol motor of this size. Six gears helps. Only the faint whistling of the little turbo is audible, so you’re well isolated from the general goings on – and that’s before we get to ride comfort. This really is the Mégane’s top card, it’s remarkably smooth, and seems to absorb everything that gets thrown at it. The wheels are a sensible 16-inch size with cushiony sidewalls, but the chassis deserves real credit, delivering seemingly unflappable composure. It doesn’t fall apart when you turn the fashionably flat-bottomed steering wheel either, with handling that’s pretty roll-free.
This Dynamique Nav trim sits quite low in the Mégane range. Below it, the entry-level Expression+ comes with 16-inch alloys, manual air conditioning and cruise/speed control. The model tested adds rear parking sensors, a hands-free key card, and you’ve probably guessed – sat nav. Or the R-LINK 2 multimedia system, as Renault prefers, complete with 7-inch touchscreen. The models above bring an impressive portrait-orientation 8.7-inch screen. This model’s smaller, landscape-orientation item features etched-in shortcut buttons below the screen – though zero tactility means you have to look down to see what you are pressing. The main binnacle is also screen-based, and offers different display options. Don’t expect to see anything as simple as a needle and dial speedo and tacho alongside each other, though. Some of the other technology is well thought through – the electric-folding mirrors never miss a chance to show off, automatically folding then unfolding as you walk back up to the car. The electronic handbrake works confidently and unobtrusively. When you stop and turn off the engine, and the radio stays on but only until you open the door to get out. After all, who else needs to know you’re a Nathan Carter fan?
Bucking the recent trend for static, nudge ‘em stalks, the indicator and wiper stalks hold their position when moved. No bad thing. One aural delight that lifts the dull interior is different tone dink-donk noises for left and right turns. For the hard of seeing, presumably. There’s also a sound system control module mounted on the steering column, very French late-90s in style and execution, but none the worse for it. This makes sure steering wheel button quota is well under control, with mobile phone on the right and cruise control/speed limit on left, though oddly you must select the desired speed-related function using a rotary switch beside the handbrake switch.
If you can set your ego far enough aside, a day with the Mégane will show you a car very competent in almost all matters which a car must show competence. It’s not the most spacious in its class, the neighbours won’t envy the badge, and you won’t cast it a backwards glance in the supermarket car park. But it’ll soothe you down any road, return a respectable 37mpg, doesn’t lack for standard equipment and isn’t too hard on your pocket for the initial outlay either – RRP is £19,290, brokers come in just under £15,000, or a nearly new example like the one driven here would set you back no more than £13,000.