2015 Renault Megane 130 dCi Sports Tourer

DTW tested the Renault Megane in 2010 and found it wanting. Another chance arose to test the car and so we can now offer a second opinion. What still irks and which aspects seem less unpalatable with the passage of time?

2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer. Never use a black car for a road test. This the car under cloudy conditions.
2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer. Never use a black car for a road test. This is the car under sunny conditions.

Our first test in 2010 involved a mid-range petrol-engined five door-hatch. This time DTW went for the 130 dCi estate in “Limited” garb. My casual research indicates this is the base model but it doesn’t feel all that base to sit in. Air con, blue teeth, electric windows and cloth upholstery are all included in the asking. Ringing in my ears as I sat in the car were the words of a neighbour who derided the Megane’s interior for being “plasticky”. As I settled down inside the Megane and peered around I did notice a lot of plastic; such is the nature of car interiors these days, chum. What can he have meant?

2015 Renault Megane under cloudy conditions.
2015 Renault Megane under cloudy conditions.

By and large nothing about the way the car was assembled or the material choices alarmed me, no more than the interiors of other and newer cars in the same class I have inspected recently. So, at first glance, the Renault is holding up well despite its advanced years. Car Buyer agree with me on the interior as well so I am not dissenting from the consensus here.

Handling and ride
The 2010 test has left me with an abiding hatred of the Megane: its ride shocked me with its ineptitude. On smooth roads and driven calmly it never failed to agitate and annoy me. Thus this test provided a very surprising counterpoint. The 2015 dCI 130 has a rather good ride under most circumstances and at its worst is still as good as the average. Part one of the test involves urban roads. It is only now that I remember that I didn’t notice anything.

Full broad daylight and still impossible to read.
Full broad daylight and still impossible to read.

So it must be alright under those conditions. Ditto motorways where the Megane flows quite unobtrusively along. Rural roads don’t upset it either. At present the gravelly uphill climb test track is closed for use so I tried the Megane, unladen, on a 2 km unpaved green road that snaked up, over and down some west Jutland moraines. It coped admirably and never felt less than secure and at ease. Lastly, the trump card: the Megane simply glided along the gravelly coastal track as if floating on velvet. I could imagine driving a very long way on such a bad surface and not noticing a thing underwheel. Remarkable. What kind of tyres does the car run on? 205/55 R16 Michelins. Jolly good stuff.

Impervious to photography.
Impervious to photography.

On the handling front, nothing leapt out at me to cause alarm and the vehicle tracked straight under all conditions with no understeer or odd behaviour apparent. I don’t – as I always have to write- put cars to the nine tenths test.

This is perhaps a cause for some further investigation. On two instances I found myself applying sudden and non-linear pressure to get the car to slow as required. Both times involved a car in front slowing unexpectedly. My reflex braking was not enough and after a small lag, my conscious mind stepped into insist on much firmer efforts than I would have expected. Put another way, I had to think about braking. Generally, under normal driving, the brakes had a smooth and progressive quality and the deceleration was easy to modulate. So, it’s a bit bipolar and this may merely be a quirk of one car.

2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer, centre console. Notice the two buttons left on the HVAC console. Those control fan speed. On the lower panel try finding the on/off switch. In the dark, driving. See: Fitt´s Law for why this is truly inexcusable.
2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer, centre console. Notice the two buttons left on the HVAC console. Those control fan speed. On the lower panel try finding the on/off switch. In the dark, driving. See: Fitt´s Law for why this is truly inexcusable.

Behind the wheel
If Renault appear to have retuned the Megane’s suspension to great effect, they have failed to do anything about the car’s single biggest failure, the ergonomics of the heating and radio controls. I can’t stress it enough: having a car designed so that changing fan speed or turning off the radio can cause an accident is a very serious demerit.

2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer. Nice and obviously made of plastic. But good plastic.
2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer. Nice and obviously made of plastic. But good plastic.

I had cause to use the fan controls the moment I set off in the car and immediately decided I would leave them alone so angry did they make me. But I couldn’t avoid using them and had to face again the basis for the Megane’s wholly unsatisfactory controls.

It stems from form determining functionality. The controls look quite nice with their two smoothly formed frames enclosing the buttons. However, the framing of the HVAC controls meant I misunderstood the design and hunted sideways (left to right) in the search for the fan speed control I needed to look up and down (for a tiny button).

It´s so black, isn´t it? 2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer.
It’s so black, isn’t it? 2015 Renault Megane Sports Tourer.

The button to reduce fan speed is visually separated from the fan-increase button by that horizontal central oblong. And like the Opel Zafira, the symbols are not visually distinct enough, being nearly the same size. Finally, button operations for fans speed and temperature are good for packaging and saving money but fundamentally unergonomic. Dials and dials only are the only acceptable means to control these continuous variables like heat and volume.

The radio on/off switch is a button 5 mm in diameter. The volume control is no thicker than a pencil and is hard to reach as it lurks under an overhang on the dashboard. The design of this and the rest of the HVAC contravenes Fitt´s Law for no good reason. Why am I going on about this? Because in every day use these controls could confound your plans for a safe arrival and imperil the safety of you, your passengers and other road users.

Getting past all that, the rest of the car is just fine which makes that gross failure all the more poignant. Imagine a really nice and lovely person who had the one flaw such that the mention of hats would bring forth a torrent of verbal abuse that would last an hour. The Megane is like that. Basically it’s an alright car but with one staggeringly dumb drawback. And that bit of the car hasn’t changed since 2010.

The steering is a bit wooden. The six speed gearbox is still a bit unhelpful. I remain firmly convinced that fifth does nothing at all but confuse you during medium-speed driving around town. Was I in fourth or third or fifth or what?

Practical matters pertaining to daily use under normal conditions hereinunder luggage capacity et cetera

The boot volume is a creditable 525 litres. Only one lamp is provided in the boot, on the left side. I did not like the lack of an ashtray. The storage under the armrest was too small to be of much use but I suppose it could hold lots of USB sticks which would be helpful if you store music in that way. The Renault website does not reveal the luggage capacity with the rear seats folded down. That’s because the Megane estate holds more than the Laguna estate. And oddly more Laguna estates are sold than saloons (where sold at all).

An unknown number of litres with the seats down. The seat cushions are foam pads covered in cloth. I don´think they will last but Renaults never go more than 7 years anyway. The seats don´t fold flat and the whole arrangement looks messy. Not so good. Not important but still...
An unknown number of litres with the seats down. The seat cushions are foam pads covered in cloth. I don’t think they will last but Renaults never go more than 7 years anyway. The seats don’t fold flat and the whole arrangement looks messy. Not so good. Not important but still…

As ever, the rear of the car is no place for children: the waistline is too high. Get a Meriva if you don’t hate your small brood. There is no centre armrest. The door armrests are narrow perches of no possible use to anyone, being narrower than a Mars bar. The head-restraints are fiddly to put up and down. The luggage bay cover is miles better than Ford’s though.

And for the driver we find the same problem as in the Hyundai i30: you can’t rest your arm on the top of the door when the window is wound down fully. It’s too high up. The view out of the car to the rear is appalling. Parking sensors help parking but not at other times. Par for the course these days. Why is this now accepted?

The Megane has a kerbweight of about 1252 kgs (quite light, I think) and that means the diesel engine has an easy time of it. Which leads me to casually say that the Megane had no trouble overtaking and generally moving about at a decent clip. Nothing to win prizes with but very believable. What you notice is that the car picks up its skirts at around 1500 rpm and really moves off. Below that it acts in a less frenetic fashion.

Fuel Economy

Renault promise 70 mpg for this six speed, front-wheel drive diesel engined estate or “sports tourer” as they fatuously describe it. I got 52 mpg which seems creditable in itself. The Megane’s fuel tank’s capacity means the car can be driven 693 miles before finally needing a refill. How many litres does the tank hold then? That could be a maths question from a secondary school book, no? I do know the answer by the way. Since it took me so much trouble to track down Renault’s dimensions from their obtuse website I will not give up this valuable secret very easily, thank you.

On DTW’s standard Calais-Cap Ferrat route, you will need to stop once, about an hour or two from your destination. That means stopping in Frejus and maybe having a meal. The total trip will require 14 gallons of diesel.

Concluding Ruminations that Draw Together the Abovegoing Observations

That HVAC design really kills this car for me. It has nice looks, a huge boot, comfortable and supportive seats, a fine ride, wooden steering, and is easy on fuel. But those controls. Those controls. Were it not for them I would take this car over a Ford Focus. But I can’t. They are that bad.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

4 thoughts on “2015 Renault Megane 130 dCi Sports Tourer”

  1. With your previous test, I remember appending my own memories of a very similar Megane I’d driven a few months earlier. Except I could remember very little about it. It was adequate, but hardly the exemplary product you’d expect from a company that had been making cars for 110 years. And I agree that the ergonomics were awful, though I feel that is an inexcusable problem with so many modern cars.

    In its favour, it is really time that the tiresome “Rennnos? Pile of crap mate. They all fall apart don’t they?” thing you keep reading on websites stopped. It was never entirely true anyway, but it’s certainly not now.

    I like anonymous cars, but this is just a dull car with unnecessary little tweaks to it to try and make it seem interesting (compared to that dullard of received pub-bore wisdom, the Golf), but in fact just irritate. My only reason to buy this is if it was cheaper than the equivalent Hyundai, and vice-versa.

  2. That much is plainly incorrect. There’s nothing materially wrong with this car. With regular maintenance it has just as much chance of reaching 15 as any Golf, Astra or Focus. There was a lot to like: the ride and seats especially. What makes this so infuriating is the wrong-headed stubborn-ness of someone in Renault who insists on such lousy usability failures, 25 years after Don Norman spelled out how to avoid making tricky interfaces. Clearly the Renault people have missed the major trends in product design. As individuals they use well designed interfaces but have no clue as to how or why they were arrived at.
    What do Renault dealers make of this silliness? And how many customers are ticked off by it, never to return to Renault again?

  3. My own antipathy towards the Renault Megane stems from the chasm between concept and reality. Here we are presented with a compelling vision of a futuristic medium sized Renault:


    I find concepts particularly irksome when the car as presented has no chance of making reality. With the production version, you can tell the production engineers had a good bash at replicating the themes. The result however is miles off the mark in both form and detail.

    Of course, Renault has huge form here, the Vel Satis being bar far the worst example. To my mind the constant repetition of this error suggests a failure within Renault’s corporate structure. Design appears to be designing without reasonable restraint, then throwing it at Production Engineering to make good. We all know that car development is a difficult caper, but the two departments seem to require more consistent communication (and both of them talking to Finance) over the whole life of a project to make it good.

  4. That Renault concept car looks like the starting point for the actual Megane. I am of a mixed mind about concept cars. I don´t have a problem with a flight-of-fancy so as to explore a new idea in three dimensions. What is unsettling is when the idea is ruined when applied to the standard dimensions of a real car. As it happens, the producion Megane is quite a good translation from concept to production.

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