We have had 23 years to come to terms with the Mk1 Renault Megane. That much is easy to state. What’s harder to express is why this design’s strangeness didn’t come across until recently.
When I say strange, I don’t mean bad strange. I mean good strange, the oddness of the original and the idiosyncratic. The q-word doesn’t apply here though because this is not like an Ami or Multipla. It doesn’t jump out at you so much as whispers.
The start point of this little rumination is what happens when you look for a prolonged period of time at the image above. All of the lines are in some form of process of change of state. That the car’s development ended around, say, 1992, makes the curves and curve quality all the more impressive. If anyone knows whether this vehicle’s geometry passed through a CAD programme, I’d be interested to hear. My expectation is that the car’s form evolved in clay and pretty much only in clay. It is very organic in a way that I think would have defeated the CAD systems of the early 90s.
The successor, the Megane Mk2 looks to me like a more CAD-friendly design:
The 2003 Citroen C4 had something of the same vibe:
Those main forms in the Megane II (above) can be hung or developed from planes anchored on the car’s X, Y and Z axes. The Megane Mk1 doesn’t have that underlying stucture. The Megane 1, in contrast, is a about apparent forces and non-linear forms, it being among the later expressions of an organic form-language applied to a quite rational package.
The estate is even more dramatic, isn’t it? The only feature that might be geometrically simple is the feature line running down the side.
Toyota had a go with organic shapes around the same time and failed to give the forms enough structure. The resultant cars are a bit on the flaccid and bland side. I think the difference might lie in the consistency of the radii and the underlying strength of the forces bending those curves from the engineering minimum.
You won’t find much to detain you on the Toyota. The Megane on the other hand can be defined but much like a symphony it is a complex score. Perhaps only our old friend the Astra F attains the same level of refinement.
The Escort and Golf are not in the same football park at all.
And Peugeot’s 306 is playing another game, something like classicism.
At the time, the Megane looked a lot like other cars of the same type. These days I think one can see the individual personalities of the 1990s cars emerging more clearly. The question for today might be, which of the present crop of mid-sizers will step forward in the the way Megane 1 has after two decades?