Unforgotten: the Renault Mégane II

Twenty years on, DTW recalls the shock factor of the mundanely named but highly distinctive Renault Mégane II.

Mégane II three-door, rear 3/4 view, giving full view of the DLO cutting into the rear pillar. Image: Drive Mag

I have had in mind to write something about the Mégane II for a while now, but other distractions have prevented me from doing so. Then, in starting to do some research on the subject, I came across ‘The Surge’ series on Christopher Butt’s irresistible ‘Design Field Trip’. As a result, I nearly didn’t bother writing this piece, because Christopher and Patrick le Quément (no less!) have put together the definitive articles on the boldest C-segment hatchback design since the Golf. However, I decided to carry on so that, if nothing else, this piece can act as a signpost to that series of articles.

The Mégane II went on sale in October 2002, replacing the successful original range of cars of that name. For a car required to sell in high volumes at relatively modest margins to generate a profit, it was a bold and yet very well-judged piece of design. When Car Magazine reviewed it as a newcomer in November 2002, they and le Quément made the point that they would rather one in ten potential customers loved the car and bought it than for it to end up as a second or third choice on everyone’s ‘to buy’ list. As it happened, the second-generation Mégane did rather better than that.

The story told via ‘The Surge’ is that the look of the Mégane II was at least a decade in the making. It was prefaced by the Vel Satis concept car of the mid-nineties, an amuse-bouche which whetted the appetite of the motoring world. Somehow, the design team on that concept managed to capture a very modern interpretation of what a truly French car should look like, without being at all retro.

Mégane II five-door, less radical, still impactful. Image: Drive Mag

Then came that most delightful of (sadly) white elephants, the Avantime, of which much has been written in DTW over the years. As well as following the same design philosophy as the Vel Satis concept, it also featured the incurably pretty, ‘kite-tail’ design rear lamps which first featured on the Fiftie concept car. Most importantly for the upcoming new mid-range car, the Avantime broke the ice in the market by putting the distinctive, near-vertical and clean-edged C-pillar, rounded rear screen and bustle-backed rear out onto the streets (well, on a few of them at least).

That all said, when the Mégane II hatch was first shown in the Autumn of 2002 (it won ECoTY in 2003), its design caused quite a stir. The five-door was ‘quite something’, but the three-door raised that to ‘something else’.

Both hatches (and the other body-styles) carried the same dimensions and sat on the same Renault-Nissan Alliance’s C platform which would also support the Nissan Almira. Both sported carefully refined and toned versions of the Vel Satis concept-car’s look, but the three-door had this stark, geometrically pure looking arc to the DLO, which carved deeply into the sharply squared-off rear pillar. It should have looked all wrong, and perhaps some will think that it does, but for me it created a uniquely sophisticated look.

Mégane II, front 3/4 view. Image: Drive Mag

If the rear of the Mégane II was boldly distinctive, the front had less to cause fright. Although still marked out by sharp lines and edges together with taut and largely unadorned surfaces, it was much more conventional. Of note was the way in which the front wings cut into the A-pillars, and in which the sides of the bonnet curved upwards to meet the raised top edges of those wings, meaning that the bonnet was more dished than domed (as is the trend today).

The flanks had taut, gently curved surfaces, with a neat and subtle crease-line along the side that sat below the simple, body-coloured door handles. Boldly arced wheel-arches were rimmed by a distinct lip which accentuated the wide track of the car. Most, if not all, hatches had a rubbing strip along the lower flanks, finished either in body colour or dark grey and this was tipped at the front by a satin-metal finished lozenge with the engine specification stamped onto it. A quality touch, to my eyes.

There were also saloon (rather contrived), estate (rather nice), and tin-top coupe-cabriolet (rather fragile looking) versions which, along with the Scénic (neat as a pin) and Grand Scénic (a bit clumsy), provided something for everyone. None of them, bar perhaps the more compact of the Scénics, came close to the impact of the hatches. The Scénic also suffered from a smaller boot than its predecessor (I know, because it was for this reason (OK, and price) that we rejected it as a replacement for our Scénic I in favour of a Xsara Picasso).

Someone much better informed and educated in these things than I really needs to dissect exactly why the Mégane II (and the Avantime and Vel Satis production car, which emerged around the same time) exudes such a strong essence of France, the French and their culture. I’ve always thought and said that the rear aspect of the turret (especially on the three-door) brought to mind the very distinctive képi worn by French gendarmes and members of their army – but there’s a lot more to it than that (obviously).

Mégane II interior/ dashboard – nice, but humdrum compared to the exterior. Image: Drive Mag

The interior was less distinctive and impressive. It even resorted to a gimmicky aircraft-style handle for the handbrake. Compared to the Golf IV it was decidedly low-rent (but then, what wasn’t?), but it was roomy and probably just about good enough to not be a deterrent. It was, though, a safe place to be, with the Mégane II gaining what NCAP then rated as 5-stars. (NCAP has radically moved the goal-posts since then, of course.)

I remember driving a couple of Mégane IIs as hire cars and finding them pleasant enough, but they felt a bit baggy and slow-witted compared with the Focus I (but then, what didn’t?) and rough compared with the Golf IV. The engines were OK with the pick probably being the 120 PS DCi (common-rail diesel) apart, that is, from the 225 PS, 2-litre 16V Turbo in the RS version, a car which became something of a hot-hatch legend in R26 and R26.R forms. It’s also worth saying of the latter that Renault Sport performed something of a miracle with the simple torsion-beam rear suspension to make it a handling masterpiece.

So, what really made the Mégane II special was its very singular look, the impact of which during that era was only approached by that of Ford’s ‘New Edge’ Focus of a few years earlier. And, for once, such a courageously styled car proved a sales hit.

In 2003, its first full year on sale, the Mégane II sold almost 355,000 cars in Europe, up from just over 260,000 the year before. Sales peaked a year later at over 465,000, dropping down to 389,000 in 2005.  These numbers do not include sales of the Scénic II which never looked better than it did in the same design theme, and which was a huge hit for Renault during that period. There were a couple of years in the mid-noughties when the Mégane II/ Scénic II was the 4th best selling car in the UK; imagine that.

Side elevation of facelifted model – emphasises the dramatic geometry of the DLO. Image: Drive Mag

I remember it was argued at the launch of the Mégane III in 2008 that the dramatic styling of its predecessor had aged quickly and so sales had fallen-off quite suddenly from that peak, especially in markets like Germany. This argument was being made in justification of the Mégane III which, whilst still a handsome and distinctive car – especially in three-door guise – was a more muted and less full-bodied design. There’s a great line from le Quément in The Surge, Part VI, where he states:

“… with Mégane III’s exterior design approval, we were celebrating a feat equivalent to climbing three flights of stairs in our local mall – but it could not compare to the landmark design contribution of the Mégane II, which had been a heroic and spectacular ascension to the very top of the Eiffel Tower.”

And now we’ve come full circle, back to ‘The Surge’ series on Design Field Trip, so, I’ll soon leave you to scurry your cursor up to the top of the home page of your search engine of choice and thereby treat yourself to a much more fulsomely informed draught of the same subject. Or simply click here to be taken there directly.

Almost twenty years after the Mégane II was launched, the Mégane as we know it no longer features in Renault’s new car price list. There is the new Mégane E-Tech (an EV in compact SUV form) which is handsome enough, but could not be compared even to the Tour Montparnasse, let alone the Tour Eiffel.

Renault seems to be trying to rediscover its ‘French-ness’ by developing retro-reboots of its back catalogue, like the R4 and R5. Compared with the intellectual effort that led to designs like the Vel-Satis concept, the Avantime and Mégane II, this seems creatively bereft. As such, Renault still seems to lack confident leadership which can attract and promote the best creative minds. It needs people like le Quément to develop a bold design philosophy with the longevity to provide direction for generations of French EVs to come, not a series of creative cul-de-sacs.

Author: S.V. Robinson

Life long interest in cars and the industry

55 thoughts on “Unforgotten: the Renault Mégane II”

  1. Ah yes, the Avantime. One day I will have one. With a clear connection to the Megane, but the inverse of the Megane’s marketing success.

    1. Gosh. 20 years already.
      I bumped into one in Fulda GER not long after its launch.

      I kind of like it and admire it due to its daring uniqueness.

    2. Good morning David and Faisal. Yes, twenty years and the Megane II still looks fresh as a daisy, the hallmark of a great design in my book. Unlike S.V., my preference is for the five door version as I love its blocky and very solid looking C-pillar. The arc of the DLO on the three-door is very dramatic but I think it leaves the C-pillar looking rather weak and insubstantial at its base. In any event, it’s gratifying that Renault was rewarded for its bravery in putting the design into production.

  2. Good morning, S.V. I’ve never been a fan of Renault, apart from maybe the 5, and I don’t care much for the Mégane II or any of the other generations. They certainly were a sales succes, but unlike the Golf IV which I see every day, I never see a Mégane II nowadays.

    I heard some (unconfirmed) stories that the curved rear screen caused some troubles in the car wash. I have one confirmed story of an early Mégane II five door with a glass sunroof which apparently opened itself in the car wash, though.

    The really weird thing is not so much the Mégane II, but more it’s successors. I had to look them up as I had no idea what they looked like.

    1. Good morning Freerk. I would describe Renault’s current style as highly competent, but rather safe. The latest Clio, for example, moves the design along hardly at all:

      Could you tell which was which without the labels?

    2. Daniel, the Clio 5 didn’t move the game along, it moved it backwards – the Clio 4 is a superior piece of work.

  3. 465,000 sales in its second full year of production? Times, they certainly have changed. The idea that a conventional hatch (and derivatives) could sell in these numbers in, or mainly in, Europe is something I can’t imagine today. Last time I heard the Focus was down to something in the order of 70,000 and falling and that’s one of the more popular rivals. As for the current Mégane, when did you last see one?

  4. Perfect timing… one of these passed my yesterday and I thought at the time what a distinctive design. Being painted in orange metallic made it really stand out amongst the dull silver & grey Einheitsbrei in the bright sunlight.
    Andrew
    Switzerland

    1. Yup, absolutely, agree with this. I always liked the Megane II, but maybe initially ‘with reservations’. However, it has aged enormously successfully in my opinion – with hindsight, the absolute class standout of its era for me. Living in the US, I don’t see them much, but I have been in Europe over the last couple of months and the sight of them compared to its rivals has definitely reinforced that thought.

    2. When I was in L.A. and San Diego a while ago, I saw two, one of them a very yellow R26. My US friend said they come over from Mexico.

  5. Ah yes, the Mégane II. A true masterpiece.
    I would rather choose the 3-door, but I have to agree with Daniel that the design of the C-pillar/rear area is even better in the 5-door.
    Such a great design that impresses even more after 20 years on the road today. (I don’t know if it’s because today’s car design has become so bad, or the Mégane was/is simply a beacon).

    Nothing needs to be said about the design of the Avantime, nothing can be said, the right words to describe the magnificence are missing in human language.
    (When we were in Romorantin-Lanthenay recently, I saw what felt like the largest population of surviving vehicles in the streetscape, most in blue. A sublime experience).

    1. “Nothing needs to be said about the design of the Avantime, nothing can be said, the right words to describe the magnificence are missing in human language.”

      What a superb quote, Fred, I’m stealing it.

      Illiad Blue really is the signature colour too.

  6. I test drove one of the diesels at the time – unfortunately it sounded like a 20-year old transit and had poor performance. I think it was before diesel engines really got in to their stride.

    On a more positive note, I agree with Daniel’s assessment – it still looks incredibly fresh and I prefer the 5-door as looking better-balanced.

    I agree that the design is very ‘French’ and I’ve been trying to work out why, as well. Maybe it’s because the rear reminds me of Art Deco shapes – what I would describe as ‘nautically-themed curvature’.

    https://www.archdaily.com/973982/450-years-of-homes-in-the-united-states

    I made a mental note to visit Christopher’s site more regularly a while ago and I must do so – there’s a lot of fascinating content, there.

    1. Hello

      I have another suggestion regarding why Megane 2 feels french:

      It breaks the mould, has citroens used to do, has renaults 16 and 5 did.

      Ultimately, as the French Revolution did.

      It’ s, I guess, a feeling ingrained in the colective subconscious, more than any design feature in particular.

      It’s an atitude

      Of course, there is also the mirror of French revolution, which is of course French conservatism.

      That would be, decades ago, Peugeot.

  7. I still think the best thing about the Megane II was the TV ad ( shakin’ that ass ). I mellowed a little to the design after they launched the Megane III, which was truly horrendous.

  8. Megane, Avantime and Vel Satis were all interesting designs, but dynamically totally mundane. Did that matter? Megane sold well, and maybe in that sector being an underwhelming drive was less of a problem, though surely it will have affected at least a proportion of potential Avantime and Vel Satis sales. But they were also designs that assumed that their customers were receptive to new ideas that challenged normal expectations.

    An interesting comparison to the heroic failure of Avantime is the bloated hyena of a few years later that was BMW’s X6. This also looked different to other cars of the time, but sold really well. Of course you can point out that it was at least good to drive, but its real selling point was surely that it unashamedly tapped into more a more basic, screw-you zeitgeist than the Renault trio. No smart-alec design posturing there, though viewed in the face of what followed, the BMW now seems almost self-effacing

    That period for Renault seems quite murky. I remember (the later disgraced) Patrick Pelata publicly announcing to the effect that Renault had let down their customer base with their current offerings. As to how, he didn’t seem to be specific, and this seemed to me a comment born more of internal politics than an objective one. Then Megane II, which had deliberately been produced without any “Renault” badging (the logo and style supposed to be enough) suddenly appeared with the same half-heartedly applied at an odd angle on the rear. That spoke of a corporation losing its confidence.

    1. I think you’re right about the Avantime and X6. Every time I see an Avantime, it conjures up feelings of happiness and relaxation – the occupants must surely be on holiday and are probably returning from the beach before going out for a night on the town. I’m not saying you couldn’t go to a business meeting in it (it’d be ideal for doing that), but it does rather imply that one’s life isn’t dominated by work and going to the gym.

    2. I think you are correct in suggesting that politics had once again reared its ugly head at Renault by then. The period of (fairly) unfettered creativity under the stewardship of Louis Schweitzer had come to an end with the appointment of Carlos Goshn and the aforementioned Pelata. le Quément, having held a good deal of influence under the previous regime, became sidelined and Renault design was returned to the kind of banality that returned them to being the sort of car one bought on price, or a sympathetic local dealer.

      The industry is a poorer place for the fact that people like Patrick le Quément no longer inhabit it – there is no place for creativity amid the mainstream OEM carmakers now. It seems to me that the really talented people are now doing something else with their time. Monsieur le Quément certainly is.

    3. I might be mistaken but I seem to recall that the explanation for the reintroduction of the ‘Renault’ badging on the rump of the cars was that the company was trying to increase its penetration of the Chinese market, where the brand awareness was very much lower.

  9. My sister had one, a 1.5 dci bought new in 2004, and while I´m not a fan, I agree it´s a design very coherent and consistent, a virtue a lot of cars lack. It´s strong and has road presence, a rare quality between “normal” hatchbacks. It has aged really well.
    Still, what I remember most about my sister´s Megane II is the “shocks” I got due to the static electricity.

  10. “…have put together the definitive articles on the boldest C-segment hatchback design since the Golf”.

    A bit of a strange assertion when the piece later on goes to acknowledge the original Ford Focus.

    1. I may have not expressed myself well or consistently.

      The comment to which you refer in your second sentence was, “… the impact of which during that era was only approached by that of Ford’s ‘New Edge’ Focus a few years earlier”.

      So, I think I am saying, in a different way, that the Focus’s styling approached the boldness of the Megane II, making the latter the most bold since the Golf.

      Or is that still strange to everyone?

    2. Thank you for the explanation. Unless I’m misunderstanding your intent, I think I’d have just changed the first sentence to say “…have put together the definitive articles on the boldest C-segment hatchback design since the original Focus”.

    3. So, the two statements work clumsily together, I accept. That’s a factor of the two having been originally written on different days and then some lazy editing by me to create continuity and consistency. However, I actually think that the original Golf was a bolder design than the Focus (supported by most in the UK/ Europe(?) often referring to the compact class as the ‘Golf’ class), and the Megane II was bolder than the Focus, so, in that case, the earlier statement still reflects my original intent … I just muddied the waters by then referring to the Focus as approaching the boldness of the Megane II.

    4. The original Golf defined the segment, so there’s no argument there from me. Whether the Megane II was bolder than the first Ford Focus is an interesting debate.

      My recollection of that fertile time in the C segment is that the Fiat Bravo/Brava twins arrived first and were quite bold, in particular around how differentiated the three door and five door were. The Golf IV was conservative, but beautifully detailed. Best in class there.

      The Ford Focus arrived and was pretty shocking and the boldest Ford design since the Sierra. Particularly in marked contrast to its dreadful humdrum Escort predecessor. I think that the Fiats and the Ford blazed a trail and forced their rivals to up their design game. To be fair to Renault, under the strong design leadership of Le Quément they were always going to plough their own path anyway.

      The Megane II has a very bold DLO and backside, but the front is neat enough although not particularly radical. For me the original Focus was bolder all over, from its Art Deco-esque headlamps and unusual wheel arch shapes, to its DLO that didn’t follow the car’s silhouette a full four years before the Megane. The complete package of the Focus was segment redefining and showed all that a car in this class might be.

      Above all what I’m left with is a sense of what a wonderful five years for mainstream car design this era was and how much poorer we are today.

    5. I posted a lengthy reply debating whether the Focus or Megane II was bolder, but yet again WordPress randomly swallowed my comment.

      If by any chance this comment makes it through the spam filter it will likely be my last at DTW. I can’t be doing with it. I’ll still be a reader.

    6. Sorry you feel that way John. Unfortunately, there is little we can do about this. There appears no rhyme or reason for it going into spam. I don PPE and wade through the folder daily in case of comments falling through the cracks. Links tend to fall foul, but in your case, I cannot for the life of me understand it. Either way, I do hope you continue reading.

  11. Further to the frontal styling, I’ve always read it as a subtle reference to early Renaults, where the rear mounted radiator was split by the upward tapering bonnet.

  12. Designwise, there is one particular feature present on Megane 2 and Megane Scenic 2 that strikes me: the discreet line that runs from front to rear, just above the DLO.

    I don’t fully understand how it causes such a strong impression on me.

    But, IMO, the Megane 2 wouldn’t be the same design sucess without it.

    You can’t take it of.
    You can’t change it half an inch.
    You can’t make it better.

    That’s one of the possible definitions of superior design

  13. Regarding the undoubted French-ness of this Megane, I’ve always thought there was a subtle whiff of Citroën DS about the rear three-quarters of the five door. The contrast between the upright turret and the curved bustle tail.

  14. Thanks, S.V. The Mégane: a great success in my eyes. The proportions are ‘just right’, the stance is very good (the wide track you mentioned helps there), the surfacing is exceptionally well done. Within all that excellence, they executed a very bold design. I think Patrick Le Quément might well be one of the greatest automotive thinkers (I think his influence goes beyond ‘mere’ design) the industry has seen. Unfortunate that the rest of the car seems to have been a bit more mediocre, which might hamper its application for the status of milestone.

    From the same design mould is the Espace IV, which I think is – next to the original – the most succesful iteration. When it was current, it had a road presence most other big French cars from that era lacked. Like the Mégane, it had a very good stance. Autobahnprestige, if you will, while being a very original, idiosyncratic design. Although it looks better in the metal than on pictures, I think:

    1. Agreed on the Mk4 Espace being brilliant; in general I think the entire lineup under le Quement offered a level of cohesion and brand identity that few other marques could dream of either then or now. That said, I’ll always have a place in my heart for that last Matra Espace, the space-ship-esque III that still looks like it’s from another world!

      Renault design in the 2000s was great, but le Quement’s work there in the ’90s is not to be forgotten, either. He somehow took the brand from curvy to angular overnight, and made both look incredible!

  15. Ah, M. Pelata always seemed like a shyster, I can’t remember all that happened or was said when he was lurking at Renault but it wasn’t a surprise when he left under a cloud. Whereas M. le Quement is the epitome of un bon oeuf.
    Megane II and Avantime were wonderful, if only the reality of the latter had lived up to its outward appearance. I would still love to own one though.
    As for current Renaults, Espace and Talisman still turn my head, though whether this is due to their rarity (not being available in the UK) I don’t know. I would be delighted to own the current Espace.

  16. And here I am, an uninvited guest to the Focus × Megane debate: Focus may be the boldest design overall, but Megane has the best design because it is the ‘richest’ design.
    One way of defining it (of many, I presume) is comparing the view from different distances: You look at the Focus from a 20m distance and you identify most design/styling features that make it great. But if you approach the Megane you keep discovering meaningfull design details all the way until you reach it.
    And you can past a good five minutes around it until you discover them all.
    Not so with the Focus. Or the Golf or the Fiats

  17. I agree with you Gustavo.
    Still trying to find a fault in the Megane II with no results. Such a good modern classic design, I admire to the people who managed to get through all the -mostly electrical- glitches and preserved their beautiful automobile.
    P.S. Another car with mostly a feminine character. I recall a lot of colleques and friends buying one, none of them male!

  18. Actually, there was something about the three door that always niggled with me. The rear side windows end in a reasonably large radius curve which I find at odds with the overall design. For me it would ideally be a point, as shown below, though that would be not be a practical production proposition. But a much tighter radius probably would. I’ve ditched the mean little ‘Renault’ badge but was too lazy to return to the (better) original rear lights.

  19. My wife had the convertible and the built quality was hideous. The roof leaked from new and under warranty he had the seals replaced three times to no avail. After the warranty period ended, we managed with a beach towel in the passenger seat. The engine mounts (120hp dCi) collapsed at three years and by that time the dash plastics were already sticky and peeling out. About that time, the electric windows mechanism started to self destruct and we had to change 3 in one year at a considerable expense as they failed with the window down. At the time I had (and still have) a Golf Mk5 which was Rolls Royce quality in comparison. Plus, the engine was far thirstier that VW’s 1.9 TDi and didn’t pull better. For us, that was a never again Renault moment and we got rid of her as soon as we could.

    1. I had a rented Megane 5 door some years back. It rattled and felt baggy even if it was not an old car. That´s very typical Renault, alas. Nice to look at but they do not endure.

    2. That’s exactly most of the reasons why I admire people who managed to hold on to their Megane II!
      But maybe they where just plain lucky and never experienced many of the aforementioned problems.
      Unfortunately, at that point, a lot of people entered the Renault brand never to come back…well not untill a long time after and the remodelling of the new Clio and Captur.
      Gorka, very interesting to read you calling the car “her”!

    3. Constantinos, all cars are referred to in the feminine mode in traditional French. Parenthetically, I have no idea why the R5 was instead named “Le Car” in the US, and even in Canada.

    4. All Renaults from this generation had desastrous product quality and suffered from innumerable reliability problems, mainly with their electrical system. Quality of materials used in the interior also was not all it could and should have been.
      The Laguna II was even worse than Mégane II and Vel Satis and Avantime failed in the market at least partly due to these quality problems.

    5. We had one in NL, a top of the range petrol engined one with all the toys. In the 4 and a bit years we had it we never had a single issue, not even a rattle. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it rode and handled pleasantly enough and was comfortable on long trips. A lovely blue metallic.

      Then again I’ve never had reliability issues with my French or Italian cars.

  20. Goodpoint gooddog, thanks!
    I thought it just supported my arguement about the majority of Megane II being female drivers.
    Must refresh my french!

  21. The Vel Satis and Avantime used internal fittings from the Megane 2. Given my experience, I wondered about how the people who spent a lot of money (both were pretty expensive, at least here in Spain) on these would feel if their building quality was as shoddy as ours. Our convertible was top of the line (and quite expensive too) with leather and Alcantara seats and even these were of pretty low quality and wore fast. I checked a few months ago and she was still on the road (being some 16 years old), so at least they see to be better on the mechanical side …

    1. The coupé-cabriolet was especially problematic regarding roof and all things associated.

      But Renault is tradicionally strong on mechanicals and, since the seventies, unacceptable on interior’s quality.

      I own a 9 turbo, and if you unadvertedly touch the dashboard with your knee, it all cracks and falls apart in a thousand pieces.

      Exceptions may be the 19, safrane… the ‘boring’ Renaults

  22. Here in Lisbon, for some strange reason, Megane 2 and Megane Scenic and grand Scenic 2 still are seen everyday.
    Around my neighbourood (Jesus, where am I mispelling?) it’s hard to find a street without at least one of them parked, often in good general condition apart peeling of interior garnitures and leather seats.

    They sold very strongly due mainly to the 1.5 dci engine, favoured by our tax system similar to italy’s one.

    All this to close the circle: Focci and Golf IV also sold strongly at the time, but there are not many Golfs around anymore and you can pass weeks without seeing a focus.

    And now, the question no one asked: why?

    1. More Renault 1.5 dci instead of the VW Golf IV 1.9 TD diesel?
      Why?
      Is it because there was a heavy tax in cars whose engine’s displacement was above 1.6 litres?

  23. Yes it is (if not 1.6, surely around it)

    That explains how só many where sold. Fuel consumption was another reason. With petrol the most expensive (or nearby) in UE and diesel much cheaper (as it was traditionally a ‘business’ fuel), the 1.5 showed with care 3.5L on the trip computer.

    But that doesn’t explain the Scenic, with their 2L diesels… I see them on every street, whilst VW golf plus, touran or Ford’s C-Max are hard to find.

    Why do people keep all those 15 years plus Megane is hard to explain…

    But one thing is certain: around here, renault captured the mind and soul of the said 1 in 10 people that felt for these cars.

    And when Patrick Pelata told the press that Renault ‘s design would be redirected to the ‘acceptably bold’, it became IMO clear that bold, intelligent, modern design was over.
    At Renault and everywhere esse.

    1. It sometimes seems a bit more common for Romance speaking markets to purchase Latin-branded cars (i.e. French, Italian) and for Northern European markets to prefer Germanic cars (i.e. Fords, Volvos, German brands). Obviously this is a big, big generalization but I do have to wonder if there is any truth to it or any reasoning behind it?

    2. Hello Alexander

      Very interesting and dificult question for me to answer.

      I believe those in the know have already discussed the subject here on DTW.

      But not being one to let lack of information get in the way of exchanging opinions, here I leave you mine:

      1 – I guess the main diference lies between those countries who have national automakers and those do not.

      2 – since automobile production started in the begining of the last century in a restricted number of (industrialized) countries, the respective automakers produced the best suit vehicles to their environment (a bit like living beings in nature)

      3 – thus, given different ‘environmental’ issues:
      Climate
      Geography
      Orography
      Economy
      Politics
      Public policies
      Fuel prices
      Taxes on purchase and operacional costs
      Custom duties on imported vehicles
      Road network caractheristics
      Public transport caractheristics
      National ‘psyche’
      Main national values on social relations, aesthetics, etc.
      And many other caractheristics, of course
      (to be continued)

  24. Demography, proportion between rural and urban inhabitants, pulational density, urban planning, urban design, public space design, housing design, among others, should be aded.

    4 – Thus, given all those different context issues, each countries automaker developed the best suited products for themselves.
    And their respective citizens, naturally, bought their national automakers products most and above their foreign competitors – also because that supported Jobs and national economy.
    But with the opening of markets, the fall of custom taxes (begining in europe with the EEC (now UE) brought competition to became global, automobiles becoming less ‘peculiar’ following their automakers country of origin and buyers choosing less based on ‘nationality’.

    5 – By the end of the 20th century, following crescent competition and capital ‘free-flow’ around the globe, lots of mergers (sometimes transcontinental mega mergers) occured.
    And, IMO, brand/ make specificities diluted and customers ‘National Fidelity’ with them.

    This in the countries having national automakers.
    And in other countries?

    (To be continued)

    1. My guess is the economic factor is very important: Renault, Citröen or SEAT cars were well costed cars sold a competitive prices. Surely many drivers would have preferred a Golf or Audi A3 but couldn’t afford the badge premium. Coming back from Norway, there’s no way Spain coukd have a vehicle park were one in three is a Tesla. Very few Renaults and a surprisingly low number of VW. While most of the cars were fairly new, I was surprised to see a fair number of Saabs, the newer ones sold in 2005/06

  25. 6 – Regarding those other countries, I can only speak for this most southwestern corner of europe and, if memories serve me well, since the mid 70’s.
    Each country being different from others, I may remember that while visiting (southern) Spain at the time we mostly saw what seemed a diet of FIAT (SEAT) derivatives and Renaults (due to governmental decisions, of course).
    But around here, every major make (and sometimes model, if not spec) was available.
    And customers choosed according to their needs/income/way of living.
    So we saw on the streets every italian brand (bar some exotics), every french brand (including some panhards), every British brand (including most Rootes group models), SAAB and Volvo from Seeden, every german brand (including DKW and Borgward) and every variant of european branches of Detroit – Ford of Britain, Ford of Germany, Opel and Vauxhall.
    And also all the Japanese novelty automakers (bar Hino, I guess) – Toyota, datsun, mazda, subaru, suzuki…

    Did we have preferences for ‘Romance’ countries regarding ‘Germanic’ ones?

    (To be continued)

    1. Thank you for your detailed and lengthy response! It makes sense regarding local legislation regarding engine sizing/taxing since nearby countries would probably share some similar ideas about that. The issue of climate also seems a likely reason since French/Italian cars are more prone to rust and therefore live longer lives in the sunny Mediterranean whereas Volvo radiators are perhaps not so keen on high temperatures!

      Something I forgot about which certainly influences buying habits in the U.S. (probably above all else) is simply the existence of a good dealer network; the domestic brands here, despite often offering subpar products compared to imported goods, can succeed just because in many towns they are the only ones with a dealer available! It doesn’t matter how sturdy your Peugeot is, if you can’t get it serviced it will eventually break down anyway! That is probably what has influenced the illusion of French unreliability more than anything else here, and Volvo has succeeded so well in the States simply because they established a large dealer network early on. I’m not sure if the dealer network issue is as big in Europe since I see there are many dealers which offer a wide variety of brands instead of sticking to one company as they do here.

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