New Renault Megane shakes things up but the ass isn’t one of them . . .

To be honest, a new model Renault Megane is not been something I’ve been excited about for a good while. Since it stopped “shaking that ass” back in 2004 it’s been rather humdrum and certainly needs to be shaken up again if it is to rise above the likes of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and SEAT Leon.

Visually, the new Mk.4 Megane is off to a good start then. There is no Kardashian rear end, just a striking arrangement of rear wrap-around light clusters that stretch towards the middle of the hatch and is broken only by the central Renault badge. On the Dynamique S Nav version I’ve been driving there is also a sporty looking oval exhaust, while on the top-of-the-range GT version you get a sports rear bumper, twin exhausts and a deep, silver rear diffuser.

The front is dominated by the large diamond Renault badge and C-shaped LED headlights while the side view gives a much sportier impression than the previous Mk.3 due to the sculpted shoulders and taught body creases. The fact that the new model is also longer and lower than the outgoing model helps in the “sporty” stakes and overall this new model is a quantum leap when it comes to visual appeal.

With 6 trim levels and 4 engines available you should find something to suit your needs and budget with even the base Expression+ model being well equipped for a £17,250 family car and including 16in alloy wheels, manual air-con, Hill Start Assist, and cruise-control with speed limiter. Every model above the Expression+ includes Renault’s Visio system which provides Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition and Auto high/low beam.

My Dynamique S Nav with a 110bhp 1.5 diesel engine is mid-range and starts from £21,050. If you specify the 1.2 TCe petrol engine with 130bhp then you can have it for £19,750.

There is also a 1.6 dCi diesel engine (130bhp) and, for the GT versions, a 205bhp 1.6 petrol unit. A dual-clutch auto gearbox is available on all models but is compulsory on the GT which also gets a clever 4-wheel steer system for extra “chuckability”.

The manual Dynamique S Nav with 1.5 dCi engine is the model Renault expect to sell the most of and you can see why when you cast your eyes over the additional equipment list which includes a rear parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, 17in alloy wheels and heated and folding door mirrors.

That 1.5 diesel unit also provides excellent figures when it comes to efficiency with a combined mpg figure of 76.4 and CO2 emissions of just 96 g/km making if free from VED.

Inside you benefit from part-leather upholstery, a 7in TFT digital speedometer, tinted rear windows and tailgate, dual zone climate control, hands-free keycard, personalised driving modes and ambient lighting and the excellent 8.7in portrait touch screen with Tom Tom Live Sat Nav, voice control and Renault’s own R-Link 2 app system. Audio-wise you get the upgraded Arkamys 3D Sound DAB Radio with Bluetooth and USB connection.

Sitting in the Renault Megane you can see that the ante has been well and truly upped this time around. Soft-touch surfaces abound and the switchgear looks and feels to be very good quality with just the right amount of chrome trim around door cards, steering wheel and dash to lift the cabin and give it a premium feel.

Driving position is very good and the seats are typical Renault – deep and comfy. I particularly liked the feel of the steering wheel which is a little chunkier above the thumb position than on some rivals. The elliptical gear knob also feels very good in the hand and gear changes are a doddle with no vagueness at all.

The 8.7in portrait touch screen, which replaces the smaller landscape screen on lower models, may look a little strange at first as it is so unusual for a manufacturer to mount their touch screen upright in this way but don’t worry – it works very well and if you are using the built-in Tom Tom sat nav it makes sense to have more information about where you’re heading than where you’re passing.

Rear passengers are well catered for too with their own air vents and good-sized door pockets. Leg room is on par with rivals and headroom hasn’t suffered despite that lower roofline.

Out on the road it becomes apparent that the Megane is a very comfortable and refined ride. Wind and road noise is very well subdued and the ride quality is excellent with hardly any bumps or lumps in the road causing any upset. I hadn’t expected the Megane to be such a good out-and-out cruiser but a 70-mile motorway trip showed me that it can match bigger cars, such as the Skoda Octavia or Ford Mondeo, for refinement and sheer driving pleasure on those longer trips.

This suppleness of ride comes at a cost though and the Megane can’t match rivals like the SEAT Leon and Peugeot 308 when it comes to driving dynamics. It doesn’t turn in as quickly or steer as sharply but it certainly doesn’t disgrace itself either or cause any concern when trapping-on. It just lacks that little bit of urgency and has a little more body-roll through the corners than some rivals.

I’d be very happy to have the new Renault Megane as an every-day car as it really is a very good, well-equipped drive whose looks now, at last, match its charm.

Verdict: ****

Renault Megane Dynamique S Nav dCi 110

At a glance:

OTR Price: £21,050

Engine: 1.5 dCi turbo diesel

Power: 110 bhp

Transmission: 6-speed Manual

0-62mph: 11.3 secs

Top Speed: 116 mph

Combined Economy: 76.4 mpg

CO2: 96 g/km

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