Renault upgrades the Megane with more power, more tech and a PHEV
We're quite fond of Renault's Megane hatch, particularly as they start to get childish and fun toward the sportier end of the catalog, with their Rs and Ss, Alcantara steering wheels and poppy, crackly exhausts. In our opinion, most of the best places are at the end of twisty roads, and sporty little critters like these make for a spectacularly fun trip. Compact, tight and precise of steering, they give you just the right amount of power to let you really feel like you're thrashing the thing without hurling you at the next corner so quickly that you need genuine skills to get yourself out of hot water. A people's hoon machine, if you will.
2020 sees an overhaul of the entire Megane range, from the basic Berline hatch and Estate wagon right up to the RS Line, RS, and RS Trophy, in order of least special to most special, and in reverse order of general grown-up pleasantness around town.
There's a new cockpit, redesigned for the smartphone generation, to whom mechanical buttons feel like relics from the steam age. The main dash is now a 10.2-inch screen, with a separate 9.3-inch multimedia window. New driver assist tech is available in the form of level 2 highway and traffic autonomy; hands off, feet off, but you'd best keep your eyes open.
At the fun end of the range, the old 275-horsepower motor gets yet another kick in the pants. Instead of the old RS's 275-hp, 2.0-liter turbo engine, the RS and RS Trophy get a 300-hp, 1.8-liter direct injected turbo. If you're worrying that the drop in engine size means you'll be losing torque, you needn't: peak torque is some seven percent higher at 420 Nm (310 lb-ft). It's still going to be as flexible and fun as ever.
The RS Line is an interesting addition to the range. It's not a particularly sporty car, indeed it's more tailored to your average city driver's ease and comfort. But it's tarted up to look a bit sporty, since for a decent proportion of drivers, that's all that counts anyway. Pop a fart can on the back, jimmy the "Line" off the badge, and nobody will know the difference. Just take off slow at the lights and tell 'em you're too cool to race.
For the first time, the Megane family is also getting a plug-in hybrid sibling in the form of the E-Tech, which pairs a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with two electric motors for a total of 160 horses. That doesn't sound like a lot, but electrics are so torquey that they always seem to out-zip their peak horsepower figures. It'll get along just fine.
The E-Tech's clutchless, multi-mode transmission is designed to feel seamless in hybrid driving, filling in acceleration gaps when it's changing cogs with smooth waves of electric torque. The multi-modedness means you can flip to pure electric driving, in which the E-Tech's 9.8-kWh battery pack can handle the vast majority of commuting (up to 65 km/40 miles of urban driving) without using a drop of fuel or blowing any gases in the faces of cyclists. Many drivers will find they almost never have to run the gasoline motor, but at this stage it's nice to have one there so your range is never limited.
The new Megane range will hit dealerships around the middle of the year.