Megane Coupé 1.5DCI 2010

“Not for me thank you”

In these most frugal of times it difficult to justify the large expenditure that a new car warrants. Huge depreciation, difficulty getting loans and some of the magnificent bargains available on the used car market are just some of the reasons why people have decided not to purchase a new car. However Renault has fought back with some great new car prices and some of the most competitive scrappage deals and warranty cover packages.

Intrigued by their success in a very difficult Irish market I took to the roads in one of their most popular and stylish models available on the market place, the Megane Coupé 1.5DCI (86bhp). The Mégane Coupé has been available since 1997 in Ireland and this is its third incarnation and in my opinion it is by far and away the most stylish model to date. As I approached the car I got a feeling that I was taking the keys of something special indeed. I had chosen the basic model as I suspect this shall be the most popular model on the market place. However after the initial excitement I was left very disappointed.

After sitting into the car I was greeted with hard seats, something I wouldn’t have expected in a Renault. Ok so hard isn’t the worst thing and it is a sports model but I could have forgiven this if I could get comfortable but needless to say I couldn’t. I have always associated French cars with softness and comfort however this was not to be. Fair enough if Renault want to change their image however it just didn’t do it for me. Hard seats could be overlooked however the rest of the interior couldn’t. From the hard plastics on the lower part of the dashboard, to the confusing digital display to the bland utterly bland centre console I was quickly being left with the feeling that the designers had some great ideas but weren’t left to finish what they had started. It’s like Renault is trying to be exciting, modern and price conscience and ends up achieving no coherent design philosophy.

Out on the road things didn’t improve. I’m a big fan of small frugal diesel units and all the benefits that go along with them however the Renault unit failed to sparkle. Above all this was probably the biggest let down in the overall package. If your going to make a sports car at the very least I feel it should be able to move at pace however I felt like I was driving something very lowly out on the open road. This unit also sees service in the Clio, Micra, Quashqai and Tiida ranges of cars to name but a few and there in lies the problem. It is successful in the other units as they are small to medium family cars, performance takes second place. In its current form in the Mégane Coupé it really fails to shine. In other markets larger capacity units are available and these do make a large difference. If you want a small, frugal and cheap to run car my advice is to look at a family hatchback. Not a sports car. This car is very much about the image and unfortunately it really fails to deliver in the performance area.

The ride was one of a mixed bag. The car handled great once i had gotten some speed up from the lethargic engine and showed great promise on backroads and motorways however at low speeds and in town it became very unsettled by bumps and broken road surfaces. To say it was uncomfortable would be going to far but it just never settled down and never really inspired confidence. It just seemed that the chassis engineers thought a warm hatch needed hard suspension and forgot about how brilliantly they could do comfort as well.

The final part of the review is one which I hate to conduct on a sports car, practicality, however people always ask what a car is like to live with. Firstly the boot opening is narrow and there is a high sill but having said that if you need a bigger opening and more practicality buy a bigger car. The doors are very long also so people parking this in narrow spaces take heed; it needs space for you to get in and out. Other than that there is more than enough space inside combined with good storage.

I really wanted to like the Coupé. It has a great package on paper and appears to be the perfect car for the Irish market at this time however I just couldn’t engage with it. It just felt compromised in every area. Admittedly when I went to return the car a more upmarket edition was parked in the garage. I only had time to poke around the interior and it seemed like a far better package. The seats were improved; the dash board plastics seemed better and gladly there was a leather steering wheel. However I quickly found out it had the same engine and that is when I walked away happily I had made the right judgement about this car.

For those who doubt my review consider this: the British market gets a higher powered diesel model and excellent petrol engines. Why are we forced to put up with the poverty spec engines?