Renault Megane Coupe – Easy like Sunday Morning.
- 14 August 2011
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Sunday, of all the days of the week, has to be my favourite. Some people don’t like the day as it means it is only a few short hours until the start of the working week. Most would nominate Friday, and specifically the evening, if you asked them to choose their favourite as it is the start of the weekend and the point furthest away from the Monday – Friday drudgery. Some like Thursdays as it is historically payday for many and some people, whom I can only describe as weirdos, like Mondays. The reason for my preference is simple – the wife and I take it in turns to drag our weary carcasses out of bed with the two children leaving the other to look through bleary eyes before turning over and peacefully slipping into the land of nod. Having got up with my two boys at the crack of dawn on Saturday it was my turn to enjoy the luxury of the Kind Size bed to myself.
After a lazy breakfast and a quick clean of the house the wife decided she wanted to go shopping – not my favourite pastime, so with a car sitting on the driveway I decided to take a spin out to The Next Gear towers to grab a coffee with Bob and to shoot the breeze. A quick pat down of the pockets to make sure I had everything I needed and time to hit the road. The car in question, that has called my driveway home for the past week, is the Renault Megane Coupe GT Line. Actually technically that’s not true. ‘Technically’ the car is actually called Renault Megane Coupe Irish Edition but ‘Irish Edition’ just brings up images of poverty spec, VRT friendly cars with keep fit windows, tape deck and little else besides. And this car is as far removed from that image as possible. The GT Line is essentially a cosmetic upgrade of the range topping TomTom Edition so adds a bodykit, 17” Celsium alloys, half leather / cloth seats and a few other cosmetic touches to the sat nav, cruise control, Bluetooth and dual zone climate control equipped standard car.
Even in standard guise the Megane Coupe is a good looking car and the GT Line additions really turn it into an eyecatcher especially in the Glacier white paint of my test car. The ‘Dark Metal’ alloys, darkened headlights and black detailing really accentuate the look of the stylish French coupe – sort of. The Renault website calls this a coupe, all the literature supplied with it refers to it as such and if you ask anybody about the car the will call it the Megane Coupe. However despite the swooping roofline, diminutive rear window and sporty good looks the Megane Coupe is actually a hatchback. Open the boot and the parcel shelf lifts with you the same as it does in my Golf hatchback. As someone pointed out to me recently a coupe can be described as a two door saloon – meaning an enclosed boot. This means that the Megane Coupe is deceptively practical. Despite the large C pillars encroachment into the boot space, at 344 litres it is only 30 or so litres smaller than the regular Megane hatch. The rear seats can be folded 60/40 and with them collapsed completely there is a useful 1,024 litres meaning an impromptu trip to B&Q is easily accommodated.
At one point during my week with the car I ‘acquired’ a third child. No, Mrs. Healy did not drop another ‘Mini Me’; instead one of my nephews decided he was going to tag along for the day and amazingly the rear seats easily took the obligatory child seats with ease and all without me spending the entire trip with two feet buried into my kidneys. Over shorter journeys three adults in the back would be no problem with the long doors providing easy access – although these did pose a bit of a problem in the shopping centre car park. You will find yourself searching for empty rows just so you can get out of the car.
The Renault range features keyless entry and go – just keep the key card in your pocket and once within range the car locks/unlocks itself while a prod of the starter button kicks the engine into life. Very handy when your hands are full with kids / shopping / late night takeaway. Just be careful – more than once I have held the card to my ear after my phone rings – quite embarrassing.
Once on the road it was time to program ‘Kathy’ – the name I have given to the TomTom sat nav as she is my voice of choice for directing me on long or short trips alike. You can also have Sean, who sounds like someone from the wilds of Kerry, a host of Australian, English or New Zealand voices of an American called Kathlyn who got turned off as soon as she told me to take a right at the approaching ‘rotary’! Being SD card based you can upload tons of different voices. In the past I have been directed by Darth Vader (in 200 yards you will reach THE DARK SIDE) and Beavis & Butthead (Huh huh dude you were meant to hang a right, butthole) or for the times you don’t need a map you can upload your wedding album or whatever to cycle through while you drive. The chosen route was fifty odd kilometres of motorway so once up to speed it was a case of flick on the cruise control and relax in the figure hugging seats. The seats alone are almost worth the €25,200 asking price by themselves, you could cover continents in them and still get out refreshed. The all important triangle between seat, steering wheel and armrest is perfectly laid out and finding a comfortable seating position is just a case of working your butt groove into the seat and away you go.
On the motorway everything is relaxed, there is minimal road noise, no real buffeting across the A pillars or wing mirrors and the engine up front is just ticking over at a little over two thousand revs in sixth gear. The 110bhp 1.6 diesel is not going to set the world alight what with a 0-100kmh time of 10.5 seconds but the upside is a Co2 count low enough to qualify for Tax Band A of €104 a year and a fuel economy of 4.4L/100km. That is the official figure but I am convinced it is even lower than that. Midway through the week I had covered a couple of hundred miles and neither the needle on the fuel gauge nor the range on the trip computer had moved. I was one the verge of ringing Renault to tell them about the fault when a couple of other journos who had driven the latest cars from Renault said this was perfectly normal. A little less than an hour of motorway tedium later and having used some fumes from the fuel tank I pulled into The Next Gear HQ to drink some overpriced coffee from a Styrofoam cup whilst discussing global domination, the good bad and ugly of the motor industry with Bob and try in vain to control the three year old who had decided to tag along for the ride.
When said three year olds boredom levels finally reached their peak it was time to hit the road again and unwilling to suffer the banality of the motorway slog I asked Kathy to suggest an alternative route on which to give the Coupe one last blast. The alternative she suggested was a meandering run over the Bog of Allen that was surprisingly five minutes quicker than the rat race on the motorway, perfect!
Being a path less travelled there was a welcome lack of Sunday drivers and once a solitary dawdler was dispatched early on it was a pleasant drive over some stunning roads with even better scenery to distract me. The lowered suspension and stiffened chassis coped well with the lumps and bumps on what are generously described as ‘bohreens’ to the extent that the three year old was never once distracted from his beloved Nintendo DS. The chassis setup may be on the safe side of fun which is strange considering the talents in RenaltSport that could have been called upon but this was not one of my usual back road blasts more so a not so sedate Sunday drive. The Coupe handled the twisty bits well but never with enough feel to encourage you to push that little bit further, probably a good thing considering the heir to the family jewels was sitting behind me, but the engine does have just enough mid range oomph to power out of the corners. Over the course of the week I have grown to like the engine – I had started it off seeing a diesel engine in the sexy coupe body as akin to walkking up to the best looking girl in the bar, hitting her with your best chat up line and her replying in a voice so deep Barry White would be proud. The voice and the body just do not go together but as time went on I realized that cars like this are no longer sold on their combination of looks and power. The priority for most new car buyers nowadays is low running costs and if you can get that in a car that is the automotive equivalent of a Victoria Secrets model all the better.
Before too long the delightful Kathy announced that I had reached my destination meaning my excursion was brought to an end with a prod of the stop button and a reassuring bleep from the central locking as I got to my front door. If I was to criticize the Coupe, and much of the current Renault range for that matter, it would be to say there are too many buttons to control the various on board instruments. Six alone for the cruise control between the activation button on the centre console and twin toggles on either side of the steering wheel. Tuning in my favored radio station took longer than normal and the Megane was the first car I have had to resort to the User Manual to figure out how to connect my mobile phone to the Bluetooth system but once you have everything set up the way you want it you soon forget about this foible and just enjoy the drive from the comfort of your GT Line emblazoned seat safe in the knowledge that you have a fabulous looking car that is as practical as it is cheap to run.