This week I was provided with a Renault Megane. The first thing to note is the stupid key. Designed as a flat credit card sized key, it is so different in size and shape from every other key that is on your keying that it becomes large, clunky and typically uncomfortable in your pocket. For some bizarre reason, unlike the Clio I had for a day previously which had keyless entry and start allowing you to keep the key on your person, this Megane required you to insert it into the centre console to start the car. This just further exasperated the whole experience. While we’re on the subject of the key, it has a boot release button on it that appears to be there to amuse Renault and passers-by. Pressing the button (either once or repeatedly) you can hear a clunk from the car luring you into the false pretence that the car has in fact unlocked something, however the boot remains both closed and locked.
Once inside the car, the layout was relatively good, although I must say that I have to use the term “relatively”. For a larger driver (I am just under 6 foot) once you adjust the seat for the pedals, you really need the steering wheel extended to full reach and the gear stick is still a little far away for my liking. This is a bit unnecessary as these ergonomic issues are not present on much smaller cars like the Yaris, Fiesta or i10 so I have to just put this down to poor design.
This model was the Diesel and after having driven it for the week, I’m a little confused what 1st, 3rd and 5th gears are for? – Let me explain. I did on one occasion pull away in second gear without actually noticing it, and the engine has so much torque that in 6th gear you can accelerate from 50mph to…. Wherever you stop accelerating as quick as any other car. 4th therefore sites nicely in the middle and will happily span the rev range between the two. In fact the torque from the engine is very strong and very discrete. It’s easy to lose track of exactly how quickly you are gaining pace allowing you the ease of overtaking without having to ponder which gear you need to be in. However, the engine does sound like someone has poured in a bag of nails for it to run on and it’s not the most refined unit. The economy was very good. Despite all that torque from the Dci engine, I still managed to nearly average 60mpg over 500 miles of motorway and town driving which remarkably enough was far more than I got from the Clio.
However, despite having Bluetooth, and being able to pair your phone to the car and see the address book of your phone, there was no way to actually call someone. I know that this sounds daft and counter intuitive – let me explain what I mean. After having paired the phone and selected a number and having found the button marked with the “Green and Red Handset” symbol used for call/Hang-up; I pushed it and waited. This didn’t dial the number, it just muted the radio (which is its other function when not used for the phone) So I tried doing this the other way. Once the phone was paired with the car I used the phone to dial a number form the phonebook and ensured that the Audio source was using the car. However bizarrely what happened next was that the phone made the call, and the radio carried on playing music! The other party one the phone was connected but couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear them. Thinking at this point that I clearly done something wrong, I stopped, got out the manual in the glove box and read the section for making and receiving calls – only to find that I had done exactly what the manual was describing as the process. In addition I would like to point out that I don’t use some bizarre and random phone – I do in fact use an iPhone which must represent a large majority of users.
It did come equipped with Cruise control, and a remote “stalk” for controlling the audio, although this again was stupidly hidden behind the steering wheel in a place that was impossible to see or read the controls unless you were making a sharp right hand turn – just the time you don’t want to be thinking about changing the radio station or skipping to the next track.
Also in this class of car, certain “optional extras” in smaller cars are expected to be there as standard. For example, in this car you can hear the distinct and unnerving sound of cracking & breaking plastic from the rear of the vehicle rather than the more traditional beeping noise of a parking sensor.
Build quality wasn’t brilliant but it wasn’t terrible either – the plastics used were good and the fit and finish was generally ok, but the tinny clang as the doors closed left you feeling you been given the “cheap” car. Not a feeling you want to be left with if you’ve just spent a lot of money on this.
On that last point – this is a Megane with a Diesel engine. It’s not a big, or well-equipped car and yet this thing will set you back in excess of £18,245. – For the cheapest option! – That’s absolute eye-watering for what you get!