Renault's sporty-looking third generation Megane Coupe gets improved efficiency and a sleeker look. Jonathan Crouch drives the 1.6 dCi 130 variant.
Ten Second Review
The three-door Coupe version of Renault's improved third generation Megane majors on great looks and a sharp driving experience, enhancing a repertoire that already includes first rate refinement, comfort and build quality. It's still not the sportiest compact three-door on the road but as an overall package, it has few flaws, especially in the efficient 1.6 dCi 130 diesel form we're looking at here.
In the current market, deleting a pair of doors and bolting on some plastic styling accessories is no longer enough to turn a family friendly five-door hatch into a thrusting three-door with bucket loads of desirability. The best executed three-door hatchbacks have their own look and personality but Renault is aiming to move the game on in this regard. The Megane Coupe is a dramatically different visual proposition from the Hatch but not too dramatic. Renault has gone for classical beauty with this car in a departure from the avant-garde styling of the second generation Megane that alienated as many buyers as it enthused. Here, we're looking at this car in 1.6-litre dCi 130 guise, this unit arguably the best of the new generation of diesel engines now offered across the line-up. With a potential for over 70mpg with CO2 emissions only just over the 100g/km mark, it's certainly sensible. But can it also be fun? Let's find out.
The differences between the Megane Coupe and the five-door Hatch don't end with the bodywork. The coupe rides 43mm lower with 12mm of that total accounted for by its lowered suspension. The ride is noticeably firmer than the five-door car but still far from uncomfortable on a well-surfaced road. Indeed, the Megane must be one of the smoothest-riding small coupes out there. Refinement is another strongpoint of the package with road and wind noise well-suppressed and the engines proving far from intrusive at cruising speeds. Get underneath the car and you'll realise that many of the underpinnings are quite similar to those of the second generation model. Anyone who has driven one will tell you this is no bad thing. Detailed tweaks included a revised front suspension/subframe arrangement to improve directional precision and a redeveloped power steering system to more swiftly respond to driver input. The rear suspension meanwhile, has been tuned to produce a more responsive, agile ride, as well as offer improved cornering without detracting from comfort. Plus, there are bigger brakes, able to pull you up to rest from 62mph in a class-leading 37 metres. As for the 1.6-litre dCi 130 engine, well it's got more of a turn of speed than you might expect, sixty from rest taking 9.8s on the way to 124mph. You don't get the fully-fledged Renaultsport chassis in this variant but roll is still well controlled and the car is agile through the corners.
Design and Build
Only the headlamps, bonnet and front wings are carried over from the five-door hatch to the Megane Coupe's exterior and you'll believe that when you see the car. It's certainly an appealing piece of design and one that's well worthy of consideration alongside the market's prettiest hatchbacks and compact coupes. The front end now features the ubiquitous LED daytime running lights while the bumper gets a gloss black finish with chrome highlights. The selection of wheels has been entirely revised. The rear end is particularly admirable with the side window line rising dramatically to a point that meets with that of the curving rear screen above the pumped-up haunches. The downside of this elegant glasswork is poor rear visibility but with a set of parking sensors installed, that should be easy to live with. The Coupe's interior is more sober, though not as sober as it was. Updated interior trims, including a two-tone leather pack available in a choice of two finishes in the UK, lift the previously rather dour ambience. The GT line trims get specific 'boomerang'-shaped LED lights, visible red upholstery stitching and a sports steering wheel incorporating thumb rests, plus Renault Sport-badged door sill guards and dashboard trim strip. The colour palette has been adjusted too, with the addition of Azzurro Blue and Arctic White. A digital speedo still dominates the instrument cluster unless you go for the GT line variant we tried which has proper dials. Space in the rear is OK for a pair of adults but the Coupe's rakish roofline impinges on headroom. At 344-litres, the boot is on the generous side for a car of this kind and usefully shaped.
Market and Model
You're looking at needing a budget of around £21,000 for the 1.6 dCi 130 version of this Megane Coupe, with a £1,500 premium if, as we did, you want the car in sport GT line trim. That means the premium over the 110bhp 1.5-litre dCi unit is affordable. Like Renault's Scenic and Grand Scenic, this improved Megane Coupe can be ordered with the Visio System which comprises a camera fixed to the windscreen behind the rear view mirror. It automatically switches from main to dipped-beam headlights and also controls a Lane departure warning system. Comfort has been further enhanced by a clever Hill Start Assist function, while Motorway Mode indicators facilitate driving: a slight touch of the indicator stalk sets off three flashes to warn other road users that the driver is about to change lane. To assist parking manoeuvres, a camera located at the rear provides a precise image of the vehicle's immediate surroundings and depicts its trajectory to help drivers adjust their line. Last but not least, the dual-zone automatic climate control is now equipped with a quality sensor which monitors cabin air quality and automatically activates the air-recycling mode whenever necessary. Overall, the Megane Coupe comes in at just £500 more than the more spacious and practical 5-door hatch, but it should appeal to a very different kind of buyer. With its sleek looks and polished feel, it could conceivably pinch sales from the compact Coupe sector as well as from rival three-door hatchbacks.
Cost of Ownership
The engine in this Megane Coupe, the dCi 130, the most powerful and frugal unit of its size in the world at launch, manages 70.6mpg on the combined cycle and puts out 104g/km of CO2, significantly better than rivals like Vauxhall's Astra GTC 1.7 CDTi 130PS or the MINI Cooper Coupe SD. This means that like most Megane Coupe variants, this one qualifies for Renault's 'eco2' branding, designating models that emit less than 120g/km of CO2 and are 95% end-of-life-recoverable by weight with at least 5% of plastics sourced from recycling. Perhaps more importantly, other running costs are reasonable. Insurance is group 20 on the 1-50 scale , oil changes are needed only every year or 18,000 miles and residuals are no worse than you'd find from other mainstream rivals. Oh and most buyers will want to benefit from the 'Renault 4+' programme which provides a comprehensive four year/100,000 mile warranty, free routine servicing for four years or 48,000 miles, includes four years of roadside assistance cover and offers up to four years of lease or PCP finance, subject to status.
The Megane Coupe is a car it's hard not to like, especially in 1.6 dCi 130 diesel guise. This model's core strengths still lie in its ride, refinement and plush interior but few would argue that it holds its own on a twisty road and the styling will convince many long before they ever get behind the wheel. The flowing lines and curves are a long way removed from the five-door model and the wide, purposeful stance leads one to expect sportscar handling. You get a bit of that - with a lot of practicality. Which you'll appreciate if you want a coupe you can enjoy living with even when it's pouring down and you're stuck in traffic. A sensible sporting car then. There's a lot to be said for that.