Renault Megane E-TECH review

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Renault's Megane E-TECH might well redefine what you imagine an affordable family Hatch EV to be. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

It's taken a long time for Renault to deliver a proper follow-up to its ZOE EV, but the Megane E-TECH was worth the wait. Stylish, engaging and practical, it's a family hatch EV that sets a strong standard.

Background

Who would have forecast back in 2012 when Renault launched its little ZOE full EV that it would be a full decade before we saw another mainstream Renault passenger car EV product in our showrooms. Yet that's what's happened, as the brand over-stretched itself and has been overtaken by nearly all its volume rivals in the electric vehicle segment. But the fightback starts here with this car, the Megane E-TECH.

It sits on the same CMF-EV platform used by the Nissan Ariya and should reach a large audience. Thanks to the success of the ZOE, one in five Renaults sold in Europe has been electric. But this is what Renault calls a '2nd generation' EV, it's development rushed through by the brand's ambitious CEO Luca de Meo, who likes to describe this as 'the GTI of EVs'.

Driving Experience

Renault promises that this car's sporty looks will translate into a sporty drive. And to that end, the relatively light weight (for an EV) of up to 1,624kg should certainly help, as does the low 12:1 steering ratio, the stiff CMF-EV chassis and the particularly low centre of gravity (90mm below a conventional Megane). Not that you'll get much of a GTI feeling in the entry-level EV40 model, which uses a modest 129bhp motor powered by a 40kWh battery pack capable of 186 miles. Its swifter stablemate is much more satisfying, using a 215bhp motor powered by a 60kWh battery capable of 292 miles. This quicker variant can make 62mph in just 7.4s, as long as you engage the provided 'Sport' mode.

More selectable settings (four of them) are provided for the regenerative braking system, the left steering wheel paddle increasing regen for town use, the right one reducing it for highway driving. Early reports suggest that ride comfort might well be class leading, despite the particularly large wheels. Sounds promising. No 4WD variant is offered; Renault says that would have meant design compromises which would have added weight.

Design and Build

Looks good doesn't it? Apparently what we have here was originally going to be the performance version of this car, but designer Laurens van den Acker found that everyone liked it so much that he decided to standardise the 'Evoque'-style look across the whole Megane E-TECH range. It's based visually on the Megane eVision concept car unveiled in 2020 and incorporates the brand's familiar C-shaped headlamps, though with the lower section of the 'C' extended to run a reverse line of light across the top of the bumper. The nose gets Renault's latest art deco corporate badge, the rear lights are of the 3D LED variety, there are flush-fitting electric front door handles and you get big wheels of 18 or 20-inches depending on spec.

Take a seat up front and the first thing you'll notice is the 'OpenR' screen set-up, an L-shaped arrangement which combines an instrument screen and a central infotainment monitor, both 12.3-inches in size. Thanks to an anti-glare screen coating, the instrument display needs no binnacle around it and the centre monitor runs the Google Android operating system. So Google Maps, voice-controlled Google Assistance and Google Play all come included. A wheelbase length increase of 20mm over a conventional Megane means there's little more space in the back than you might expect. And there's a reasonably sized 440-litre boot, though with quite a high lip.

Market and Model

Pricing here is sits in the usual £30,000-£40,000 price range for an ambitious full-EV hatch, but you can expect a slight saving on an identically-engineered Nissan Ariya. And whether you choose the base 40kWh EV40 version or the longer range 60kWh model, there's plenty of kit, including a 12.3-inch instrument display and an infotainment touchscreen of the same size that runs Google's Android operating system. In contrast to the ZOE, safety standards are strong, with no fewer than 26 ADAS ('Advanced Driver Assistance Systems') features bringing useful safety features and driver aids to the segment.

There are clever touches too. For example, the climate system - which thankfully has separate centre stack controls - works with a clever heat pump that more efficiently reuses energy lost to help heat the cabin. There are 48 possible interior lighting combinations, with a thin band running along the door panels and dashboard. It's even possible for the Megane E-TECH to mimic humans' 24-hour circadian rhythm by matching its cabin colours to the time of the day, offering cooler shades in the day and warmer red tones at night.

Cost of Ownership

We mentioned driving range in our 'Driving Experience' section - 186 miles for the 40kWh EV40 model and 292 miles for the 60kWh EV60 variant. You'll need very proactive use of the various provided regenerative braking modes to match those figures. Bear in mind that as usual with electric vehicles, the range figures just quoted will vary a great deal depending on the type of road you're on and the prevailing weather. If you were to drive this car exclusively on the highway in really cold weather, you might find yourself not getting much more than around 155 miles of range from it. But you'd encounter similar issues with every other EV in this segment. And this one does at least include a standard heat pump to maximise range in cold conditions, an expensive extra on many rivals.

There's the option of different kinds of in-car charger systems, starting with the base 7kW AC 'standard charge' set-up and ranging up to fast DC public charging at 85kW for the smaller 40kWh battery - and 130kW for the larger battery pack. Go for the bigger-battery EV60 model and you'll find that the car can draw about 124 miles of range in around half an hour from a 130kW DC charger. Around eight hours of charging from a 7.4kW home charger will give you around 248 miles of range.

Summary

It's indisputable that Renault set off too early with full-electric vehicle development, trying to sell the market cars it wasn't ready for and haemorrhaging money in the process. Which is why it's taken so long for a second mainstream EV car model to appear from the brand. But we reckon this Megane E-TECH was worth the wait. It looks and feels more sophisticated and stylish than its VW Group and Korean class rivals; if you want a LEAF, Kia eNiro or Volkswagen ID.3-class EV hatch, this one really has to be on your shopping list.

At a stroke, for the first time in a long time, the Megane E-TECH makes Renault seem more credible force in the mainstream European market. And we're really quite intrigued by the thought of just how good a future high-performance Renaultsport version might be. For the time being though, what we've got is a car that signals Renault back on track.

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