By Andy Enright
Chance upon press coverage of a Renault Megane these days and it'll probably be some fawning story on the Renaultsport coupe models. The rest of the Megane line up really doesn't get much of a look in. That's something of a shame because it's a car that has been assiduously fettled over the years and now scores an easy recommendation to family hatch buyers looking for something previously owned.
Yes, that's right, a used car recommendation in this sector that's neither a Golf or a Focus. What's more, it's French. Here, we're talking of the third generation model, which received the first of its facelifts in 2012, though the car created was only sold until the range's second more far-reaching update in early 2014. The Megane models produced during this period are well worth seeking out though. Here's what to look for.
The end of 2012 was when Renault UK pressed the reset button. It fired a bunch of underperforming dealers and deleted the sporty Wind, the passenger Kangoo MPV, the Laguna mid-ranger and the Modus and Grand Modus supermini-MPV models: all bit the dust. Even Renault's iconic Espace wasn't spared the axe. The Megane looked vulnerable too, but it survived the cull, the French manufacturer having just announced an uprated and facelifted version of the car. The main headlines here included a revised front end with LED daytime running lights added and the addition of a frugal 1.2-litre TCe petrol engine to the line-up.
Efficiency improved and the styling was tidied up. At the same time, Renault improved the materials quality of the cabin, which was a welcome upgrade. In summer 2013, Renault announced the Knight Edition, a fairly standard mid-life special edition which took the entry-level petrol and diesel engined models and adorned them with metallic paint, tidy alloy wheels, sports bumpers and a few other details. The asking price for this was £350 over the non-beknighted versions.
Early in 2014, Renault was at it again, updating the look of the Megane to encompass a new corporate Renault family face.
What You Get
With this 2012 to 2014-era third generation Megane, Renault took what was widely accepted as a handsome piece of automotive styling work and had a little tinker. The front end gained the ubiquitous LED daytime running lights, while the bumper received a gloss black finish with chrome highlights. The selection of wheels was also entirely revised. The cabin came with updated interior trims, including a two-tone leather pack available in a choice of two finishes. The GT-Line trims got 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 was adjusted too, with the addition of Azzurro Blue and Arctic White.
The Megane retained its coupe-like stance, thanks particularly to its short front and rear overhangs, a long 2.64m wheelbase, a steeply-raked roofline and a wide track. It certainly exuded a feeling of much higher quality than its predecessor, with thin cut lines between the different body panels. Great care went into the quality and fit and finish of the materials used and there were nice touches like the soft-touch finish on the dashboard cowling that claimed to be resistant to daily use and the ageing effects of sunlight. Another nice touch was the way that the windscreen wipers were aesthetically concealed beneath the bonnet line.
Like the Scenic and Grand Scenic, the Megane could be ordered with the Visio System which comprised 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 was further enhanced by a Hill Start Assist function, while 'Motorway Mode' indicators also debuted. To assist parking manoeuvres, a camera located at the rear provided a precise image of the vehicle's immediate surroundings and depicted its trajectory to help drivers adjust their line. Last but not least, the dual-zone automatic climate control was equipped with a quality sensor which monitored cabin air quality and automatically activated the air-recycling mode whenever necessary.
What to Look For
The Megane's powerplants have a good reliability record but customer satisfaction surveys show the Renault still has some way to go to approach the class best when it comes to reliability of electronics and servicing costs. The cabins look great when new but after surveying a few used examples, some of the dash materials can look a little scratched quite easily. As a result, it'll help if you make sure the car you're looking at is in perfect condition. Check for crash damage, make sure kids haven't damaged the rear upholstery or seat backs and ensure that sunroofs, central locking and alarms all work.
(based on a 2013 Megane 1.2 TCe - ex Vat) You'll need to budget around are around £130 per corner for tyres, while a clutch assembly is £230. Front brake pads are £45 a set with the rears costing £35.
On the Road
If you plan to take on the likes of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf, Hyundai i30 and Peugeot 308, you need to come equipped with a lot of engine choices and Renault doesn't fall shy in that department. In fact with this 2012 to 2014-era Megane, Renault added to the choice available with the addition of three fuel efficient Stop & Start units. For petrol people, there was a 1.2-litre TCe direct injection unit with 115bhp that was supoposed to replace the old (and continuing) 1.6 16v engine but somehow never did. The diesels also got the Stop & Start treatment too, with most opting for the 1.5 dCi 110 powerplant rather than the 1.6 dCi 130 range-topper.
This third generation Megane moved the game on in terms of refinement, but get underneath the car and you'll realise that many of the underpinnings are quite similar to those of the second generation model. Mind you, anyone who has driven one of these will tell you this is no bad thing. Detailed tweaks to this 2012 to 2014-era Megane model 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, was tuned to produce a more responsive, agile ride, as well as offer improved cornering without detracting from comfort. Plus, there were bigger brakes, able to pull you up to rest from 62mph in a class-leading 37 metres.
Even more crucial was the way that this design retained its top safety credentials. If, for some reason, a tyre pressure monitoring system, plus auto headlamps and wipers don't keep you out of the bushes, then standard anti lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist should do, while plusher models also get stability control and understeer control. In other words, should you manage to bend a new Megane, you'll have really excelled yourself.
If the Renault Megane ever had a forgotten generation, the MK3 model is probably it. And within the MK3 model's lifespan, this 2012 to 2014-era first facelifted version makes a lot of sense. With these cars, you get a lot of the polish that the early third generation Megane models lacked - and a range of more frugal engine options. All without the higher pricing of later post-2014 era models that to be frank, weren't very much different.
Of course this particular Megane model's short lifespan tells its own story. Sales of the five-door hatches and Sport Tourer estate models we've been looking at here were slow from new. Still, that doesn't make them bad cars. Quite the opposite in fact. Because UK buyers seemed only to countenance a handful of options in this sector, it just made Renault work harder to get the Megane right, and there are some real bargains to be had in the used arena. We'd be looking at a 1.5-litre dCi 130 in a reasonable trim level and would negotiate without mercy. Do that and you'll come away with a quality newish car at little more than banger money.