What is it?
It’s all change at Renault, with the majority of diesel engines now being phased out (the only exception being the vans) and electrified models being introduced rapidly. Just a year ago, the French firm offered no hybrids whatsoever, and now they’re found on the Clio, Captur, Arkana and Megane.
It’s the latter that’s our focus here, though this once best-selling model has somewhat been forgotten about with UK buyers, with sales slumping. Though a new electric SUV wearing the ‘Megane’ name is set to be launched next year, Renault isn’t quite ready to wave goodbye to the standard hatchback just yet.
Though Renault launched a plug-in hybrid version of its Megane Sports Tourer (estate) last year, it’s only now being introduced onto the brand’s standard Hatchback model.
Featuring the same clever 1.6-litre petrol setup as that found on its larger sibling – as well as the Captur crossover – it aims to bring some of the lowest running costs of any car in this class.
The other key thing to note is that shortly this will become the only standard Megane sold in the UK, as – in a somewhat bizarre move – Renault is discontinuing all petrol and diesel versions, bar the ‘RS’ hot hatches.
What’s under the bonnet?
All new hybrid Renaults feature broadly the same setup, with all using a new 1.6-litre petrol engine that’s been designed purely for this use. Combined with twin electric motors – one being the main source of punch and a second acting as a high voltage starter generator – it serves up 158bhp, allowing for a 0-60mph time of 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 109mph.
For many, it’s the Megane’s low running costs that will act as the main draw, and thanks to a 9.8kWh battery, you get a claimed 30-mile electric range – a figure we found to be pretty accurate during our testing. Renault then says you could see it return up to 235.4mpg, with especially low CO2 emissions of 28g/km placing it in a benefit-in-kind group of 11 per cent, which will be a big draw to company car drivers.
What’s it like to drive?
Renault’s regular Megane is fairly middling when it comes to the driving experience and the same is largely true here.
That said, the system is quite intelligent in how it deploys its electricity – you can flick it solely into ‘EV’ mode, but the default ‘MySense’ does a pretty good job at choosing for you, while a Sport mode leaves the engine on all the time. Despite offering plenty of punch in most scenarios, it lacks the sharp acceleration that you get with rivals like the Seat Leon eHybrid, which is 40bhp up on this Megane.
The clutchless gearbox also adds a newfound complexity, and while smooth for the best part, it’s sometimes a bit indecisive while it thinks about how much power it wants to serve up. The steering also has a certain vagueness about it, so it’s worth changing that to its ‘Sport’ setting to give it a bit more life.
How does it look?
Arguably the best thing about the Megane is the way it looks. While a car’s styling will always be subjective, it’s a surprise more don’t fall for this Hatchback’s sleek lines and fancy LED lighting. We’d argue it’s one of the most stylish cars in this class.
It’s particularly appealing in our test car’s R.S. Line trim, which gives it a sportier bodykit, larger alloy wheels and ‘F1-inspired’ touches that really help to give it greater street cred. It’s also one of the more subtle hybrids, as aside from an additional charging flap on the driver’s side (though still where you’d expect a normal petrol cap) and some very light badging, there’s little to tell it apart from the standard car.
What’s it like inside?
Renault updated the Megane last year, and the big change was really the interior, as it benefitted from a far more premium look and finish than its predecessor. The same applies here, with the digital dial and large portrait touchscreen system really impressing – the latter even gives you ‘live’ petrol prices of upcoming fuel stations, which is an especially nifty touch.
The R.S. Line trim also bags you some fantastic sports seats, which not only look the part but offer plenty of support as well. They really feel like they’ve been lifted straight out of a hot hatch. The only downside to choosing the hybrid is that the boot size decreases from 434 to 308 litres. That might sound a lot, but it’s only really the underfloor area that you lose, and it’s still quite a decent size nevertheless.
What’s the spec like?
There are just two trims available on the Megane these days – the gets-everything-you-need Iconic or the higher-spec R.S. Line that’ll get you the admiring glances.
Standard equipment prices on the Iconic includes keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, a 10-inch digital dial system and seven-inch touchscreen, while R.S. Line gets you the sportier looks, along with a reversing camera and large 9.3-inch touchscreen.
Prices for the E-Tech start from £29,495 in Iconic trim, and the R.S. Line another £2,000 on top of that. Our test car’s metallic paint, spare wheel and Safety Pack (including adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist) took that price up to £33,195, though.
But while the Megane E-Tech certainly isn’t cheap, it’s still one of the most affordable plug-in hybrids on sale – undercutting key rivals like the Hyundai Ioniq and Seat Leon e-Hybrid.
Renault’s Megane is already a stylish hatchback with a great interior, and this new E-Tech plug-in hybrid adds an efficient and largely inoffensive hybrid powertrain into the mix.
But at the same time, it doesn’t really offer any great improvements, either. It remains quite mediocre to drive, while the inflated price will be quite hard to justify. Though it’ll appeal to those who can manage the majority of journeys on electric, and also company car drivers that can make use of the welcome tax savings, a standard Megane remains the preferable option. It’s just a shame you won’t be able to buy one for much longer…
Model as tested: Renault Megane R.S. Line E-Tech plug-in hybrid 160 Auto
Price as tested: £33,195
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol-electric hybrid
Torque: 148Nm (engine); 205Nm (electric motor)
Max speed: 109mph
0-60mph: 9.2 seconds
Range: 30 miles