Most plucky engines and decent handling make the Renault Megane quite good to drive but the ride is firm
Comfortable driver's seat but techie dashboard is overly fussy
Good rosta of safety kit and maximum five stars from Euro NCAP
Reliability record looks to be improving
Good sized boot, but limited rear head and legroom
Comprehensive equipment list, even on the cheapest models
While the Renault Megane doesn't set any benchmarks for driving appeal, it's secure and agile enough to make a good everyday car. The gearshift is a little vague but the Megane feels quite nimble and responsive on fast, twisty roads. There are plenty of engines to choose from, but the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol, the higher-powered 1.5-litre diesel and the 1.6 diesel are the pick of the bunch; they're smooth and quiet, with plenty of power and reasonable running costs. Wind and road noise can be intrusive at higher speeds, however, so the Renault Megane is most appealing on smaller streets. The ride is rather firm and can be downright uncomfortable at times.
French flair is in short supply in the Megane's cabin - some of the materials are quite smart, but it's pretty bland to look at, despite the quirky features such as the digital speedo and push-button handbrake. These, and too many small, fiddly buttons, make the dashboard overly fussy. At least the driver's seat is supportive and comfortable and there's lots of space in the front. Things aren't as roomy in the back, sadly, so the Megane isn't as good a family car as a Ford Focus or Skoda Octavia. There's space for two adults, but many rivals provide a lot more head- and legroom. The boot, on the other hand, is large and well shaped.
Owners rated the Renault Megane's mechanical reliability as 'above average' in the latest JD Power survey, which is an improvement over its performance in previous reports. The interior isn't as classy as a VW Golf's, though - the Megane's is solid and has swanky plastic on the top of the dashboard, but some bits of trim feel rather flimsy. You do get the reassurance of Renault's four-year warranty and servicing package, however. Renault has an excellent safety record and the Megane comes with six airbags, stability controls and Isofix child seat points. In Euro NCAP's older-style tests, the Megane hatchback scored five out of five for adult protection and four out of five for child protection. Unlike many newer rivals, however, it hasn't been put through the latest crash tests.
If a VW Golf or Ford Focus would stretch your budget, you can have a similarly equipped Megane for less money. Every model has a decent standard of kit and, of the three trim levels available, two come with sat-nav as standard. Make sure you bag a decent discount, though, because resale values won't be up with the best. Running costs should be low, however, particularly if you go for a diesel engine.