The new Renault Megane E-Tech Electric arrives with 217bhp and a 292-mile range
4.5 out of 5
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What impresses most about the new all-electric Megane is its ability to combine characters: it’s either fun and playful or comfortable and relaxing. We like the way it looks, we like the interior and we like the tech. Space in the back is a little disappointing, but with the right pricing and specification this could be a Megane that really gives its VW equivalent a run for its money.
The Renaulution is under way and this is the first model to prove it – the new Megane E-Tech Electric. Ignore the slightly cumbersome name – Renault says it’ll just refer to it as the new Megane – and this is as good a clue as any to the future of the famous French brand under new boss Luca De Meo.
To be fair, De Meo has had very little to do with the new Megane since his arrival in 2020. Along with another new colleague, Renault design chief Gilles Vidal, they set about tweaking the front end to give it a slightly sportier look and added 20-inch wheels to the specification.
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Renault people say that De Meo was delighted with the way the car drove when he took a turn behind the wheel, with the boss declaring it the closest he’d ever experienced to an all-electric GTI. That might be stretching it a bit, but our first impressions of an early prototype Megane are hugely positive – there is an awful lot to like.
Car group tests
Going fully electric means the Megane has grown from a hatchback into a crossover – taller and chunkier than ever before. And where the Megane’s arch-rival has always been Volkswagen’s Golf – and let’s be honest, it’s usually come off second best – now it’s the VW ID.3.
You can decide whether Renault’s designers have done a better job than Volkswagen’s, but to our eyes the Megane has the more interesting look of the two – sitting someway between the ID.3 and ID.4 with its proportions and more interesting design details.
The slim front lights, underlined by Z-shaped LED daytime running lights, look smart, although the contrasting gold panels in the lower section of the front grille are less successful.
The simple, clean side profile is helped by flush front door handles with the rear handles hidden at the top of the door in the C-pillar. The window line kicks up towards the back, where it wraps around into a shallow rear screen with a full width rear light bar and another splash of gold at the bottom of the bumper. It’s an attractive look on the whole, with just the right amount of restraint (although the Renault diamond on the charging flap is a bit of overkill).
Swing open the front door and the Megane’s cabin is more traditional than an ID.3’s. It’s still dominated by digital displays, with a 12.3-inch screen in front of the driver and a 12-inch portrait-orientated screen in the centre, seamlessly joined together in a classy black panel that also incorporates air vents.
Using the infotainment screen makes you wonder why more car makers don’t use a portrait configuration – it’s how we all use our mobile phones after all. The killer feature, though, is that it’s powered by Google, with the best voice control we’ve ever used.
Not only will “Hey Google” allow you to make phone calls, send messages and set destinations, it’ll also change the temperature and give you the latest weather forecast. If you’re an Apple user, CarPlay is standard, too, and the system will flip between Google and Apple brilliantly. The screen is quick to respond to touch inputs while the graphics are clear and bright.
There’s also a row of separate buttons beneath the screen to operate the heating and ventilation system, making it much easier to use than Volkswagen’s confusing combination of touch-sensitive sliders and screen.
Quality is better to look at than to touch, but again a step ahead of the ID.3. Our top-spec model had a sustainable wood finish around the doors and leather-look material on the dash, although more popular models will get recycled cloth on the dash top.
Some of the touch points are still a little hard – on the door tops, for example, but it’s a step ahead of the ID.3 and we were particularly impressed with the positioning of arm rests, making for a relaxed driving position.
There’s plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, with a good view out through all but the shallow rear window. Our car had a rear-view mirror that can be used in the traditional way – with the view restricted by the size of the rear glass – or as another digital screen feeding a wider view from a rear-mounted camera, although that takes some getting used to.
Stepping into the back of the car and the success story starts to unravel slightly. Despite offering 21mm more space in the rear seats than the old Megane, things are a little tight, especially behind a taller driver. If they choose to sit with their seat low down, there’s very limited foot space, while kids in child seats in the back may well spend much of their time kicking the seat back in front of them.
You sit relatively high, too – a big clue as to where the battery pack is. That also reduces the space between the seat base and the top of the door opening when you’re getting into the back or loading your youngster into their child seat. It’s not a deal-breaker for the Megane, but the electric car promise of space from a class above doesn’t really work out here. You do, at least, get a flat floor. Further back in the boot, there’s a useful 440 litres putting it ahead of the ID.3, and it’s deep, although the floor is some way below the sill.
There’s even more space underneath the floor thanks to front rather than rear or four-wheel drive, so there’s no motor over the rear axle. But what the Megane desperately needs is a false floor that might give you less initial space, but will at least mean no heaving heavy items over that lip. It will also ensure there’s a flat floor when you fold the rear seats down – currently there’s a big step up to the folded seat backs.
Renault says that when the car goes on sale in the UK next September, a false boot floor should be optional. We’d suggest it makes it standard.
Underneath the new Megane is Renault’s all-new CMF-EV platform, developed with the benefit of 10 years’ expertise with the Zoe and also set to be used with other Renault, Alpine and Alliance partner Nissan models, starting with its new Ariya SUV.
That experience with the Zoe has been particularly useful when it comes to weight saving across myriad components, resulting in a kerb weight for our 60kWh model of 1,624kg – 188kg less than the equivalent ID.3 with a 58kWh battery.
Combined with 217bhp and 300Nm of torque (the former slightly more than the ID.3, the latter slightly less) it helps to give the new Megane its sprightly feel. Put your foot down at pretty much any speed and the acceleration will shove you back into your seat as the car flies forward.
It certainly gives the car a bit of GTI attitude, but on our test on damp French roads, it also led to plenty of wheelspin like turbocharged Renaults of old. Renault engineers say that will be sorted for production cars, when we should actually get a 0-62mph figure, too – currently they’re saying ‘up to 7.4 seconds’. It feels faster than that.
As with rivals, you can adjust the level of brake regeneration via steering wheel-mounted paddles, and brake feel is good. However, there’s no full one-pedal driving – you always have to prod the left pedal to come to a complete stop. There are also the expected driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual, to let you vary your own selections – we suspect most drivers will just leave it in Comfort, which does little to lessen the fun factor.
With steering that’s as quick as the acceleration, the handling will make you smile, too. You might not get too much feel through the wheel, but the Megane is as quick to react to steering inputs as it is to ones with the throttle.
A low centre of gravity helps to keep the car flat and secure through corners, helped by multi-link rear suspension. Is it a GTI? Not really, but if an Alpine Megane is on the cards, that would be really exciting.
When weight and big wheels combine, ride normally suffers – but not here. You’ll certainly feel bumps in the road, but they won’t disturb you. Nor will any unusual noise, except for the whirr of the electric motor that makes the car sound a little like a Formula E racer.
Although full prices and specifications are a while off – we’ll probably get more details when the order books open around February – the potential tech package is strong with that Google-powered infotainment system, level two autonomous tech that will take care of steering, acceleration and braking on the motorway and in stop/start traffic (it worked well on our test), and fast charging at up to 130kW allowing a 15 to 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes
Entry-level Megane E-Tech Electrics will be offered with a 40kWh battery for up to 186 miles of range, while the 60kWh model we drove claims up to 292 miles. Renault says it’s focused more on efficiency than outright range and charging power, so we’d hope those figures are pretty accurate.
With the ID.3 referenced lots by Renault, prices are expected to mirror those of the Volkswagen, so starting at around £30,000 and rising to £38,000 for our as yet unnamed specification – let’s hope it doesn’t add too many more words to the car’s already clumsy name.
|Model:||Renault Megane E-Tech Electric EV60 220hp|
|Transmission:||Single-speed auto, front-wheel drive|
|0-62mph (est):||7.4 seconds|
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