The Megane family is a complete compact car range – it features the hatchback, a sedan for markets that appreciate this body style and also the family-oriented and most practical Estate station wagon.
The Megane – now in its fourth generation, has been derived as a three- and five-door hatchback, saloon, coupé, convertible and estate at various points in its life. But the trials and tribulations of the current state of the market have reworked the family to just three members – the hatch, saloon and estate, and only two of them being on the principal cast poster. We are of course talking about the five-door hatchback and the estate station wagon – the sedan is market dependent. No chance the Megane will revisit – at least not for this generation – the sporty coupe, convertible or three-door versions. The all-mighty SUV/crossover is “killing” them one by one, even though – interestingly enough – they are not direct competitors. But more and more people are looking for practicality – meaning mainstream producers are retiring their dedicated sports or even multipurpose vehicles. This is a bit odd, right? If there was a body version that actually competed with the crossovers and SUVs it was the station wagon – after all they both share the practicality traits.
But there might be a reasoning behind all this – just look at the Megane Estate. This is not just a family hauler, or assistant for a small entrepreneur’s endeavors – this is now a lifestyle choice. The Megane Estate compares well against the Kadjar for example – it’s slightly bigger and has more volume in the trunk, it’s actually well-equipped even when compared to the boot volume of the Scenic MPV. But after spending some quality time, we’re starting to get the feeling the Estate won’t be chosen for its inherent practicality – and rather for its great design. Just remember the previous generation, when Renault was already moving in that direction: many, including us, thought the station wagon was better looking than the rather bland hatchback. As such, the Megane Estate is actually following the trend in the segment – station wagons are not something to laugh at when arriving at the Opera house anymore…
Design, Interior and Gadgets
Because we’ve already tested the other members of the Megane family, there was little left to talk about in terms of styling when the Estate arrived at the office. For example, the front end, most likely up to the B pillar, is the same for either the hatchback, saloon or the Estate. It looks good and has the new corporate styling that premiered with the Talisman. By the way, you won’t mistake the Talisman Estate for the Megane Estate as it might have been the case with the Sedan and regular Talisman. What makes the Estate special of course starts from the B pillar backwards – it has slightly longer doors than the hatch as attested by the different glass surfaces with larger area. There’s also a blacked-out C-pillar with a touch of chrome for added styling – we told you the Estate would fit neatly into any elegant situation. There’s also a reworked bumper – and more importantly modified liftgate that makes it easier to fit larger items in the trunk due to the more prominent opening. This is important actually, the hatchback features a very small liftgate that seriously hampers the loading of bulkier items – not an issue on the Estate anymore. Moving inside, there’s absolutely no difference between the hatchback and Estate at the front – go for the top specification and you get the 7-inch digital instrument cluster and the 8.7 inch portrait-style R Link 2 infotainment system on the dashboard. The station wagons of today have evolved from the feeling of utility of old just like SUVs and crossovers have evolved from the days of capable off-roaders. There are even subtle sporty cues now – our test car had a neat combination of velour/leather front and back seats with a body-hugging profile.
The driver will experience the Megane Estate just like any other member of the family – if you met one vehicle from the new generation (in top trim the atmosphere and controls are very much alike with the Talisman as well), you can easily drive any one of them. One specific – and possibly interesting thing – we loved the profiled seats when sitting up front and “hated” them when sitting in the back. This is because the profiled back bench impedes the very sense of a station wagon – the one involving the words “family car”. Thanks to the longer rear doors we can get in and out of the Estate easier than a hatchback. But the rear bench has been designed to keep you secured when driving fast on a mountain road – not handle a family with two kids, for example. For starters, the seats are slightly recessed towards the interior and thus lose precious cms from the car’s width. The fitting a regular child seat in the back makes the middle seat impractical to use – meaning you can’t have two kids in the back with an accompanying adult. So, we simply recommend choosing a regular bench instead of the sporty one if you’re into the family business. Being very long – 4626 mm – the Estate is also ready to engulf lots of luggage – 521 liters with all seats up or 1504 in total. Another thing – the profiled bench also means there’s no flush surface when reclining the 60/40 back rest. By the way, being such a life style choice now, the Estate is losing big points in terms of overall practicality. The best example is where all wagons excel – the trunk volume. The Estate is paying here tribute to the excellent design, with the lateral shoulders for example eating up some available width space from inside. This is why when compared to a few direct competitors, the Estate has no chance to come on top. With 521/1504, the Megane narrowly bests (and not overall) the Ford Focus Sportbreak (490 / 1516 liters) – and loses the fight to the larger Opel Astra Sports Tourer (4702 mm long, 540 / 1630 liters) or even the smaller Peugeot 308 SW (4585 mm long, 556 / 1606 liters) and Kia cee’d SW (4505 mm long, 528 / 1642 liters).
Engine, Transmission and Handling
The Megane Estate can be had in a wide variety of engines, but of course its enhanced life style image is best fitted with the top of the line options, such as the 1.6 liter dCi with 130 hp. This engine is also well known for us, as it spreads across a wide range of models within the Renault Nissan Alliance. As a commentary when discussing the 1.6 liter compared to the ubiquitous 1.5 liter, we can see how technology advanced and the engine is even more silent, as well as vibration-free. The Megane series has also graduated to the top level in its class in terms of NVH (noise, vibrations, harshness) and may very well sit in line with premium representatives of the segment in this respect. More so, the Estate was also equipped with the Multi-Sense technology – which even alters the sound of the engine electronically while in certain driving modes. This is again, well known from the other members of the Megane family – nothing new to write home about with the Estate. The tested model did have a perk – the Bose professional sound system, which has 11 high-performance loudspeakers placed around the cabin.
The Megane Estate also boasts all driving aids found across the range – from head-up display to Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Active Emergency Braking System (AEBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Safe Distance Warning (DW), Overspeed Prevention with Traffic Sign Recognition (OSP with TSR) and Blind Spot Warning (BSW). This means the Estate is a true family car, taking care of its occupants as best as possible. This is also obvious from the experienced and perceived level of comfort – the suspension setup is a definite improvement, just like on the hatchback, from the Megane III. The Estate doesn’t invite towards a sporty attitude – of course, you can drive fast with the Sport mode on enhancing throttle and engine response. But you’ll have a rather hard time doing so – the steering is pretty much in over-assist mode no matter the selected driving setting. And the six-speed manual gearbox is not helping either – it’s a very easy to use stick, but it lacks finesse when trying to quick-shift. Overall, you can drive fast the Estate especially on the motorways – it has an ample power reserve to handle speed situations. Even on mountain roads you might have some fun, but you need to time the gear shifts in advance because you won’t be making any records when down or up shifting in a hurry just before a hairpin. That being said, the Estate is very nice to have in urban and getaway situations – drive it all day in town and you won’t get tired, pack it with all family necessities during the weekend and escape into an adventure. As far as performance and fuel economy is concerned, the Estate will place itself in the middle of the pack. It comes with 131 hp and 320 Nm and a six-speed manual gearbox for a 10,6 seconds sprint to 100 km/h and a 198 km/h maximum speed, complete with 4 liters per 100 km of diesel fuel consumption on average. The Focus – with 120 hp – will reach 100 km/h in 10,7 seconds and top out at 193 km/h for example, while at the other end of the spectrum we can select the Opel Astra 1.6 CDTI with 136 hp: 10,1 seconds sprint time, 205 km/h maximum speed and 3.9 liters combined fuel economy.