Hang on, hasn’t the Renault Megane been around for ages already?
It sure has —since 1994 to be precise — but this new Renault Megane marks a seriously significant step, not least because it’s the first mainstream European family car to go entirely electric. Unlike rivals from Peugeot and Volkswagen, Renault isn’t offering a petrol or diesel or plug-in hybrid version or equivalent of this new electric Megane. You get a choice of 40kWh or 60kWh battery packs, and a choice of 130hp or 220hp electric motors, driving the front wheels.
How far will it go, though?
The basic version has a 300km range, while the bigger-battery model has a claimed 450km range. That battery pack sits under the floor in the centre of the car, and can be charged at up to 130kW speeds from a high-speed public charging point. However, it’s not the fast charging bit that’s impressive…
Oh, what’s the impressive bit?
Hang on, we’ll get there. Renault’s claimed 450km range for this 60kWh battery on a full charge is… Um… nope. 350km is more like it, and 300km if you’re doing long drives up the motorway. That’s not terrible, but the Megane seems to lack the long legs of some rivals.
So, it’s actually disappointing then?
Well, oddly no. And that’s to do with the way it charges. You see, the Megane has a trump card to play — how it charges. 130kW charging from a sufficiently powerful DC public charger is pretty decent, but that pales next to the fact that Renault fits the Megane, as standard, with 22kW AC charging — just as it does the smaller Zoe.
That is a game-changer for this size of EV, as it effectively makes every ESB e-Cars kerbside charger a quick (if not quite fast) charger.
On one lengthy drive, we managed to add 30kWh of charge in just over one hour, which is pretty much the charge time and waiting time you’d be looking at on a faster DC charger.
It makes the Megane vastly more flexible on the still-too-sparse Irish public charging network than any rival, even those with a theoretically longer range.
The new Megane represents a major leap forward in the layout and functionality of Renault’s digital tech
Renaults have felt a bit cheap in the past. What’s this one like?
Really good as it happens. Inside, the Megane has one of the best interiors in the business.
It’s dominated by screens, of course, but they’re really good screens. Indeed, compared to the previous Megane or even current models such as the Captur or Clio, the new Megane represents a major leap forward in the layout and functionality of Renault’s digital tech.
The software underpinning it all comes from Google, so you get integrated Google maps.
Overall quality is excellent, aside from one or two cheap bits (especially the pound-shop star-stop button…) and space is good too.
The Megane actually feels like something of an anti-SUV inside, with a notably low-set roof giving a rather pleasantly intimate atmosphere, although there’s still plenty of legroom and headroom in the back.
The boot is a very useful 440-litres, plus comes with a useful under-floor space for storing a charging cable.
Is it any good to drive, though?
Really good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the best EVs of all to drive.
The steering is light but quick-witted (you can stiffen it up a touch by selecting Sport mode from a Ferrari-style button hanging off the steering wheel) and the Megane’s nose reacts promptly to any movements.
The ride comfort is mostly fine, but on the 20-inch wheels of our test car it could get occasionally a big ‘clonky’ albeit always well-controlled.
I suspect the basic model’s 18-inch wheels would give you a smoother ride.
Prices start from €37,495 including all grants for a basic Equilibre 40kWh model
Ah, here’s where it gets tricky. Prices start from €37,495 including all grants for a basic Equilibre 40kWh model, rising to €47,795 for the bells-and-whistles 60kWh Launch Edition.
To be honest, you don’t need to spend that much at all. A basic Equilibre gives you all the equipment you need, and you can get one, with the big battery, for €41,995.
It does. Or at least it would do, if it weren’t for the impressive and €10,000 cheaper MG 4. In fairness, the Megane looks and feels like a much more upmarket product than the MG, but the Chinese-built car is roomy, and has impressive range, so the Megane will struggle a bit to justify that price gap.
Ah well, plus ca change and that’s your actual French…
How much? Starts at €37,495. The one we drove was €46,510
How fast? 0-100km/h in 7.5secs
How far? 450km on one charge of the 60kWh battery, 300km for the smaller 40kWh battery
What do you get? Basic Equilibre model gets nine-inch infotainment screen, 12.3-inch instrument screen, Google Maps sat-nav, wireless phone charging, 18-inch alloys, rear-view camera, heated steering wheel, and LED headlights.
How big? 440-litre boot, plenty of rear legroom but headroom is a little tight.
Plus: Looks great, sweet to drive, great interior, fast 22kW charging
Minus: Looks very pricey next to the MG4
Equals: The best new car that Renault has done in ages, but at a price.