REVIEW DATE: 11 Dec 2009
Small estates are often overlooked by family buyers but the Megane Sport Tourer looks a worthwhile choice in affordable Extreme trim. Steve Walker reports.
There are no two ways about it, the rise, rise and rise of the MPV has put the squeeze on the humble estate car. MPVs, with their boxy dimensions and contorting seats, are just more versatile than a hatchback or saloon with an extension to the rear. Despite the MPV's impact, there are plenty of estates still out there, even at the affordable end of the market where the effects of the people carrier plague have been most strongly felt. Amongst these lower priced options is the Renault Megane Sport Tourer which is at its cheapest in Extreme trim.
Renault does a nice little line in MPVs with its Espace, Scenic and Modus models all adhering to the people carrying formula but it's also got a healthy crop of estates. With Sports Tourer versions of the Laguna and Clio joined by the Megane model, either there's life in the old estate yet or the French marque has made quite a miscalculation.
There are a couple of engine options to weight up if you're considering a Megane Sport Tourer in Extreme trim. Predictably, given this car's budget billing, they're the two least powerful ones in the wider line-up. First is a 1.6-litre variable valve timing petrol engine that's smooth, modern and quite refined but not too energetic in the delivery of its 100bhp. Then there's a 1.5-litre dCi diesel with 86bhp. These 1.5-litre units crop up with unerring regularity all over the Renault model range and for small diesel engines, they're very good indeed. The 0-60mph time will look sluggish at 13.3s compared to the 11.2s of the petrol but while neither car is what you could call quick, the diesel's superior torque will make it an easier drive around town. It will also return far better economy figures - but that's reflected in the price.
"In Extreme trim, the Megane Sport Tourer flexes its value for money muscles"
A big attraction of the estate over an MPV is the way it performs on the road. The Megane Sports Tourer runs on the same platform as the Megane hatchback and the Scenic MPV but has far more in common with the hatch in terms of its low centre of gravity and hunkered-down driving position. The suspension is lifted wholesale from the Megane with MacPherson struts at the front combined with Renault's clever horned subframe. The torsen beam rear set-up is less advanced than the independent rear suspension found in Ford's Focus but it's more compact and helps the Megane offer maximum boot space.
The Megane Sport Tourer isn't merely a Megane Hatch with a conservatory on the back. It has a longer wheelbase and an extended rear overhang to ensure it can provide genuine extra practicality. In total, it's 263mm longer than the five-door equivalent and the extra size translates into improved rear passenger space as well as a bigger boot. With 524-litres of space available beneath the rear parcel shelf and the option of folding the back seats down to free 1,595-litres, the Megane has quite a capacity for an estate based on a family hatchback. Renault's designers have incorporated an extremely low loading lip of just 561mm to help when hoisting objects inside and there are also two separate storage zones in the boot itself to bring extra flexibility to the space.
MPVs can look a little frumpy with their high roofs and bulbous dimensions prioritising interior space at the expense of a sleek exterior and this is another area where the estate can gain an edge. The Megane Sports Tourer shares the nose of the hatch version but the rear end is all its own. The roof line drops away towards the back of the car while the side windows taper off as they progress down the flanks, enhancing the long, low appearance of the estate.
In Extreme trim, the Megane Sport Tourer flexes its value for money muscles. A search for equivalently-priced compact MPV models will quickly reveal that you don't get much compact MPV for £15,000. The extra boot capacity of the Sport Tourer Megane is also less than £1,000 over an equivalent five-door hatchback which isn't bad considering the in-depth modifications made to the estate.
The Megane Sport Tourer Extreme also compares well with other entry-level estates based on family hatchbacks. You'll certainly pay more for equivalently specified versions of the Ford Focus Estate and Volkswagen Golf Estate. The Extreme isn't overflowing with equipment but a CD stereo with AUX input for connecting an MP3 player, air-conditioning, the Renault Keycard ignition system and front electric windows are included in the price. The standard fitment of ESP stability control is also commendable.
The old petrol versus diesel debate is a tough one to square where the Megane Sport Tourer Extreme is concerned. The problem is that Renault wants nearly £1,800 extra for the diesel engine. Fair enough, it's massively more economical with 62.8mpg combined economy compared to the petrol unit's 42.2mpg and it's going to be a nicer drive around town but that's a big increase to try and justify on a car that campaigns as strongly on price as this one.
The diesel option will pay for itself in fuel savings more quickly the further you drive in it so the decision may boil down to the kind of mileage individual buyers cover. Those after a supermarket and school runabout will be better served by the petrol engine.
Why would buyers in need of more practicality than a conventional family hatchback can offer choose a compact estate car when there are so many MPVs designed specifically around family life? The Renault Megane Sport Tourer sets out to answer this question with additional space mated to a hatchback driving experience. In entry-level Extreme trim, it also stacks up pretty well on the balance sheet.
The results below show the top MEGANE deals on buyacar
|Renault Megane 1.6 16V 110 Dynamique TomTom 3dr coupe|
|Price £13,771||Save £4,274|
|Renault Megane 1.5 dCi 110 Dynamique TomTom 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £14,843||Save £4,902|
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|Price £13,265||Save £4,280|
|Renault Megane 1.5 dCi 110 Dynamique TomTom 5dr EDC diesel hatchback|
|Price £15,617||Save £5,178|
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|Price £15,300||Save £4,945|
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|For MEGANE SPORT TOURER EXTREME|
|OVERALL||7.4 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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