Renault Megane Sport is a top Tourer

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Steve Sharpe test drives Renault’s new and improved Sports Tourer

THE Megane range arrived on our shores in the mid-1990s, to replace the popular but ageing Renault 19, and signified an assault on the important small family car sector in the UK market.

The first two versions of the range, the hatchback and coupe, appeared in September 1995, followed by the Scenic and convertible models in 1996.

The Megane saloon was added to the range the following year, the same year the Scenic was voted European Car of the Year.

By the spring of 1998, the model – now further bolstered by the launch of the Megane Estate – became Europe’s best-selling car, a position Mégane maintained every subsequent year, up to and including 2004.

There have been various relaunches and revisions since then and this year’s revision reflects the changing times, focusing on new and revised powertrains that exploit Stop-Start technology and other advanced engineering to deliver improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions performance.

The Sport Tourer, which was launched three years ago, has undergone a significant overhaul this year.

It gains the new 1.2-litre TCe Stop & Start, a petrol engine that achieves diesel-like performance with a combined cycle consumption figure of 53.3mpg and just 119g/km CO2 emissions.

And like a diesel, it is tuned to offer excellent pulling power from low engine speeds and across a broad rev range.

The line-up also includes a substantially revised version of the 1.5 dCi 110 unit, now with Stop & Start.

Completing the trio of newcomers is the 1.6 dCi 160 Stop & Start, the world’s most powerful – and most frugal – engine of its size. The headline performance figures are 70.6 mpg (combined) and 104g/km CO2.

The Megane Tourer has always been one of the sharpest looking Tourers on the market and a slight refreshing has done it no harm, with new alloy wheel designs and a new grille, with gloss black inserts and integrated LED daytime running lights in the bumper

I drove the new 1.2 TCe version which, despite the seeming lack of firepower, proved to be strong and flexible.

There is enough acceleration from a standing start for most situations and there’s a steady power flow as you move through the gears.

Family tourers are going to be on motorways for a fair amount of time and this one can lap up the miles with little problems.

It’s a comfortable cabin, too. The engine noise has been well hushed and road noise has been effectively sorted out. There’s some wind noise whistling around the sides but nothing that annoys too much. The seats are big and well cushioned, and you can just sit back and while away the hours.

Once you’re away from the long straights of the motorway the Megane Tourer is also a competent performer.

The steering is accurate, the gearing tight and the tyres grip well while cornering. Everything pretty much stays in place while cornering, supplying an enjoyable ride.

This is still a family estate so it’s not the most thrilling experience but it does everything it’s supposed too, comfortably and efficiently.

It can deal with most road surfaces and it’s only the worst where you feel a little jarred. Otherwise you don’t notice the road much at all.

Tourers need to be a decent size and although this Megane isn’t one of the biggest there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre.

The Sport Tourer has a 62mm longer wheelbase than the Hatch, which increases load capacity and legroom for rear seat passengers.

There is plenty of legroom and headroom for front seat passengers, but things in the rear are a little less roomy.

But the boot area is good – with the rear seats in place the volume is 486 litres; fold the rear 60/40 split-folding rear seats down in a neat one-step action and there is up to 1,567 litres available, which among the best in the segment.

It’s also easy to load heavy and bulky items thanks to a low lip, and there’s plenty of storage areas dotted throughout.

The cabin itself is well put together and looks classy. Most of the plastics are cushioned or soft to the touch and the controls are straightforward, although the knob for the satnav controls is awkwardly placed between the front seats.

The Megane Tourer range starts at £17.080 for the entry level model, rising to £22,600 for the top-of-the-range GT Line, which compares well to big-name rivals.

Renault has changed the trim structure this year and you get a fine amount of equipment throughout the range.

The new Expression+ entry trim level gets Bluetooth, cruise control, a more powerful audio system plus air conditioning, electric windows and electric, heated door mirrors.

Dynamique TomTom adds automatic lights and wipers, cruise control and satellite-navigation while top-of-the-range-topping GT Line TomTom models have dual-zone climate control, a parking camera, hill start assist, sporty body kit and a high-quality sound audio package as standard.

Renault have made sure it’s packed with safety measures, too – all models have ESC (Electronic Stability Control) with ASR (Anti-Skid Regulation) and CSV understeer control, ABS and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), together with a full complement of airbags.

Renault’s overhaul of its Megane range has drastically improved running costs too – the 1.2TCe, with a Stop-Start system, has economy figures of 53mpg and emissions which have been knocked down, too, keeping road tax low.

As an extra incentive there’s Renault’s impressive four year servicing, roadside assistance warranty.

This Tourer is a neat, smart-looking and agile family car, and is deservedly up there with the best of that segment.

Renault Megane Sport Tourer

Engine: 1.2-litre petrol

Transmission: six-speed manual

0-62: 11.2 sec

Top speed: 119mph

Economy: 53.3

Price: £19,125