Home Lifestyle Renault Megane E-Tech Electric: A pleasant surprise

Renault Megane E-Tech Electric: A pleasant surprise

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Renault Megane E-Tech Electric: A pleasant surprise

Despite being one of the oldest names in the business (founded 1898), Renault has become something of a pioneer in the battery-electric vehicle game. With models such as the small Zoe, the dinky Twizy, the family-sized Fluence and a comprehensive range of vans, the company has done more than most to advance the cause of green motoring. It hasn’t got everything right – the early approach of selling the car but leasing the batteries put people off – but it deserves its place in the future of motoring. Bravo.

Now we have a familiar Renault name revolutionised for the future. You may remember the Megane “shakin’ that ass” ad back in 1996, and Alan Partidge’s phone conversation with his estranged wife Carol referencing her new lover’s Megane: “‘With a mere 90 break-horse-power available, progress is too leisurely to be called fast, but on the motorway in fifth gear the Megane’s slow pace really becomes a pain. Uphill runs become power-sappingly mundane, while overtaking National Express coaches can become a long, drawn-out affair.’ Not my words, Carol. The words of Top Gear magazine. Hello?”

The Megane has thus been a minor part of our national life for some decades. But rather than the badge now being semi-retired, as with Ford’s Focus and Fiesta, it’s been repurposed as an all-electric model, designed from the ground up, and jam-packed with some of the latest technology. They hardly need to, but they’ve also renamed it to drive the point home rather forcefully – it’s the Renault Megane E-Tech Electric. It’s got a new-generation electric motor that dispenses with magnets (and rare earth minerals), a high-density ultra-slim battery pack albeit sticking with a lithium-ion design, an air source heat pump to help keep you and your batteries warmed up when they need to be, and very clever software that maximises the range you can extract from the power available, packaged in a (relatively) light 1.6-tonne package. Taking everything into account I’d say it still wasn’t quite as accomplished as models such as the MG4 or Kia e-Niro, but it’s not far behind.

THE SPEC

Renault Megane E-Tech Electric

Price: £39,445 (as tested, base model at £35,240)

Propulsion: Single electric motor, powered by 60kWh battery

Power (HP) : 220

Top speed: 99mph

0-60mph: 7.5 secs

Economy: 3.9 miles per kWh

Range: 200-250 miles

CO2 emissions: 0

As a vehicle that is designed to transition traditional car buyers from the mainstream Megane/Golf/Focus motor it works well. It looks “different” – a rather squat profile that is supposed to be coupe-sporty, I suppose, and kitted out with the giant 20-inch alloy wheels available on the plusher versions, it looks almost like a children’s cartoon of a car, vaguely reminiscent of the Range Rover Evoque. Inside there’s room enough for five, with a tasteful and restrained interior that makes good use of a hard-wearing grey Tweedy material for the dash and a little bit of leather around the cabin to make those surfaces nice and soft to the touch.

The Megane naturally has all the latest connectivity and the usual twin digital screens – a customisable dash one plus a larger touchscreen for satnav, radio and the rest, allied to buttons on and around the steering wheel for easier, safer operation. I was a bit surprised to see that Renault is persisting with a little pod behind the quartic (ie semi-square) steering wheel for the main radio controls, something familiar to anyone who drove a Clio. I still don’t like it. More pleasingly they’ve got a proper row of handy mechanical switches below the touchscreen for the demister, hazard lights and the like.

Kitted out with the giant 20-inch alloy wheels, it looks almost like a children’s cartoon of a car

(Renault)

In performance, it’s very like the last couple of new electric models I’ve tried, the Nissan Ariya, from Renault alliance partner Nissan, and the MG4 made by SAIC of China – getting to 60 mph from rest in 7.5 seconds, a top speed of about 100mph, and a range of 200 miles plus. That suggests that electric cars at least in this sector of the market, might be more “samey” in those terms, but compete on style, ambience, space, snob value, and overall economy. Then again, that’s not so very different from the way things have developed in their equivalent internal combustion engine market. The Nissan, by the way, is the bigger and roomier, and to my eyes the nicer looking; the MG4 enjoys a marginally better range and will be cheaper to buy and run.

The Megane has all the latest connectivity and the usual twin digital screens

(Renault)

Any Megane driver migrating to the new electric version should be pleasantly surprised. It has a slightly higher driving position, as is the fashion, and it goes and stops just as well as any previous Megane (outside the sporty versions): indeed at lower speeds the acceleration is superior. It’s also comfortable and handles pretty predictably even when pressed hard from rest. The steering, however, is very light indeed, and takes a bit more getting used to; so does the adjustable braking, where you can ratchet up the “regen” via a paddle behind the steering wheel, which means the car will slow markedly without requiring the brake. With your Megane set on its optional eco setting, you can prioritise range and economy. In these days of high electricity prices, you will need to do that to ensure your Megane retains its edge over traditional diesel propulsion – and you do need to do the sums about how many miles a year you do to justify the electric premium purchase price, ie versus low fuel costs.

As an old advertising slogan used to go, some day all cars will be like the battery-electric Renault Megane, provided the industry and governments can help get the economics right for us.

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