Renaultâ€™s stylish new Megane meets two of its strongest five-door family hatch rivals
The traditional family hatchback is still a very important type of car in the UK. Even as more and more people switch to crossovers, the five-door hatch still draws buyers looking for something nimble, better value and cheaper to run.
The newest contender in this sector is Renaultâ€™s great-looking new Megane. But in 1.5-litre turbodiesel guise, itâ€™s entering a very competitive part of the marketplace. Company car drivers are already sold on the Vauxhall Astra and Seat Leon. Does the new Renault give them something to think about?
Engine and performance
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex Tech Line
List price: Â£18,345
Engine sizeÂ 1.5-litre diesel
Torque: 221lb ft
Top speed: 121mph
Fuel economy: 56.3mpg (True MPG)
CO2 emissions: 88g/km
It certainly won’t cause them any worriesÂ in terms of acceleration. â€˜How quick is itâ€™ is a key stat for fleet drivers and the Megane lags here. Itâ€™s the heaviest car of the trip and feels lethargic compared to the peppy 1.6-litre turbodiesel Leon and Astra. The Vauxhall is particularly good on in-gear acceleration. The Megane, in contrast, is notably laggy away from the lights.
The Meganeâ€™s gearbox is vague as well, and its engine vibrates through the pedals. The Seat is better isolated, but its engine also sounds boomier. The Vauxhall is actually the smoothest, and is able to match the Megane for a Renault strength â€“ good motorway refinement. The Seat is the noisiest here (although it does have the slickest gearbox).
Ride and handling
It seems the Megane has been set up for comfort. Itâ€™s smooth and cushioned over rough roads, but rolls more into bends and isnâ€™t particularly good fun to drive. The steering lacks feel as well. You can alter the weight but no mode offers much feedback. Even the brakes are flawed. Thereâ€™s a lot of travel, then sudden bite, making it hard to slow down smoothly.
Seat Leon 1.6 TDI 110 Ecomotive SE 5dr
List price: Â£19,650
Torque: 184lb ft
Top speed: 124mph
Fuel economy: 56.0mpg (True MPG)
CO2 emissions: 94g/km
The Leon handles more eagerly, and its controls feel more natural. It has lots of grip and little body lean, proving stable in bends. The Astra is decent too, if a little more nervous than the Seat. Its ride is a bit pattery, as is the Leonâ€™s, although neither becomes over-firm.
All three are comfortable for the driver, with the Leon and Astra offering a more natural driving position than the Megane. We felt the Seat had the best seats (and were disappointed to see lumbar support is a Â£250 option in the Astra). The Leonâ€™s dashboard is the sturdiest but dullest to look at, while the Megane has cool infotainment screens and all-round ambient lighting. The Astra looks smart too.
The Megane struggles when it comes to rear-seat space. Legroom is poor and thereâ€™s little space for feet under the front seats. The other two are much more competitive here, with the best all-rounder being the Vauxhall. Theyâ€™re more closely matched when it comes to book space, although the Megane has the highest load lip.
Ownership costs vary depending on whether youâ€™re a company car driver or private buyer. To lease, the Astra is the cheapest. Over three years, itâ€™s Â£1000 cheaper than the Leon and Â£3000 cheaper than the Megane. Itâ€™s cheaper in Benefit-in-Kind tax for drivers too.
In contrast, the Megane has the lowest PCP leasing deals. It costs Â£244 a month if you have a Â£2500 deposit. The Leon adds Â£39 to this; the Astra, Â£66. Add in the fact Renault is the most generous with standard equipment, with goodies such as sat nav and climate control, and itâ€™s the most tempting in showrooms.
Renault Megane 1.5 dCi 110 Dynamique Nav
List price: Â£19,400
Engine: 1.5-litre diesel
Torque: 192lb ft
Top speed: 116mph
Fuel economy: 47.2mpg (True MPG)
CO2 emissions: 96g/km
The Renault also has the best safety kit. All three have a five-star Euro NCAP rating but only the Megane comes with active safety aids such as auto-dip headlights and a display that shows you the speed limit of the road youâ€™re on. Autonomous emergency braking is a cheap add on; itâ€™s pricier on the Astra and not offered on the Leon.
Itâ€™s a pity the lethargic Renault isnâ€™t better on fuel though. It averaged 47.2mpg in our real-world economy tests, compared to 56.0mpg for the Leon and 56.3mpg for the Astra. So you get better mileage in the Seat and Vauxhall despite their better performance. All three emit less than 100g/km CO2 though, for free road tax.
In the final running, itâ€™s clear the Megane trails the other two. Itâ€™s consistently rather average, has poor rear space and high running costs. Its good equipment levels, impressive safety kit and smart interior are not enough. The Seat is less standout alongside it, but itâ€™s the best car for drivers and as a strong all-rounder.
It canâ€™t beat the Astra though. The Vauxhall is a great all-rounder with no weaknesses, and is particularly impressive on running costs and fuel economy. Itâ€™s nice to drive, the engine is responsive and the interior is practical as well. The fact itâ€™s built in Britain is icing on the cake that makes it our pick of these three family hatchback five-doors.