Has a new hybrid powertrain propelled the Renault Megane Sports Tourer to the top of its class?
3.5 out of 5
Updates and extra kit – including the addition of this E-Tech plug-in hybrid powertrain – have only kept the Megane where it needs to be relative to its rivals, rather than elevating it to the top of the class. We’re pleased there’s now an electrified option in the Megane range, but the E-Tech powertrain could be better still. There are smoother, more accomplished plug-in hybrids that offer greater all-electric range in this class.
In a decade’s time every new car sold may well be fully electric, but to convince consumers an EV could be for them, sometimes you need a half-way house – and plug-in hybrids are the perfect answer to that problem.
Renault is on a roll when it comes to EVs; it’s Zoe is a great compact electric car, but up to now it’s not really explored the potential of a plug-in hybrid. Along with the Captur E-Tech SUV, this Megane E-Tech model is changing that.
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It stands to reason that Renault’s experience with batteries and electric motors means its plug-in offering should be strong. In the Megane E-Tech a conventional 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is combined with a 9.8kWh lithium-ion battery and a twin electric motor set-up to deliver 158bhp.
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Up to 30 miles in ‘Pure’ (full EV) mode is possible, while charging the battery takes three hours using a home wallbox. The Megane’s on-board charger is limited to 3.6kW.
On electric power the Megane is smooth and surprisingly swift, with 205Nm of torque from the electric motor delivered in a solid surge at town speeds. This torque helps boost throttle response in hybrid mode too, where the electric and petrol motors work together intelligently.
There’s an E-Save function, which allows you to hold onto the battery’s energy for deployment in towns and cities where air quality is important, a B mode for the clever six-speed clutchless automatic gearbox that increases the level of regeneration on offer, and a Sport mode that maximises performance.
Even so, it doesn’t feel as quick as the claimed 9.8-second 0-62mph time, but then the E-Tech is about efficiency not speed, despite Renault pushing the link to its Formula 1 hybrid technology hard.
Instead, with a claimed 217.3mpg possible and CO2 emissions of only 30g/km, meaning a Benefit-in-Kind company car tax rating of just 10 per cent, you can’t knock the Megane’s potential for rock bottom running costs.
However, there are some drawbacks to the way it drives, even if the electric motor helps it feel a little more urgent in some cases when you’re just getting on the accelerator.
Often when the battery’s energy is depleted – and sometimes just during normal driving – the transition between the two power sources or the electric motor cutting in and out isn’t so smooth. There is a perceptible jerk or cut in power.
It’s a small point, but when electrification can really boost refinement – which in many areas it does in the Megane, helping lessen the load on the otherwise slightly grumbly 1.6 petrol unit – the extra finesse in managing the switch between the two methods of drive would really help.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual in the Megane. You feel the car’s extra mass (it’s 249kg heavier than a normal petrol auto) in the way it rides and handles, as occasionally it’s upset more than you might imagine by smaller bumps in the road.
Through corners, even though the battery is located low down under the rear seats, it doesn’t feel as agile as its purely petrol-powered sibling, but then the Megane is about comfort, ease of use and refinement, so the light steering and relatively quiet powertrain (unless you really rev it) deliver in these areas.
The Megane E-Tech is only available in Sport Tourer estate form currently (the E-Tech Hatch will join the line-up in spring 2021), which means you can add practicality to the list of positives.
Boot space stands at 447 litres – 116 litres down on the petrol estate due to the location of some hybrid kit – but it’s still ok, while room in the rear is acceptable too.
As part of the Megane’s overall facelift, which this E-Tech model forms part of, the car gets a fair level of kit, even in more basic Iconic trim.
This includes a digital Driver Infotainment panel which can display the nav map. Sat-nav is included as part of the seven-inch touchscreen, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Keyless operation, full LED lights, front and rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and cruise control are all standard, too.
There are also more driver assistance systems on offer, with emergency autonomous braking and lane departure warning standard here, but much of the other tech – such as adaptive cruise and lane keep assist – is optional on top-spec R.S. Line cars and not even available on this Iconic model.
|Model:||Renault Megane Sports Tourer E-Tech|
|Engine:||1.6-litre 4cyl petrol + e-motor|
|Transmission:||Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
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