Review: Renault Mégane Sport Tourer E-Tech
- 2021 Renault Mégane Sport Tourer from £23,500 (Iconic TCe 140, 6-speed manual).
- Tested: E-Tech plug-in hybrid 160 auto, presented in ‘Iconic’ trim (RRP £30,995).
- Price as tested £32,255 (see fitted options below).
- On sale since: October 2020.
In 100 words or less
Renault suggests that this new E-Tech plug-in hybrid powertrain on the refreshed 2021 Mégane offers an ideal compromise between the future requirement for eco-minded electrification and the current need for everyday common sense. Having spent a full week with the Sport Tourer variant last month, I can do little else but agree.
There's a claimed 30-mile electric driving range, an ever-practical estate body style and keen pricing that undercuts several PHEV-segment rivals. With no meaningful entries in the ‘cons’ column, the Mégane E-Tech PHEV Sport Tourer is more than worthy of your close consideration.
The Renault Mégane is a compact family car first introduced in 1996 and was a successor to the Renault 19. Since then, over seven million Méganes have been sold worldwide. The current fourth generation Mégane was first shown at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show and sales commenced in July 2016.
Late last year, the Mégane Hatch and ST both received a light internal and external makeover for their 2021 model year to keep them fresh against ever-strengthening rivals.
At the refresh, a new plug-in hybrid powertrain was introduced to both body styles – the ST version of which is tested here. It joins the newly-released hybrid Clio and the Captur PHEV in Renault’s expanding ‘E-Tech’ family of partly-electrified vehicles in the hope that these new models will help warm customers to the idea of a fully-electric vehicle (such as the Zoe) further down the line.
Exterior styling tweaks for the refreshed 2021 Renault Mégane ST include new front and rear bumpers and new LED headlamps, chrome-trimmed fog light surrounds, extra air deflectors, dynamic 'scrolling' indicators and a more pronounced front wing design.
Inside, there's a new vertical 9.3-inch centre-dash infotainment screen with its new Renault EASYLINK connected multimedia system. It offers a wide-range of multimedia, navigation and infotainment services, as well as Multi-Sense settings.
The centre console controls have been restyled, but – as with many original EU models – the LHD-to-RHD conversion is sloppy with switchgear for the Multi-Sense system, the electronic handbrake and auto-hold remaining in its original left-hand drive. This caused the resting hand of my passenger to inadvertently (but frequently) activate the switchgear while on the move.
The range-entry Iconic models get a conventional 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, satnav and a DAB radio. It looks a tad small by modern standards but it is mounted nice and high up on the dash.
A larger 9.3-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen is standard on R.S. Line trim (or part of the £660 Technology Pack on Iconic). Its graphics are certainly sharper than on the Peugeot 508 estate and Corolla Touring Sports systems and the software is more responsive to prods and pokes as well. However, as with all touchscreens, the resulting patchwork of fingerprints is a residual pet-peeve.
The E-Tech hybrid powertrain is available in two trim levels (‘Iconic’ and ‘R.S. Line’) on the Mégane Sport Tourer (three on the hatchback, with ‘Play’ as its range-entry trim).
Likely to be the most popular choice with fleet buyers, the range-entry Iconic trim comes very well-equipped as standard, including 16-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
If it’s a bit more style you’re after, perhaps consider the R.S. Line model. This gets you all the racier looks, along with additional safety kit and a larger touchscreen, bespoke steering wheel, red-striped upholstery and digital dials system.
As with all plug-in hybrids, prices are not particularly inexpensive, with the Iconic model costing £5 short of £31,000. For the sportier (looking, at least) R.S. Line trim, you’ll need to find an additional £2,000.
It also comes with Type2 and 3-pin domestic socket charging cables and a generous comprehensive five-year warranty with unlimited mileage limit in the first two years, together with an eight-year battery warranty.
Options fitted to HN21 ZJX
The range-entry Iconic trim grade as tested is very well equipped so the options list is quite sparse. As a result, just two options were fitted to the test car; Arctic White metallic paint (£660), and the Technology Pack (with rear-view camera), £660.
The Technology Pack adds a 9.3-inch portrait touchscreen with satellite navigation (standard on the R.S. Line trim), lane-keep assist, hands-free parking, rear cross traffic alert and blind sport warning.
Practicality and luggage space
It’s when you look at the boot of the Mégane ST that you realise why it was given this name rather than simply being called an estate. It offers a useful increase in load space over the hatchback, but is far from being a beast of burden as is, perhaps, the Skoda Superb estate. However, the Mégane ST is still a pretty versatile car and is ideally suited to family holidays or those into an active or outdoor lifestyle where a rooftop luggage box or dual cycle rack are easily accommodated.
That well-designed dashboard allows plenty of legroom for driver and passenger alike, while headroom is as you’d expect in a comfortable family estate.
Passengers in the back are treated to legroom claimed to be among the best in its class, while the rear seatback has been angled to encourage a better posture than the slumped pose that rear passengers of the previous model had to endure. Nobody is likely to feel constricted in either the front or rear seats.
All models have a front centre armrest with storage space beneath, as well as cup-holders built in. Each door has a cup-holder, too, and you can just about fit a water bottle in the glovebox.
While it may not be fighting for the overall spoils of best load-lugger in the business, the Mégane ST aims to provide more luggage space than the hatchback, which offers 384 litres. The regular ST offers 563 litres with row two in place, while the E-Tech PHEV luggage capacity is reduced somewhat to 447 litres because of space taken up by the plug-in hardware under the rear of the car.
The boot is well designed, too. It’s easy to access and the load floor is completely flat when the rear seats are folded down which, incidentally, brings overall load space up to a considerable 1,408 litres and, at 2.77 metres, the Mégane’s load area is the longest in the class.
The ST isn’t a car for regularly carrying really bulky loads, but then again the test car swallowed a sizeable burr walnut cabinet collected from Westminster, London (no congestion charge being a PHEV – happy days!) and a rosewood chest of drawers from Newdigate, Surrey. Not on the same trip, you understand - some things are simply not possible.
The non-hybrid Mégane ST can now tow a braked trailer weighing up to 1,700kg which is within the weight range of a medium- to large-sized caravan.
However, the E-Tech plug-in hybrid tested here is somewhat more restricted in this department with towing limits of 528kg and 750kg for an unbraked and braked trailer, respectively. This may be a deal-breaker for some buyers.
E-Tech PHEV powertrain
The Renault Mégane E-Tech ST plug-in hybrid follows a very familiar formula for PHEV cars. It has an efficient 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor and a small battery. Drive is provided by a multi-mode clutchless gearbox to the front axle. You can drive on electric power alone, but only for a limited distance before you need to charge up again. It’s the exact same setup as found in the new Captur E-Tech PHEV.
The Mégane features a comparatively small 9.8kWh battery, which allows for around 30 miles of electric range. This is about average for a plug-in hybrid and, in winter, it would be reasonable to expect closer to 20-25 miles.
The hybrid pairing is a good offering with the engine delivering 144Nm of torque and the electric motor delivering 205Nm, which collectively deliver a respectable 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds.
You'll probably never see the claimed 217mpg fuel economy, as you'll either not be using the engine at all, in which case the engine won’t even be on, or you’ll be driving on a longer trip using the engine, but still achieving good economy around the 60mpg mark.
The E-Tech always starts in full-electric mode which is ideal for short journeys around town. Venture further afield and the driving experience can be tweaked and personalised via the three-step MultiSense driving modes – ‘Pure’, ‘MySense’ and ‘Sport’.
In ‘Pure’, which is selected via the touchscreen or a dedicated EV button on the centre console, propels the car on electric power alone. MySense optimises hybrid running for lower running costs. It features an E-Save function to hold battery power that can be used later on, for example when entering fee-charging urban environments. ‘Sport’ mode combines the full power of the engine and electric motor for optimum performance and responses. It is quite peppy but prone to excessive engine noise when pressing on.
Perhaps the most intriguing piece of the Mégane ST’s E-Tech drivetrain is its six-speed clutchless automatic gearbox, which uses sensors and electric motors to synchronise gear changes. It's a nifty solution, and for the most part one that works pretty seamlessly, slotting gears almost imperceptibly, with just the odd shudder interrupting the near-linear acceleration.
You can also select ‘B’ (brake) mode, which increases the level of electric motor regeneration and delivers a more pronounced braking feel when you come off the accelerator pedal. Develop a savvy enough approach and you may well be able to complete some journeys in Brake mode without ever touching the brake pedal. Such fun.
In other, non-hybrid Mégane ST’s, there is a choice of petrol and diesel engines and six-speed manual or conventional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.
On the road
In the main, the Mégane ST E-Tech does an excellent job of coping with UK roads. It's not the sharpest tool in the box when responding to steering inputs, which is probably partly down to the additional 105kg of batteries, but it restrains body movements well and soaks up lumps and bumps in a quiet, polished manner.
It's also a pretty refined tourer and with the engine running normally there is very little audible noise or vibration. Throw in good wind and road noise isolation and comfortable, supportive seating and the Mégane does a very decent job of easing the daily slog.
The clutchless gearbox is very smooth in its regular mode when you’re pottering around town or clocking up some miles on the motorway. However, drive it with a degree of enthusiasm through some twisty backroads and the car fumbles. Here, the car holds onto a gear for such a prolonged amount of time, that it sounds as if the pistons have gone walkabout under the bonnet and only upshift when you lift off the accelerator as it regathers its composure.
Aside from the sloppy left- to right-hand drive conversion, the only other peeve was the steering which seems to have an odd weight to it at the dead-ahead.
Test week stats
During the test week, I spent 14:53 hours driving HN21 ZJX over 421 mixed-road miles at an average speed of 28.2mph. The average fuel consumption was recorded at 60.4 mpg (9.5 miles/kWh).
Note: Unless a specific economy test, no attempt is made or conscious effort given to exceeding the stated WLTP mpg during the week. However, I do use the cruise/active cruise control at all available opportunities.
The Mégane E-Tech ST has a small battery so it doesn’t take long to charge up, even though it’s limited to a comparatively slow 3.6kW charging speed. That means those ultra-fast public chargers aren’t very useful, but to be fair you won’t need to visit them often with the engine on board.
From a three-pin domestic socket, a full charge takes four and a half hours (or comfortably overnight or at the office during a working day). Public chargers will take the same amount of time to do the job, because of the aforementioned charging-speed limitation.
Reliability and safety
There is little reason to think the Mégane E-Tech PHEV will be any less reliable than the regular range of Méganes. It shares the same five-year/100,000-mile warranty as those models, so it should be dependable. In the 2020 AutoExpress Driver Power survey, Renault finished 15th out of 30 manufacturers, so you can expect a reasonably worry-free ownership experience.
All Renault cars get a five-year/100,000-mile warranty (hybrid battery 8 years/100,000 miles), which is above average. Many other brands only offer three years of cover, so it’s good to see that Renault is confident in its cars’ reliability past a typical ownership period.
Safety kit on the Mégane plug-in hybrid is good, as even the range-entry Iconic model comes with lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, front and rear parking sensors, braking assistance, automatic high beams and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the rear seats. Six airbags (2x front, 2x lateral and 2x curtain) are standard as is a tyre repair kit. If you want an emergency spare wheel you’ll have to buy it as an optional extra (£250).
Prices for this new plug-in Mégane ST start at £30,995 for the Iconic model as tested and increase to £32,995 for the R.S. Line, both of which are a little more that its nearest likely rival – the KIA Ceed Sportswagon PHEV.
In addition, the Renault might not be able to travel quite as far as the KIA on battery power (30 vs 35 miles), but its overall driving experience feels better resolved than that offered by its South Korean rival. And while styling is subjective, I think it looks better, too and the interior oozes Gallic comfort and style.
Would I buy one? At regular times throughout my week with HN21 ZJX, I said to myself ‘yes, I really like this’. That doesn’t happen often, so yes, I think I would.
Because you’re here and have been, thanks for reading.
KEY FACTS: Renault Mégane Sport Tourer E-Tech PHEV
- Engine: Front-mounted, four in line, 1.6-litre (1,598cc) petrol.
- Engine - Power / torque: 90 bhp / 144 Nm.
- Electric motor - Power / torque: 65 bhp / 205 Nm.
- Hybrid battery: 9.8kWh lithium-ion.
- On-board charger 3.6 kW.
- Transmission: 6-speed clutchless automatic.
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds.
- Top speed: Limited to 111 mph.
- MPG (combined WLTP): 217.3.
- Fuel tank capacity: 39 litres (10.3 UK gallons).
- EV mode driving range: 30 miles
- Emissions: 30.0 CO₂/km
- First year VED: £0.
- P11D Value: £30,940.
- 2020/21 BiK (Benefit in Kind): 10%.
- Kerb weight: 1,669 kg
- Luggage capacity: 447 / 1,408 litres.
- Towing weight (braked/unbraked): 528 kg / 750 kg.
- Roof luggage weight: 80 kg.
- Service intervals: 12 months / 18,000 miles.
- Warranty & roadside assistance: 5 years / 100,000 miles.
- Hybrid battery warranty: 8 years / 100,000 miles
- Insurance group: 22E (in Iconic trim).
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