Renault Megane E-TECH Hybrid review
While it’s efficient and spacious, the Megane plug-in hybrid suffers from a dated interior and infotainment system, which sets in back in comparison to rivals
- Comfortable ride
- Good value
- Dated cabin
- Sluggish gearbox
- Clunky infotainment
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||30 miles||217mpg||30g/km|
Renault is making a big push towards electrifying its range, with a fully electric Megane E-TECH on its way soon, alongside the reborn Renault 5 that’ll also feature electric power. In the meantime, however, the arrival of the plug-in hybrid version of its Megane family hatchback comes eight months after the French brand launched the plug-in variant of the Megane estate, which we’ve already tested.
The Megane E-TECH is one of several electrified hatchbacks on the market, with plug-in versions of the new Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308 and Volkswagen Golf available. But it's worth noting that the plug-in hybrid powertrain is the only option for the Megane now, with purely petrol and diesel power off the menu.
Under the bonnet is a 1.6-litre petrol engine coupled with a 64bhp electric motor powered by a 9.8kWh battery. The combined output is 158bhp and you get a 30-mile pure-electric driving range – the same as the plug-in estate. However, the hatchback is more efficient, capable of returning up to 235mpg and emitting just 28g/km of CO2.
Rapid charging isn’t available on the Megane E-TECH; its top-up speed is limited to just 3.6kW, which translates to around three hours to fully replenish the battery. There are three driving modes in the Megane E-TECH: ‘Pure' keeps the car in electric mode for as long as possible, while 'MySense' automatically mixes electric and engine power for the best efficiency and 'Sport' offers you maximum power at the expense of some efficiency. By the end of our time in the car, we'd only just depleted the battery, with the dashboard claiming we’d achieved over 90mpg.
Unsurprisingly, the hatchback and Sport Tourer estate versions of the Megane drive very similarly, with both performing best in town in Pure mode. That’s thanks to the electric motor’s 250Nm of torque, which allows you to pull away smoothly, in addition to the Megane’s light steering and comfortable ride at lower speeds.
Things are less impressive when you aren’t relying solely on the electric motor. It’s not the petrol engine that's the problem, as that's generally very smooth and quiet, unless you really put your foot down. The issue is the Renault’s clutchless six-speed automatic transmission, which isn’t the best we’ve experienced, but the only one available for the plug-in Megane. Occasionally the gearbox falters when transitioning from electric to petrol power, resulting in either a jerk in your momentum or a pause in power delivery.
Also, despite its up-to-date powertrain, the Megane is showing its age inside. This car’s smaller, and cheaper, stablemates like the latest Clio, Captur and Arkana hybrids all have a nicer cabin design. Plus, while you do get a seven-inch portrait infotainment touchscreen in entry-level models, or a 9.3-inch unit in higher-spec R.S. Line cars, the graphics feel tired and it’s not the most responsive system on the market. The digital dials also aren’t as sharp as some models in this class.
Practicality also takes a hit with the switch to plug-in hybrid-only power, with boot space dropping from 473 litres in the now-discontinued petrol version of the car down to 308 litres in the E-TECH. It’s still more than you’ll get in a Golf GTE, and what we expect from the plug-in hybrid versions of the Astra and 308 when they arrive. Plus, there's still plenty of head and legroom for passengers.
Overall, the Megane E-TECH’s 11% Benefit-in-Kind rate will attract some company-car drivers, and its comfortable ride and spacious interior are appealing. But the dated interior is the car’s downfall, causing it to fall behind many of its rivals, and even the other members of Renault’s current line-up.