For as little as $27,490, you can get a "small" five door hatchback that returns 4.5-litres/100km. It's a much more attractive package than any hybrid on the market in terms of performance, running costs and purchase price, to say nothing of looks.
Renault's Megane DCi might have a small capacity, 1.5-litre turbodiesel under the bonnet, lifted from a light commercial vehicle, but it also has a six-speed dual clutch `manumatic' transmission and oodles of grunt from a low 1750rpm - just off idle.
Two models are available and we were able to drive the up spec' $32,500 Megane Privilege. It's a good looking car offering plenty of interior room and a good size boot accessed through a large rear hatch.
Easily one of Renault's best lookers, the distinctive Megane hatch is quite a large "small' car tipping the scales at 1366kg.
The Privilege we drove scores premium Arkamy's audio (with inadequate bass response) Bluetooth phone and streaming, satnav, climate control, leather, a multi media connection box, full size 17-inch spare, alloys, smart key start and plenty more kit.
It is a genuine competitor for VW Golf at less money and also otherpremium small cars.
It's a single cam, eight valve, 1.5-litre four banger lifted from Kangoo van with 81kW/240Nm output. There's a particle filter in the exhaust helping achieve a Euro 5 emissions rating.
On paper it's not impressive but in reality, the engine is a good'un offering plenty of response, super fuel economy, strong roll-on acceleration and clatter only at and for a short period after start-up from cold.
What makes it is the six speed DSG gearbox, unusual because it is a dry clutch as opposed to a wet clutch (filled with oil). The dry clutch is better in terms of low speed operation and a reduction in friction loses.
Not as classy as a VW but neat and functional. Megane's interior is easy on the eye and comfortable for long drives. There's plenty of rear seat leg and headroom and the standard equipment in the Privilege is generous and appreciated but unnecessary except for the satnav. Some of the controls are not intuitive.
Renault has a bit of a reputation for good handling, well, good overall dynamics and such is the case here. Megane diesel offers a high level of ride comfort from its strut and torsion beam suspension and yet corners flat with tenacity.
It has strong brakes and good steering feel. Pity there's no paddle shift on the wheel. No complaints about engine performance whatsoever - it could be a 2.0-litre turbodiesel gauged on underfoot feel. An annoying creaking noise in the rear suspension blotted the scorecard.
Five star car with all that entails - six air bags, stability control, safety cell chassis, pedestrian safety.
Definitely worth a look if you are shopping Golf, diesel Focus, Pug 308, even 1-Series and C30 diesels. Surprisingly good, better value in Dynamique grade.
RENAULT MEGANE DCi
Price: $27,490 (Dynamique), $32, 490 (Privilege)
Warranty: Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals: 12 months/15,000km
Thirst: 4.5 litres/100km, 117g/km CO2
Safety: Not yet rated
Equipment: Six airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, 81kW/240Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automated manual transmission, front-wheel drive
Brakes: 280mm ventilated front discs, solid 260mm rear discs
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Dimensions: 4295 mm (L), 1808mm (W), 1471mm (H), 2641mm (WB)