Renault Megane 2014 Review
A bigger range, lower prices, plus the addition of a sporty wagon last year, has given Renault extra impetus in its drive to give the Megane more space in the crowded small car market.
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Immigrants have often found Australia an unusual settlement. Nothing bad, just different. Post-war citizens from overseas learnt that by working hard, and being patient, rewards can be substantial.
Right now Opel - the German arm of General Motors that once made the Astra for Holden - must be quietly bubbling in its patience. It opened its doors on September 1 and, to the end of October, has sold 279 cars. In October it sold 105 cars - the same as Fiat.
A bit like Audi's early life in Australia, in fact, but look at Audi now. If the economy stays warm and buyer confidence is buoyant, Opel has a chance. If its products correctly reflect German quality and offer value for money above a voracious pack of Japanese and Korean rivals, it will do well. Judging by the Astra, success is certainly possible.
This is the Opel Astra Select CDTi - the mid-level turbo-diesel hatch that costs $33,990 with automatic transmission and an extra $2500 for possibly the car industry's most comfortable leather-trimmed, heated seats. The seat option is very expensive, especially considering all the work has gone into moulding the front two and the rear seat merely feels like a reskin.
Standard kit on Select includes 17-inch alloys, sat-nav, electric park brake, dual-zone climatic aircon, front and rear park sensors, seven-speaker audio with iPod/USB connectivity and Bluetooth with voice control. Good news for doubters is the $299 once-a-year capped price service for the three-year warranty period.
Externally, the Astra mirrors German functionality and efficient styling. It's more rounded in its shape than rival Golf, but that at least gives Astra its identity. The Australian Astra is the latest from the factory, introduced in Europe as a facelift in June.
Aggressively slanted headlights look distinctive from the front but it's best view is the rear's boat-tail rear with its bowed window. There's room for four adults inside but rear seat legroom comes up a bit short. Boot space is class average, slightly more than Mazda3.
Cabin design is attractive, well finished with soft-feel plastics and tight panel gaps, and simple to navigate. Even the myriad of centre-console switches are sized to fit human fingers and have logic in their arrangement.
The turbo-diesel engine is relatively new to Astra. Based on a 2009-launched engine, it has power upgrades (now 121kW/350Nm) and stop-start for a claimed 5.9 L/100km. On my primary suburban test it achieved 7.2 L/100km. There's not a lot of skimping with chassis gear.
The Astra has an additional Watts link in the rear suspension to maintain ride comfort while enhancing handling, electric steering and a six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode. The ergonomic AGR seats are superb, but an expensive option.
Astra is a five-star crash-rated car with six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, active head restraints, a pedal release system in the event of a collision, heated side mirrors, auto headlights and wipers, and front and rear parking sensors. The spare is a space-saver.
No masking the fact this is a diesel. The engine makes itself known at idle and audibly grumbles when pushed at low revs. But it's near silent at mid-range speeds when cruising or coasting and has a delightful surge of torque when called on at anything around 2500rpm.
Personally it can be a fun engine but a the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol alternative is better, and $3000 cheaper. The auto suits it perfectly and even does a decent job of countering the low-speed turbo lag - though the manual mode of the gearbox is a better remedy.
Though electric, the steering is very good both in feel and its positive input to the wheels, while the handling is good though tends to cater more for occupant comfort. It is not as firm as some rivals. Perhaps the optional seats did most of the cushioning and support. Rear vision is a weak spot but there are standard park sensors.
Diesel may suit country folk but turbo-petrol 1.6 wins for city buyers. Very good hatch for individual buyers but has lots of hungry competitors.
|1.4||1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$9,588 – 9,999||2012 Opel Astra 2012 1.4 Pricing and Specs|
|1.6 Select||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$9,020 – 12,760||2012 Opel Astra 2012 1.6 Select Pricing and Specs|
|1.6 Sports||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$10,120 – 13,860||2012 Opel Astra 2012 1.6 Sports Pricing and Specs|
|CDTi||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$8,250 – 11,550||2012 Opel Astra 2012 CDTi Pricing and Specs|
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