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Renault Megane sedan 2004 review

But perky doesn't cut it with everyone and the Megane lineup is growing all the time.

Renault has plans for a metal-top convertible coupe that has a connection to the Peugeot 307 CC, but the newest addition is the Megane sedan.

Some will say J.Lo has just gone all middle-aged and frumpy, and the box-on-the-back look has taken away some of the car's style, but there are people who still prefer sedans to hatches.

Most are getting on a bit, which is why hatches tend to be sporty and sedans put the emphasis on equipment and comfort. You only have to look at the Nissan Pulsar sedan, with a chromed grille that would have been right at home on the nose of an old Fairlane, to see the target age group.

Still, the Megane family has been a hit and Renault has recently reported the production of car number one million in the Megane II production run.

We are waiting with a smile for the Renault Sport Megane 225, with 17-inch alloy wheels, body building bits and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with six-speed manual gearbox.

But the action is all about the Megane sedan. It starts at $29,990 and is intended to boost Megane sales, which are ticking along at 100 cars a month.

It has been the star performer for Renault this year, but the French brand is still only a tiddler with total sales of 2123 cars in the first four months of 2004.

Renault says the sedan is more than just J.Lo with a boot on the back, and points to a 61mm longer wheelbase and stretched back doors as proof. As well as the boot, which has a claimed carrying capacity of 520 litres.

The mechanical package is just the same, with a 2-litre engine and a choice of six-speed manual and four-speed manual gearboxes, fully independent rear suspension, anti-skid brakes with electronic brake force distribution, and electric power assistance for the steering.

Renault Australia has set the equipment level high, while holding the starting price to $29,990 for the Expression manual, so the car comes with everything from front and side-curtain airbags to a trip computer, automatic airconditioning and cruise control.

WE ENJOY our time with the funky J.Lo Megane. It isn't perfect, but it looks good and it is enjoyable to drive.

The sedan? Hmmmm. Much more middle-of-the-road. Definitely not a pop hit.

Still, when we go on the road we try to forget our reaction to the styling...and a boot that's surprisingly hard to use because of a narrow opening.

The car gets along well enough with its 2-litre engine. It's not a fireball, but it has solid pulling power, allowing easy cruising and some brisk sprints in the city.

Our test car is automatic and it is far less enjoyable than the manual, which baulks a bit between 5th and 6th gears.

The automatic is slow to respond and jerky, a tendency we have noticed in far too many European autos. It's because Europeans usually go for a manual change, which means development takes a lower priority.

The auto Megane also loses some of the finish from the top of the shifter, something that also happens in the hatch, so we wonder about the long-term quality.

The other big complaint is the steering. The electric power assistance is unpredictable, meaning the car sometimes feels as if it has a flat tyre or bent suspension.

It's all right if you go gently, and it definitely helps parking, but our test car is over-sensitive to the wheel any time we are above 40km/h, and that is no fun.

Still, we enjoy the equipment in the Megane sedan, from the airconditioning and the punchy sound to the trip computer and cruise control.

The seats are great, soft and supportive, and the car is quiet at cruising speeds and easy at the pumps, though it does drink premium unleaded.

Lined up against its rivals, it gives ground to the Holden Astra and the Ford Focus, even though they have smaller engines, and cannot compete with the Toyota Corolla for quality or finish. It is European, which wins points, and it is comfy, but that won't be good enough for people who shop on the bottom line.

Overall, the sedan doesn't do anything special and will fade quickly from our memories.

There are people who will like it, and some who will love it. We prefer J.Lo.

A NICE enough car, but we have driven others in 2004 that are far better.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Dynamique 2.0L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,600 – 7,370 2004 Renault Megane 2004 Dynamique Pricing and Specs
Dynamique LX 2.0L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,700 – 7,590 2004 Renault Megane 2004 Dynamique LX Pricing and Specs
Expression 1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,000 – 6,490 2004 Renault Megane 2004 Expression Pricing and Specs
Privilege 1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,200 – 6,820 2004 Renault Megane 2004 Privilege Pricing and Specs