Renault Megane 2004 Review
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Facing yet another year in the red financially, Renault is fighting back with a model rollout in Australia.
Nissan's partner for five years continues to suffer financial losses – tipped to be at least $10 million this year – and lacklustre sales but is buoyant about its future.
There's a model feast waiting in the wings as it sets out to win over greater market recognition and sales volume Down Under.
This time it is determined to be more than just a niche player, taking on the light-commercial sector as well.
Battle plans were unveiled this week, with Renault adding a sedan version to its Megane hatchback range while confirming it has at least six new models, including a line-up of delivery vans, coming within 12 months.
Among them is a new Clio in July, a Megane coupe-cabriolet, five and seven-seater versions of the Scenic in October, the hot Megane RS hatch by Christmas and the long-awaited Espace people mover early next summer.
The car range will be supplemented by three light commercials, starting with the Trafic. Then comes the larger Master van range in July and the oddly named Kangoo in August.
Renault wants to lift volume to 5600 units by the end of this year. Last year, it sold just 3178.
Some of that gain the company hopes will come from the new Megane sedan. It has been selling about 90 Meganes a month to hatch buyers and predicts it can sell another 60 to sedan fans.
That growth appears to be happening. The brand has been back in Australia for only three years but has achieved more than 10,000 sales in that period – which took Renault 19 years to achieve in its earlier appearance.
One of the potential stars of its line-up has been the funky Megane hatch with its distinctive, love-it-or-hate-it bustle back. There's nothing quite like it on the market and Renault Australia has been quick to capitalise on its ``big bum'' attribute in its latest advertising campaign, although buyers remain wary of the styling.
The Megane sedan is not so controversially styled and Renault will find it a harder to make it stand out in the already crowded small to mid-sized model range. There are no six-cylinder variants.
However, the sedan, launched in Europe in November, comes here with a five-star crash rating in the European NCAP safety evaluations, while its hatchback brother is European Car of the Year.
Renault is confident that buyers will be attracted by the Megane's safety features, elegant styling, European badge and status.
While the short nose and stubby tail give the car a compact appearance, the sedan is slightly larger than the hatchback, with a longer wheelbase, a roomier cabin and a substantially larger boot.
It picks up 80 per cent of the hatchback's mechanical components and most of its features, including the suspension, engine, variable-speed steering, sensitive brakes and credit-card key system, which requires the driver to push a start button to get moving.
The front wheels are powered by a two-litre, four-cylinder engine with 98kW at 5500rpm and 191Nm on tap at 3750rpm, and there's a choice of six-speed manual or four-speed sequential automatic.
The sedan is no firecracker but a drive showed performance is better than expected, and handling, braking and steering are good.
It is big on safety features, including smart seatbelts and front, side and curtain airbags as well as anti-lock brakes.
The sedan will be offered in two levels of specification, the Expression and the Privilege, which will be sold only as an automatic.
Prices begin at $29,990 for the base manual and stretch to $35,990 for the flagship version.
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|