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Renault Megane


Volkswagen Passat

Summary

Renault Megane

More power, more wheelarches, more steering, more doors and more transmissions. Aside from possibly the doors part, it's all sounding pretty rosy for the new third generation of Renault's Megane R.S. hot hatch.

The current Clio R.S. has followed a similar formula to great effect, improving its overall sales figures drastically, but it's fair to say it's lost a certain je ne sais quoi for the purists who've grown to worship the brand.

Selling cars vs brand building is always a tricky balance for car companies, but the previous Megane R.S. is giving the new model a handy head start with Australia being its third biggest market in the world.

Wander down the pit lane at any track day or tarmac rally, and you're bound to come across a handful of previous models. Often more than any other hot hatch, which is a clear sign of approval from those in the know who work their cars hard.

Will the new model build on that legacy? We were among the first to drive the new R.S. on road and track to find out at its Australian launch this week.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Volkswagen Passat

The once-ubiquitous family sedan segment championed by the home-grown Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore is, in 2020, a shadow of its former self.

Dwindling sales in the face of the growing popularity of SUVs has forced nameplates like the Ford Mondeo, Subaru Liberty and Insignia-based Holden Commodore to be discontinued in Australia, leaving just a few models to compete against the dominant Toyota Camry.

Once such model is the Volkswagen Passat, which has been trimmed down in 2020 with a single variant available in sedan or wagon body style.

Does Volkswagen do enough with the Passat 140TSI Business sedan to warrant a look over a more popular rival or SUV? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Renault Megane7.9/10

The new Megane R.S. is objectively a better car overall, and will probably appeal to more people, but it's not quite as special as the model it replaces.

It will be telling if the expected Trophy R flagship retains the all-wheel steering system, but in base R.S. guise its benefits are questionable.

It's an excellent hot hatch regardless, particularly on public roads, and I reckon it's at its best with the EDC transmission and the Alcantara and Bose option boxes ticked.

Do you think the new Megane R.S. is a step forward or sideways for Renault Sport? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.


Volkswagen Passat7.8/10

The VW Passat 140TSI Business sedan might not be the last word in styling, performance or dynamics, but it offers a tech-laden interior wrapped in a smart package.

Those after a dependable, easy-to-drive commuter with room to spare for the family and luggage can do a lot worse than VW's Passat.

Sure, the competition might offer attention grabbing features like a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain or fashion-model-like styling, but the Passat is so perfectly adequate at everything it does, it really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Design

Renault Megane9/10

If you spend $80,240 on an Audi RS 3, you get the same skinny body as the base A3, but for just over half the price of an RS 3, the new Megane R.S. does a lot better in the muscular looks stakes.

You can't miss those bulging wheelarches on all four corners, which are needed to cover the 19-inch alloy wheels and tracks which have been widened by 60mm at the front and 45mm at the rear. They cost Renault a lot of money to change over the regular Megane, and no other current hot hatch manages to do it.

The front guards also feature functional air extraction vents and the look is capped with completely different front and rear bumpers and a central exhaust. Unlike most of its rivals, the rear diffuser is able to generate downforce in lieu of a big rear spoiler. The body kit is completed by fatter and lower sills on either side, and other dimensions are largely the same as a regular Megane hatch.

You won't mistake it for just any Megane from the outside, but the interior is a bit more subdued. If you're looking to trade up from the existing Megane GT, the only real changes you'll notice will be carbon-look inlays on the dash and doors and an R.S. logo on the steering wheel.

Aside from R.S. logos on the headrests, the front seats look outwardly similar to the sports seats in the GT, too, but have been treated to specific shaping and materials to balance everyday driving with the extra bolstering required for the track.


Volkswagen Passat7/10

Volkswagen's Passat has always tilted towards a more conservative design, and the current sixth-generation version is no different.

From the front, the Passat wears the same corporate identity as seen on most other Volkswagen models with an emphasis on the horizonal grille that incorporates the headlights, the latter featuring a segmented design akin to luxury cars from Germany.

The lower bumper also wears a chrome strip that ties together the LED fog lights to give the Passat a wide-but-not-aggressive stance.

In profile, the Passat's standard three-box design is as innocuous as they come, though the grey-coloured 18-inch 'Dartford' alloy wheels adds a bit of visual flair.

The rear of the Passat is punctuated by wraparound tail-lights and prominent badging, while the lower bumper hides the exhaust outlet from view.

If we had to describe the styling of the Passat in a word, it would be inoffensive, and the single-grade Business moniker is likely a pointer to the target demographic.

If wearing a suit or smart business attire is part of your day-to-day wardrobe, then think of the Passat as an extension of the same corporate look.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with that aesthetic, the Passat – much like an off-the-shelf suit – doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd and can look quite bland amongst the sea of competitors.

To emphasise the point even further, six exterior colours are available though only one (Aquamarine metallic) is not a variation on white, black or grey.

Inside, the Passat looks much like any other modern-day Volkswagen, with controls that are ergonomic and easy to use.

We appreciate the physical volume knob on the multimedia system, while the large touchscreen also shifts the cabin closer to premium than economy.

Practicality

Renault Megane7/10

Unlike the last generation, the new model is a five-door hatch. This may not be as sexy as the three door, swooping coupe roofline of before, but it makes the R.S. a whole lot easier to live with.

Access is the number one benefit though, as the regular Megane's back seat is somewhat lacking in legroom, which is further compounded by limited toe room underneath the sport front seats.

The other big practicality must-haves are retained though, with two cupholders front and rear and bottle holders in each door. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outboard positions, and it also gets the same 434-litre boot space as a regular Megane hatch, which is pretty decent for its class.

You'll only find an inflation kit instead of a spare tyre though, regardless of whether the Bose audio system is optioned.


Volkswagen Passat8/10

Measuring 4775mm long, 1835mm wide, 1457mm tall and with a 2791mm wheelbase, the Passat is certainly large enough to easily accommodate four adults and plenty of luggage.

In the front row, storage solutions are available at every turn.

Two cupholders sit between the front passengers, good for a morning cup of coffee on the way to work, while the door pockets will easily accommodate a medium-sized water bottle.

The glove box is also cooled, though what practical function this serves is still unclear (are you really going to put a drink bottle in there?), while a roof console, driver's side dashboard cubby and storage pockets behind the front seats can accommodate all manner of paraphernalia.

The front passengers also have an armrest with storage box, while the rear occupants are treated to a fold-down armrest with cupholders.

The rear seats offer enough head-, leg- and shoulder-room for our 183cm (6.0ft) frame, but the middle seat is a bit of a squeeze.

The Passat's boot is capacious enough, with a 586-litre capacity that can easily swallow large loads, though the shape of the aperture can make loading bulkier items tricky.

As evidenced by our photos, a large and medium suit can fit side-by-side in the Passat's boot, leaving room in the side storage pockets for smaller items that may roll around once underway.

The sedan's 60/40 split rear seats can also fold from latches in the boot to boost storage capacity to 1152L, though the wagon (with its 650L/1780L boot capacity) is still the choice for those who value practicality.

Cargo restraining hooks are available, as are shopping bag hooks (always a win) and a 12-volt socket.

Price and features

Renault Megane8/10

The new R.S. kicks off $1000 higher than the previous R.S. 265 Cup starting point with a list price of $44,990 with the manual transmission. The EDC auto adds $2500, but the overall price list is still among the best value in its class.

It sits below key rivals like the recently revised $45,490 Golf GTI and the 308 GTis $45,990 starting point, and significantly below the identically priced $50,990 Civic Type R and all-wheel drive Focus RS, as well as the Golf R at $56,490.

However, the Renault is still trumped by the i30 N's $39,990 starting point, as well as entry-level offerings such as the $38,990 Ford Focus ST.

Only one Renault Megane Sport trim level is available for now, with the recently revealed Trophy due to be added in around 12 months. How much it will cost is yet to be determined.

Out of the box, the new R.S. features an 8.7-inch multimedia system capable of displaying performance analytics including acceleration, braking, and wheel angle. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is also now built in, as is GPS sat nav.

It also gains R.S. badging, sport seats, a perforated leather steering wheel and shifter, dual-zone climate control, and heated folding side mirrors.

The only performance option at this stage is the Cup pack, which for just $1490 gets you a Torsen limited slip differential, a sharper suspension tune, red Brembos with two piece rotors that lower the unsprung mass by 1.8kg per corner, and a whole bunch of little detail changes under the skin. You can pick the Cup pack visually by its black versions of the standard wheels.

You can also upgrade the standard cloth trim to Alcantara for an extra $1190, add a 10-speaker Bose sound system for $500, and a panoramic sunroof for $1990.

The new 'Tonic Orange' hero colour is stunning, but it and the now classic 'Liquid Yellow' will set you back a further $880, while other metallic hues will cost $600. The only non-metallic colour is actually 'Glacier White', with the rest of the colours made up of 'Pearl White', 'Diamond Black', 'Titanium Grey' and 'Flame Red'.


Volkswagen Passat7/10

Priced at $46,590, before on-road costs, the Volkswagen Passat 140TSI Business sedan is on the pricier end of the mid-size sedan segment.

Comparable models still available in the market include the Toyota Camry and Mazda6, both available at much lower price points, kicking off from $28,990, and $34,490, respectively.

The Honda Accord VTi-LX, though, is priced just north of the Passat at $47,990, while the Skoda Octavia steers clear of its Volkswagen cousin's toes with a starting price of $24,890.

However, Volkswagen Australia has taken the kitchen sink approach to specification, and thrown everything it could at its mainstream mid-size sedan.

As standard, the Passat is fitted with a tri-zone climate control, LED exterior lighting, second-row air vents, automatic boot release, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 18-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, electronically adjustable and massaging driver's seat, heated front seats, multi-function steering wheel, cooled glove box, leather-appointed interior, and rear window blinds.

An 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen system, with wireless Apple CarPlay/wired Android Auto connectivity, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, is also included.

While it is nice to see wireless Apple CarPlay come down to a 'mainstream' model instead of the usual upper-luxury suspects, we did notice the lack of digital radio in the Passat.

Also disappointing to see digital instrumentation, which can be had overseas, and in high-end local versions of Touareg and Tiguan, missed the cut for the Australian Passat.

Instead, the Passat is fitted with a multi-function display nestled between the speedo and tacho, which works to convey driving data such as fuel consumption and speed warning, but feels much more budget than boujee in appearance.

It's also pleasing to see Volkswagen adopt a future-forward approach with three USB-C ports overall (two up front, one for the rear passengers), despite the current-generation Passat's underpinnings dating back to 2014.

A bevy of high-end safety equipment is also included at no extra charge, including adaptive cruise control and surround-view monitor (more information on safety down below).

The only option available to Passat buyers is the choice of premium paint, but the long list of standard equipment is tempered by the high price tag.

Engine & trans

Renault Megane8/10

There's no point having the bulgiest wheelarches in the business if you can't back them up with actual strength, and the new Megane R.S. manages to squeeze out an extra 4kW and 30Nm over the previous R.S. 275.

Technically this new model is the R.S. 280 after its power output in metric horsepower (hp), but the output figure nomenclature seems to have taken a step back this time around in favour of just R.S..

Either way, the new totals are 205kW and 390Nm, with the former reached at 6000rpm and the latter available from a higher than usual 2400-4800rpm.

A twin scroll turbocharger is once again utilised, but the new engine drops from 2.0-litres to 1.8 and is shared with the new Alpine A110 sports car. The Alpine tune is just 185kW/320Nm though, and Renault claims the Megane R.S. spec is the most powerful 1.8-litre motor on the market.

The base engine has been co-developed with Nissan as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but features a specific cylinder head design in Renault form, with a reinforced structure and redesigned cooling passages. It also features plasma-lined cylinder bores like the Nissan GT-R. Previous Megane R.S. owners will be glad to learn that the new engine uses a timing chain instead of a timing belt.

Perhaps the biggest surprise with the new Megane R.S. is that it retains a six-speed manual transmission as its default choice, even though a six speed dual-clutch (EDC) automatic is now available as an option for the first time. This conflicts with the Clio's EDC-only specs these days.

The Megane's EDC is a tweaked version of that used in several other Renault models, but with bespoke gear ratios, shift tuning and strengthening to suit the R.S.'s high torque loads. The weight penalty over the manual is just 23kg.

Gears can be manually selected via the shifter or shift paddles behind the steering wheel, and shift times get faster as you move between 'Comfort'/'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Race' drive modes.

One unique feature is 'Multi Change Down' mode, which will automatically select the best gear for a corner if you hold down the downshift paddle when in Sport or Race drive modes.

The EDC transmission also has 'Launch Mode' to optimise standing start acceleration.

Drive is still sent through the front wheels, but the R.S. now scores four-wheel steering to help with slow speed agility and high speed stability.

The '4Control' system is also seen on the Megane GT, and steers the rear wheels by up to 2.7 degrees to tighten the turning circle at slower speeds, and transitions to follow the front wheels in parallel to effectively extend the wheelbase at higher speeds. This transition generally happens at 60km/h, but moves to 100km/h when Race mode is selected.


Volkswagen Passat8/10

Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, the Volkswagen Passat 140TSI Business sedan produces 140kW at 6000rpm and 320Nm at 1450-4390rpm.

The engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that sends drive exclusively to the front wheels for a 0-100km/h sprint in just 7.1 seconds.

Volkswagen used to offer the Passat with lower-output engines, as well as a more potent Golf R-driveline-sharing 206TSI grade, but those versions have been discontinued in Australia.

Fuel consumption

Renault Megane8/10

Renault claims an eight per cent fuel consumption improvement over the previous generation R.S., which leaves the new model with official combined figures of 7.4L/100km for the manual and 7.5 for the EDC.

As you'd expect with such a specific output, top-shelf 98 RON unleaded is needed, and the 50-litre fuel tank suggests a theoretical range between fills of at least 666km.


Volkswagen Passat8/10

Official documentation pegs the Passat 140TSI Business sedan's fuel consumption at 6.4 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions are 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

In our limited week of testing (just before Melbourne entered the second wave of lockdowns), we managed a figure of 9.7L/100km limited exclusively to inner-city driving.

Our figure is still slightly higher than the 8.3L/100km urban consumption rating though, which can be chalked up to our very short and slow speeds to the local shop and back as our average speed over 523km is just 27km/h.

Driving

Renault Megane8/10

Now for the important part.

I always felt the previous Megane R.S. was as if Porsche had been involved, and an assurance that if the Zuffenhausen brand does end up building front-wheel drive models it wouldn't be the end of the world.

It was so direct, tight as a drum and predictable. What you put into it is exactly what it gave back, so the new one has big shoes to fill.

We drove the standard car with the EDC transmission, as well as the Cup pack with the manual transmission around town, and put the R.S.'s money where its mouth is on track with the Cup pack at the Norwell Motorplex in Queensland.

Beyond those fantastic looks, the seats, the steering wheel and the raspy exhaust note are spot on for an R.S.

The steering itself is quite nice, too, no doubt due largely to the front suspension's specific 'independent steering axis' steering knuckles, which move the steering axis 13mm closer to the hub face on each side to reduce torque and bump steer.

You'd expect it to ride like a rollerskate based on the 35 series rubber at each corner, but the ride comfort is actually quite livable.

This continues right through the spectrum of road conditions, with the crashiness that some hot hatches suffer over big bumps absent. This is likely due to its hydraulic compression stop dampers, which effectively puts a dampening bump stop within each shock absorber to create second stage dampening instead of a sudden thud. The new R.S. is proof that you don't have to be harsh to be fast.

The EDC transmission's tune is much nicer than in any other Renault I've experienced, regardless of drive mode, with responsive automatic shifts and quick manual shifts when needed. The manual is also fine, but the fat gear lever doesn't feel as mechanical as I'd like in a driver's car.

The new engine's smaller capacity makes itself known around town, with max torque not available until 2400rpm. Most current turbos manage this sooner, but it's worth noting that the new engine does manage to deliver peak torque 600rpm earlier than the previous 2.0-litre. Once you're underway though, it feels every bit of its 205kW/390Nm.

The 4Control all-wheel steering is largely undetectable under general driving conditions, but when it does become apparent (when you're having fun), it's pros also bring a few cons.

If you're heading through a bunch of corners of varying speeds, which let's face it, most twisty roads do, it's mildly annoying how the all-wheel steering shifts between modes, particularly if it happens mid corner. Think of it as a variable wheelbase and you'll get an idea of what I mean.

The torsion beam rear suspension on the other hand feels fine, and a more complex independent set-up would certainly push the new model's 34-57kg weight gain much higher. For the record, the manual weighs 1427kg, while the EDC is 1450.

The Norwell Motorplex circuit may be dead flat, but its surface is quite bumpy and therefore handy for performance testing a road car.

Once again, the new R.S.'s fundamentals seem fine, and the Cup's stiffer suspension didn't make it skittish on the circuit.

It puts the power down brilliantly through the Torsen diff and 245-section tyres, allowing you to get on the power much earlier and its amazing how it hauls for a 1.8 litre in a near-1.5 tonne car. The official 0-100km/h acceleration claim with either transmission is an impressive (for a front driver) 5.8s, which is also in line with the previous generation's Trophy R ultimate incarnation.

Those 355mm front Brembos reign it in nicely too, retaining a consistent feel after five or so laps of Norwell where we saw 155km/h along the back straight.

The all-wheel steering's effects are more obvious on the track, with quite a few of the corners straddling the 60km/h transition point in all modes aside from Race. The long sweeper straddles the 100km/h transition point in Race, so that's hardly the solution. You're effectively switching wheelbase lengths depending on which corner you're in, and often mid-corner.

It isn't drastic or dangerous, but it adds another dimension to your judgement of corner speeds that would take some getting used to.

Salvation is likely at hand though, as I learned after our drive that it's possible to turn off the 4Control system via the Perso drive mode that allows elements to be adjusted independently. We can't wait to give that a crack.


Volkswagen Passat7/10

You know how something like the Lamborghini Huracan Performante or Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series drives as fast as it looks?

Well, the opposite is true of something like the sedately-styled Passat 140TSI Business sedan.

Don't be mistaken, though, as that is not meant as a form of criticism, and those looking to buy a Passat generally aren't looking for a canyon carving track attack weapon.

Instead, the Passat feels very neutral and easy to drive day-to-day.

With the punchy 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine serving up the 320Nm of torque from a very low 1450rpm, the Passat feels responsive around town, while the smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) works smartly and seamlessly.

There can be some jerkiness from the DCT when slowing to a stop as the start/stop system likes to cut the engine early to save fuel, but that can be remedied by simply turning if off with the press of a button.

The 140kW available is also never really enough to overwhelm the front axle, and the Passat handles with predictability and precision.

The suspension set-up is also geared much more towards comfort and compliance than sportiness.

This mean the Passat is easily soaks up bumps and road imperfections instead of transmitting every jolt through the chassis to the driver.

While the Passat can feel a little numb to steer, the light steering is a plus at slow speeds around town, making U-turns and parallel parks easier.

Though VW offered a less powerful and more potent engine in the old Passat range, we're glad to see the brand stick with the sole 140TSI engine that hits the sweet spot of usable performance in real-world situations.

Safety

Renault Megane8/10

ANCAP is yet to give any Megane a safety rating, but the regular hatch, sedan and wagon carry a five-star rating from EuroNCAP.

All variants are equipped with front, side and curtain airbags that extend to the back seat, plus the usual suite of stability and traction control functions and front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

It also thankfully comes standard with AEB, active cruise control, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring.


Volkswagen Passat8/10

The Volkswagen Passat wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, though the current-generation model was first tested in October 2015.

At the time of testing, the Passat scored 14.89 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, while the side impact and pole examinations yielded the full 16 and two points respectively.

Overall, the Passat was awarded a score of 35.89 out of a possible 37, though ANCAP's testing criteria has since become much more stringent.

For starters a five-star car must include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard across the range, a technology that is now fitted to all Passats.

Other standard safety equipment includes Volkswagen's 'IQ Drive' safety suite, which bundles together a drive attention alert system, lane-keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, automated parallel parking, surround-view monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.

ISOFIX anchorage points are also available in the two outbound rear seats, while there are three top tether spots.

Ownership

Renault Megane7/10

One detail you should be aware of is that Renault Sport models have dropped back to a three year warranty as of May 1, 2018. Kilometres are still unlimited, but all other Renault passenger models carry a five year term.

Service intervals are a decent 12 months or 20,000km, and the first three services are capped at $399 each.

If any reliability issues arise, you'll likely find them on our Megane R.S. problems page.


Volkswagen Passat9/10

Like all new Volkswagen vehicles, the Passat 140TSI Business sedan comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with 12 months of roadside assistance.

Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first.

The first, third and fifth service costs $389 each, with the two-year/30,000km and four-year/60,000km maintenance blowing out to $602 and $923 respectively.

So, the first five years of servicing will set you back $2692, though buyers can also opt for a three- or five-year car plan at the time of purchase for $1300 or $2300.

Each care plan includes scheduled servicing for that time period, saving up to $389 compared to paying for each individually.