Renault’s improved Megane Coupe brings good looks, strong value and a wide range of talents to the most affordable end of the small sports coupe market, while keeping its five-door stablemate’s first rate refinement, comfort and build quality. You can specify it to be sporty - or just rely on the looks to do your talking for you.
Either way, an improved range of more efficient engines and a surprisingly sharp handling package are hallmarks of an under-rated car.
Aesthetically, this was one of the most important Renault designs of modern times, unveiled as a concept car at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show that went on to herald a profound, more extrovert shift in the French brand’s approach to styling.
It’s a shape that may not work from all angles, but it’s certainly an arresting one and, as before, the front end’s bespoke, more aggressive treatment ensures that this model could never be confused with a normal Megane five-door in a head on encounter.
Prices range in the £17,000 to £23,000 bracket for mainstream variants, reflecting a £500 price premium over equivalent models in the five-door Megane family hatchback line-up. Realistically, I’d say that you need to budget from around £19,000, the level at which the 1.5-litre dCi 110 diesel and the 1.2-litre TCe petrol models start.
Here, we’re focusing on more affordable models in an improved range now boasting an engine line-up enhanced with the addition of three fuel efficient Stop & Start units. Perhaps the most interesting of the trio is the 1.2 TCe, the first Renault petrol engine to use direct fuel injection and turbocharging to gain fuel-efficient performance.
It’s yet another example of engine down-sizing in this segment and is a vast improvement over the 1.6-litre 16v petrol model this variant was designed to replace. Its driving experience is certainly much nicer.
Thanks to a 40Nm torque hike over the old 1.6, the pulling power’s greater - and more accessible, with 90 per cent of the 190Nm on offer available from just 1,600rpm, so you don’t have to row the thing along with the gear lever. Sixty two mph is 10.9s away from rest en route to 118mph.
Ultimately though, for diesel-like pulling power, you really need a diesel and the vast majority of Megane Coupe customers opt for one in 1.5-litre form.
The 1.5-litre dCi 110 unit is Renault’s best-selling global engine and customers who wisely ignore the older entry-level 90bhp variant get it in three flavours: with or without Stop & Start or mated to a clever 6-speed EDC automatic gearbox, one of those silky-smooth twin-clutch systems that selects the next gear before you’ve even left the last one. Either way, there’s at least 240Nm of torque on offer, enough to get you to 62mph in just over 12s on the way to 118mph.
Should that not be sufficient in your Megane Coupe, then two other diesel choices remain. The one I’d ignore is the old 2.0-litre dCi 160 unit, an engine with very few real-world benefits over the far more frugal 1.6 dCi 130 powerplant that’s 50 per cent cleaner and more frugal.