Renault Megane makes potent case for petrol power
07:03 29 May 2014
Potent little turbo petrol engines are powering up their appeal, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
Price: Hatchback Dynamique TomTom Energy TCe 115 Stop & Start £18,570 (range £16,475 to £21,745)
Engine: 1,198cc, 115hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol
Performance: 0-62mph 11 seconds; top speed 118mph
MPG: Urban 44.1; extra urban 61.4; combined 53.3
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 16%
Insurance group: 14 (out of 50)
Warranty: Four years or 100,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,302mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,037mm; height 1,471mm
I used to be a diehard diesel devotee but now I am increasingly becoming positively pro petrol as the technology moves on apace.
Diesel really suited our family needs when our two children needed running here, there and everywhere but once they got their own cars our mileage dropped dramatically.
The problem with modern diesels is that, to meet the latest emission standards, they have particulate filters to trap soot which is burned off as the exhaust gets really hot on long journeys. The filter can also be ‘regenerated’ by burning extra fuel to heat the exhaust but it does not always work as effectively.
So when our car’s mileage fell we dumped diesel and picked petrol instead Not only do petrol cars warm up faster if you do short trips, they are generally priced lower, the pump price is less and are better to drive with a lighter engine.
And modern petrol engines are so much more efficicient with big gains in economy especially with the latest-generation small-capacity turbo petrol engines.
Renault, with a wealth of Formula One engine technology, is one of the big car-makers down-sizing petrol engines with its TCe turbo petrol family. It includes the lively three-cylinder 90hp 0.9-litre unit in the Clio supermini and Captur crossover while the Megane range offers four-cylinder 1.2-litre TCe in 115 and 130hp guises.
I’ve been driving the TCe 115 in the facelifted Megane – new front bumper, bonnet, headlights and running lights and bold Renault logo in line with the brand’s new identity – and if you don’t do mega miles it makes a good case for petrol power.
With the power of a 1.6-litre non-turbo unit, this gutsy 1.2 TCe makes good progress but is much more tractable at low revs with healthy pulling power peaking at a diesel-like 2,000rpm so it is relaxing to drive in traffic with no need to keep shifting the six-speed manual gearbox.
It also helps fuel economy and in everyday, real-world mixed driving I was getting around 45mpg overall and nudged 50mpg on a 100-mile round trip that included town traffic and single and dual-carriageway driving. But with its free-revving nature, this TCe engine is no slouch once you get above 3,000rpm – and quite entertaining above 4,000rpm – with enough oomph for swift, safe overtaking.
The Megane drives well with responsive steering and good body control and roadholding through corners. The downside is the rather firm ride so you tend to feel bumps and lumps more than in some of its rivals while tyre noise is particularly noticeable – a problem that comes from poor road surfaces and higher tyre pressures and rubber compounds geared up for long life and low road friction to help improve fuel economy and emissions. The road noise is made more apparent because the engine is so quiet but it fades into the background as you grow used to it.
The cabin has a quality feel when it comes to trim and materials and the big digital speed readout is easy to take in at a glance while the heating and ventilation controls are logical and simple to use. Other functions are operated via a controller between the front seats and displayed on the high-level screen on the fascia – once you find your way round the menu it’s pretty straightforward, especially the TomTom satellite-navigation system.
Front seat occupants are well catered for but rear leg and headroom is tighter than rivals. The decent boot has a low lip with some underfloor storage. Rear seat back split 60/40 but don’t lay flat unless the cushions are tilted upright which is a bit of a palaver.
Expression+, Knight Edition, Dynamique TomTom and GT Line have good levels of equipment with Dynamique a good value offering.
The more I drive little turbo petrol engines, the more I’m swayed by them – fun to drive but still frugal.