Renault's Megane E-Tech Electric might well redefine what you imagine an affordable family Hatch EV to be. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
It's took a long time for Renault to deliver a proper follow-up to its ZOE EV, but the Megane E-Tech Electric was worth the wait. Family hatch-segment EVs often tend to be either rather boring or ever-so-slightly weird, but this one's stylish and engaging. A new kind of Renault for a very different era.
Who would have forecast back in 2012 when Renault launched its little ZOE full EV that it would be a full decade before we saw another mainstream Renault passenger car EV product in our showrooms. Yet that's what's happened, as the brand over-stretched itself and has been overtaken by nearly all its volume rivals in the electric vehicle segment. But the fightback starts here with this car, the Megane E-Tech.
It sits on the same CMF-EV platform used by the Nissan Ariya and should reach a large audience. Thanks to the success of the ZOE, one in five Renaults sold in Europe has been electric. But this is what Renault calls a '2nd generation' EV, it's development rushed through by the brand's ambitious CEO Luca de Meo, who likes to describe this as 'the GTI of EVs'.
Renault promises that this car's sporty looks will translate into a sporty drive and there's lots about the design and engineering of this model to suggest that might translate into reality on the tarmac. The new power steering system has a super-sharp 12:1 ratio. And there's an uber-thin 60kWh battery that, along with a particularly light electric motor, allows this Renault to save about 100kgs in weight over its rivals and can be mounted even lower in the chassis than it would normally be in an EV. That platform is the Nissan Renault Alliance group's stiff new CMF-EV set-up, notable here because it mounts the drive motor at the front. Rival VW Group EVs from Volkswagen, CUPRA and Skoda sit it at the back.
This Megane's single front motor produces 216bhp of total output, the highest in the segment, though if you use too much of that, you won't get near the quoted 280 mile range figure. In fact we didn't even manage to get within 80% of that on this test, even with maximum brake regen selected from the steering wheel paddles. And the most frugal 'MySense' drive mode selected (the others are 'Comfort', 'Perso' and 'Sport'). It's tempting to use a bit of that power because unlike most of its rivals, this Renault's quite an engaging little thing to punt about. Surprisingly (given the huge 20-inch wheels most variants have), the ride's OK too - and refinement's exemplary by segment standards.
Design and Build
Looks good doesn't it? Apparently what we have here was originally going to be the performance version of this car, but designer Laurens van den Acker found that everyone liked it so much that he decided to standardise the 'Evoque'-style look across the whole Megane E-Tech range. It's based visually on the Megane eVision concept car unveiled in 2020 and incorporates the brand's familiar C-shaped headlamps, though with the lower section of the 'C' extended to run a reverse line of light across the top of the bumper. The nose gets Renault's latest art deco corporate badge and if you avoid base trim, both the front and rear lights will be of the LED variety, plus there are flush-fitting electric front door handles and you get big wheels of 18 or 20-inches depending on spec.
Inside, it's certainly all very 'digi-tech' and on-trend, Renault claiming inspiration here from the world of home furniture. Cosy upholstering and lots of different recycled surfaces surround the glossy 'OpenR' fascia screen panel, what the brand calls this cabin's 'crowning jewel', made up of a 12.3-inch instrument display and a 9-inch central monitor. That centre screen claims to deliver a new level of media connectivity for this class of car, using an Android Automotive system developed with Google. It'll be periodically updated over-the-air and you'll get direct access to helpful apps and services like Google Maps and Google Play, plus you can link into your Google account and there's Google Assistant voice control. Other cabin design features include a curiously-shaped steering wheel, superbly comfortable seats and an enormous centre storage console beneath the dash which flows back between the two front two chairs. All-round visibility might be something you'll have to adapt to a bit, thanks to the narrow glass area, the letterbox-shaped rear screen and the considerable rear C-pillars. But there are some lovely trimming touches and most models get smart double yellow-stitched synthetic leather upholstery.
A wheelbase length increase of 20mm over a conventional Megane means there's little more space in the back than you might expect. And there's a reasonably sized 440-litre boot, though with quite a high lip.
Market and Model
Pricing here starts from around £37,000, the fee these days for an ambitious full-EV hatch, though this means a slight saving on an identically-engineered Nissan Ariya. Megane E-Tech Electric customers can choose from three well-equipped models - 'Equilibre', 'Techno', and a range-topping 'Iconic' - with each benefitting from a class-leading digital experience with a 12.3-inch driver information display, a 9-inch multimedia display and Android Automotive OS with integrated Google services.
The 'Equilbre' version starts the range with its 18-inch 'Oston' alloy wheels, full-LED headlights, heated steering wheel and front seats, rear view camera, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a range of connected services including over-the-air software updates. The Megane E-Tech features up to 26 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), including distance warning alert, traffic sign recognition, automatic emergency braking with junction assist, cruise control with a speed limiter, and emergency lane keeping assist with oncoming traffic and road-edge detection.
The mid-range 'Techno' model, priced from around £40,000, goes further with the addition of adaptive cruise control with a speed limiter and lane centring, plus blind spot recognition and intervention, along with rear cross traffic alert with rear automatic braking. The 'Techno's exterior is marked out by 20-inch 'Soren' alloy wheels, full-adaptive LED headlights, front and rear signature lighting and dynamic turn signals. The interior, meanwhile, gains upholstery made from recycled materials, multi-sense customised driving modes with 48-colour interior ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, automatic windscreen wipers, wireless smartphone charging and the full range of Google services including Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Google Play store.
At the top of the range, the 'Iconic' version, priced at around £42,000, aims to stand out, with 20-inch 'Enos' alloy wheels and a gold F1 blade, while the interior gains a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a smart rear-view mirror and an Around View 3D camera system.
Cost of Ownership
We mentioned driving range in our 'Driving Experience' section - 280 miles for this 60kWh EV60 variant. You'll need very proactive use of the various provided regenerative braking modes to match that figure. Bear in mind that as usual with electric vehicles, the range figure just quoted will vary a great deal depending on the type of road you're on and the prevailing weather. If you were to drive this car exclusively on the highway in really cold weather, you might find yourself not getting much more than around 155 miles of range from it. But you'd encounter similar issues with every other EV in this segment. And this one does at least include a standard heat pump to maximise range in cold conditions, an expensive extra on many rivals.
There's the option of different kinds of in-car charger systems, starting with the base 7kW AC 'standard charge' set-up and ranging up to fast DC public charging at 130kW. The car can draw about 186 miles of range in around half an hour from a 130kW DC charger. Around eight hours of charging from a 7.4kW home charger will give you around 248 miles of range.
It's indisputable that Renault set off too early with full-electric vehicle development, trying to sell the market cars it wasn't ready for and haemorrhaging money in the process. Which is why it's taken so long for a second mainstream EV car model to appear from the brand. But we reckon this Megane E-Tech was worth the wait. It looks and feels more sophisticated and stylish than its VW Group and Korean class rivals; if you want a LEAF, Kia Niro EV or Volkswagen ID.3-class EV hatch, this one really has to be on your shopping list.
At a stroke, for the first time in a long time, the Megane E-Tech makes Renault seem more credible force in the mainstream European market. And we're really quite intrigued by the thought of just how good a future high-performance Renaultsport version might be. For the time being though, what we've got is a car that signals Renault back on track.