The Megane E-Tech may share its name with Renault’s popular hatchback of years gone by (1995-2021), but this new EV bears no relation to it.
In a market crammed with SUVs, it’s a breath of fresh air. Even though it doesn’t look like a hatchback in the traditional sense, it has a lower ride height and feels much more like a car than a crossover to drive.
Of course, Renault was one of the pioneers of electric vehicles. The Zoe is one of the most popular EVs ever, while the Twizy is a bit of left-field fun. Less said about the short-lived Fluence the better.
One thing is for sure – the electric car market has moved on and the impressive Megane E-Tech puts Renault back in the game.
Priced from £36,995, its rivals include the Volkswagen ID.3, Nissan Leaf, Cupra Born, ORA Funky Cat and MG 4.
There’s currently just the one powertrain available – a 215bhp electric motor paired with a 60kWh battery, giving a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds, a top speed of 99.4 mph and a claimed range of up to 280 miles.
At a maximum charge rate of 130kW, Renault reckons it can reach 80% from zero in 42 minutes. Naturally, it will also fully charge overnight at home via a 7.4kW wallbox.
Under the bodywork of the Megane E-Tech is the same CMF-EV platform used by the distinctive Nissan Ariya family SUV.
It also has a similar wheelbase (2.7 metres) and flat floor inside, while its attractive design incorporates short overhangs, front and rear, and some sexy curves.
There’s a choice of four trim levels – Equilibre, Techno, Launch Edition and Iconic.
Entry-level Equilibre cars come with a 9.0 touchscreen, 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, LED headlights, heated front seats and steering wheel, reversing camera, a slick Google-based infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an over-the-air update capability.
Upgrading to Techno trim adds 20-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, customised driving modes, 48-colour ambient lighting, wireless smartphone charging, a range of additional Google services, plus adaptive cruise control, blind-spot recognition and rear cross-traffic alert.
Limited-run Launch Edition gets a gold “F1 blade” on the front bumper, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, a digital rear-view mirror and a 3D surround-view camera setup.
Finally, flagship Iconic (which basically has the same specification as the Launch Edition), adds an innovative new heat pump and an extended choice of colours.
Renault says its patented heat pump recovers heat generated by the battery and the electric motor twice as efficiently to ensure optimal temperature for the cabin, whilst simultaneously minimising the impact on range.
In use, when the outside temperature drops below 10°C, Renault claims the range of the Megane E-Tech can increase by up to 9% on motorways, while maintaining a comfortable temperature inside.
I tested the Techno so I can’t vouch for the above, but if the system works as well as Renault says, then that could be a real technological breakthrough because heating is the first thing to get switched off by EV owners when there’s a hint of range anxiety.
The Megane E-Tech’s sense of style carries through to the bright and airy cabin, which also has a quality feel. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and it’s definitely driver-focused up front.
The central touchscreen is angled towards the driver and thankfully Renault has retained some physical buttons for things like the climate controls.
My only gripes are that the touchscreen is on the small side, while the gear selector stalk is above the indicator stalk, which can lead to an obvious problem, but I’m sure it becomes second nature in time.
There’s a decent amount of space in the front and back, though taller rear passengers may struggle for headroom. There’s also little foot space under the driver’s seat if it’s fully lowered.
With the rear seats in place, the Renault Megane E-Tech has a healthy 440 litres of boot space (it’s deep), though that figure increases to a useful 1,332 litres if you fold the rear seats flat.
Visibility is generally good, however, the rear window is slim. On the plus side, it does have a (tiny) wiper, which is more than some EVs these days.
Needless to say, the Megane E-Tech is safe and it scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP testing. All models feature a suite of 26 driver assistance systems, including traffic-sign recognition, automatic emergency braking with junction assist, cruise control with a speed limiter, plus lane-keeping assist with oncoming traffic and road-edge detection.
The ride is on the firm side for some (probably more so if you opt for the 20-inch alloy wheels), but it drives well and stays flat in faster corners. Like many SUVs, the brakes aren’t particularly progressive, but broadly speaking, the Megane E-Tech has good road manners and stays nicely planted.
As you’d expect, there’s plenty of instant torque there, to the point that it is possible to spin the front wheels on loose surfaces or in slippery weather conditions if you’re heavy with your right foot.
There are four driving modes – Eco, Personal, Normal and Sport. Normal is best for everyday driving, Sport is fine for fun short bursts and Eco is useful for motorway runs because it limits your speed to 70mph!
I like EVs that allow you to adjust the amount of brake regeneration via paddles behind the steering wheel, and I’m pleased to say that the Megane E-Tech allows you to do just that.
With light steering, the ability to adjust the seat for a refreshingly low driving position and an engaging overall experience on the road, it’s a great all-rounder.
Ultimately, I really like the Megane E-Tech and it’s one of the best EVs I’ve driven, but I can’t finish without making a few observations.
Firstly, my experience of charging the car at home was fine, but the rapid chargers I tried failed to deliver anywhere near the advertised charge rate. Sure, it was cold, but my stops ended up being much longer than planned.
Secondly, a range of around 230 miles is achievable in real-world driving, but that is some way off the claimed 280 miles. That said, it’s only an issue on longer journeys.
Thirdly, the rear of the car gets very dirty in filthy weather conditions. What’s more, the tiny boot release button is right in the line of fire above the rear bumper.
And finally, the dinky hands-free keycard with keyless entry is all very well, but it’s an accident waiting to happen because it’s barely noticeable in your pocket.