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First drive: Diesel power for Renault Megane hatch

Oil be fine: The frugal new Megane diesel has claimed 4.5L/100km fuel economy and debuts a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for the brand in Australia.

Renault adds diesel donk and dual-clutch automatic to Megane hatch line-up

30 Sep 2011

RENAULT Australia has boosted its best-selling model and widened its reach in the bustling small-car segment courtesy of a frugal new diesel variant of its Megane hatchback.

Starting from a competitive $27,490 (before on-road costs) and climbing to $32,490 for the highly specified Privilege, the diesel variants of Renault Australia’s top-selling model are designed to take the fight up to oil-burner rivals like the Volkswagen Golf, Holden Cruze, Hyundai i30, Ford Focus and Peugeot 308.

The Megane’s new diesel is a Euro5 emissions-compliant 1.5-litre turbocharged unit that produces 82kW at 4000rpm and 240Nm of peak torque from a relatively low 1750rpm.

Unlike its petrol-powered siblings, which use a CVT automatic transmission, the diesel-powered Megane is paired exclusively with a dual-clutch six-speed semi-automatic gearbox – a first for Renault Australia’s local line-up.

The French manufacturer claims the system can reduce fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions by up to 17 per cent over a conventional automatic.

35 center imageFuel consumption on the Megane diesel is rated at 4.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions are 117g/km. A 60-litre fuel tank gives the car a theoretical driving range of more than 1300km.

Much like similar systems such as Volkswagen Group’s DSG, the Renault EDC transmission uses its second clutch to automatically pre-select the next gear, whether it is higher or lower.

When it is time to change up or down a ratio, the first clutch disengages and switches over to the second clutch, which is holding the next gear in sequence. Renault claims the shift times between gears is a quick 290 milliseconds.

Renault has also fitted what it calls ‘optimised creep control’, which it claims improves smoothness at take-off and keeps things “judder-free” by pulling the vehicle away gradually when the brakes are released.

Another standard feature is hill-start assist, which holds the brakes for up to a few seconds when the pedal is released on an uphill incline, stopping the vehicle-rollback associated with some older dual-clutch set-ups.

Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said the diesel-powered Megane “will be one of the leaders in repositioning Renault in Australia”.

“The small car segment is highly competitive in Australia,” he said. “We have studied the market and are confident that we are introducing a very competitively priced and highly specified car.” Standard equipment on the entry-level Dynamique-grade Megane diesel includes cruise control with speed-limiter, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning with rear vents, Bluetooth functionality with audio streaming, and an MP3-compatible sound system with auxiliary and USB support.

Also standard are foglights, follow-me-home headlights, hands-free entry and ignition start function, leather steering wheel and gear shifter, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, variable power steering, height-adjustable seats with lumbar support for the driver, heated and foldable door mirrors, chrome door handles, 16-inch alloy wheels and a full-size (but steel) spare wheel.

An extra $5000 outlay for the flagship Privilege brings rear parking sensors, leather seats, integrated satellite-navigation, an electric glass sunroof, a more powerful 30-watt/four-speaker sound system and bigger 17-inch alloy wheels.

Standard safety equipment includes stability control, ABS brakes with an emergency-assist function and dual front, side and front/rear curtain airbags (six in total).

The Megane hatch was awarded a five-star adult occupant European NCAP safety rating when tested in 2008.

The French hatchback has MacPherson strut front suspension with a lightweight flexible beam set-up at the rear that Renault claims gives superior performance to multi-link designs.

The diesel gets higher-rated springs front and rear to cope with the revised weight distribution of the oil-burning variant, while the dampers have been retuned with the aim of improving handling and reducing bodyroll.

With a tare mass of 1366kg, the diesel Megane weighs nine kilograms more than the equivalent petrol-powered variants.

Its turning circle remains unchanged at 11.1 metres while boot volume is 360 litres with the seats up.

Sharing the same dimensions as the rest of the five-door hatch range – 4295mm long, 2037mm wide and with a 2641mm wheelbase – the Megane diesel is firmly ensconced in terms of size with its small-segment rivals.

While the interior features the same dimensions and design as the existing Megane range, the brake pedal has been offset by an additional 10mm from the accelerator and in now 30mm wider in diameter.

Braking is catered for by 280mm-diameter ventilated discs at the front and 260mm solid discs at the rear.

Despite its higher torque output, the diesel has the same 1300kg maximum braked towing capacity as its petrol-powered sibling.

Like the rest of the Renault passenger car range, the Megane diesel comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometres warranty with 24/7 roadside assist, while the service interval is 15,000km.

Renault Megane diesel hatch:
Dynamique (a) $27,490
Privilege (a) $32,490

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