|RENAULT MEGANE HATCH 1.6 E-TECH PHEV 160 ICONIC|
|The story: Renault has added a plug-in hybrid powertrain to the hatchback Megane, joining the Sport Tourer PHEV launched last year.|
|Key rival:||Seat Leon PHEV|
This is the beginning of the end for conventional internal combustion engines, with the introduction of the Megane hatchback plug-in hybrid timed to coincide with the removal of the regular petrol and diesel models from the line-up.
From now, the only new Meganes offered will be the PHEV versions, with the phasing out of the petrol and diesel versions ahead of a new all-electric Megane next year.
For now, it’s the PHEV that is designed to appeal primarily to company car drivers. A range of 30 miles in EV-only mode means the car scrapes into the 11% BiK band; if it had been less than 30 miles the Megane would have been categorised in the 13% band and costing another £10 per month for a 20% taxpayer.
The Megane occasionally hesitates between its 1.6-litre petrol and 49kW motor, but it pulls strongly when both are running, and runs well in electric mode.
Renault has inserted a neat little hatch into the boot floor to stash away the charge cables, but it’s worth noting that there’s a significant loss of boot space, with the PHEV’s packaging taking the luggage area down from 473 litres to 292, although that’s slightly up on space in rival PHEV hatchbacks such as the Kia Xceed, Seat Leon and VW Golf.
On the inside, the Megane is starting to show its age a bit, mainly because it is fitted with the brand’s previous-generation infotainment system.
But the PHEV is well priced, especially in the Iconic form driven here. Admittedly the RS Line (pictured) gets some visual adornments that lift its looks, but the Iconic trim is the only major PHEV hatch that starts at below £30,000, which helps from a BiK perspective as well as the up-front cost. The insurance and SMR costs are also low, making for a good cost-per-mile package.
Performance is a touch lacklustre at higher speeds compared with other more sporting PHEV hatchbacks, such as the Seat Leon PHEV or VW Golf GTE, because those two models use powertrains that combine to over 200hp, whereas the Megane is a more modest 160. But the electric element provides an immediate punch from a standstill, and it feels faster than the 9.4-second 0-62mph sprint time.
The exterior styling is dominated by the striking C-shaped LED daytime running lights, and the RS Line gets a beefier bumper and smarter alloy wheels as part of the step-up in trim level, making the Iconic look a little more sober by comparison. But it’s still an understated and neat design, and standard equipment levels on both cars are good, given the modest pricing versus PHEV rivals.