20 October 2021
Unfortunately I’m still Megane-less after our accident on the M25 in late July and have spent the summer months in the Kadjar which Renault kindly loaned to me in the interim.
The good news is that the Megane is in the process of being repaired. Despite the total lack of damage to the front, the breakdown truck driver suspected that the damage was perhaps worse than it actually looked. Our own inspection two days later (to collect all the belongings that were in the car at the time and we couldn’t take with us) underlined that – as far as the back of the car was concerned, it was lot more than cosmetic.
So I’ve got everything crossed that the Megane returns as I’m missing our electric powered motoring. As mentioned previously, it’s funny how much your driving style insidiously adapts to driving EVs and PHEVs and also how much I’d adapted to the Megane.
I’ve now got used to the EV-style of lifting off the throttle pedal and relying on the regenerative brakes to slow me down, and the same goes for coasting on faster roads too. In such a large car, this Kadjar’s 1.4-litre engine linked to a seven-speed automatic was never going to be rapid, but there are times when I find myself having to flex my right foot more than I would have expected – the absence of low down electrical propulsion all too obvious.
Still, the large boot definitely came in handy over the summer holidays, with the ability to lower the boot floor sections down for a non-flat floor but more space, coming in especially handy.
19 August 2021
My previous report on the CCT long-term Megane Plug-in Hybrid focussed on a couple of apologies. This report is just one big apology, but not from me, from another driver on the M25.
Three days after the Megane returned from its last service, my eight-year-old son and I were driving round the M25 on a Saturday evening shortly after a flash storm. With lots of standing water, we were in the middle lane and before we knew it a car in the outside lane had aquaplaned, then side-swiped us by the rear offside wheel, spinning us round into the fast lane and into the central reservation.
We came to a halt, thankfully facing the right way but stationary in the outside lane of the M25. We were both ok, if a little shaken, and I managed to drive the car slowly over to the hard shoulder, which is where things just got worse.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m not in the habit of having accidents on motorways. In fact, this was the first time. So, I thought I’d better call the police. They asked for the basic information and, once they’d ascertained that nobody was hurt, declared they wouldn’t be coming out to us. Likewise, a passing Highways Agency vehicle appeared from nowhere, a man took my details, made sure all the cars were on the hard shoulder, told me to call my recovery service and then duly disappeared.
So we called Renault Assist, gave our details, got transferred and held on. And on. And on. Twenty-four minutes later I wasn’t convinced that the recovery department was even on duty, so I hung up and called the RAC which provides Renault’s service. Unfortunately, they told me I had to go through Renault, so they transferred me and I was back on hold once more.
Having finally got through (and making my feelings fairly clear by this stage with my son beside me in the rain by the side of a live motorway), the breakdown recovery truck could only be arranged once I’d given all the details – again – and not before. So far, we’d already been by the side of a live motorway in the rain for 90 minutes. The frustration was immense, but the punchline was yet to come.
I was informed the truck would be a further 50-60 minutes and then got told that the level of recovery was only for the car itself and I would be dropped at the next service station five minutes up the road to make my own way home. After 2.5 hours by the side of the road with a remarkably well-behaved eight-year old, it’s fair to say that I was rather unhappy that we weren’t being recovered home.
So, as I now wait for the Megane to be repaired, forgive me if I issue a little public service announcement. This is on behalf of all drivers to their respective fleet managers for the next time you think about saving money on your recovery plan for a lesser level of service. Put your family through a car crash, then leave them on the side of the M25 in the dark and the rain for 2.5 hours and then tell them they have to make their own way home. Still think that penny-pinching is worth it? I’m guessing probably not.
5 August 2021
I have two apologies to make, both to Renault. But more on that later. The Megane Sport Tourer has been back to Renault for a service that was due. Not because we’d been racking up the miles like Ferris Bueller, but because the problems with my initial car (see report 1) meant that the replacement already had some miles on it.
When it returned though, I asked them to look at the infotainment system and Apple Carplay which had been problematic. Two days on, the car returned and Apple Carplay was back up and running. And then wasn’t.
Cue much swearing and taking Renault’s name in vain (sorry Renault), at which point a thought suddenly occurred. Searching through the Bluetooth menu on my phone, I then deleted all the Renault links on there and started afresh and, hey presto, it has been problem-free all along. So maybe the actual the problem was me and my phone rather than the car? Oops. As I say, sorry Renault. The reset during the service though has meant that my previously hard-earned 80-plus mpg has long gone, so I need to work to get that back up to its deserved heights once more.
The second apology has been what I’ve been doing with it since that return – which is using and abusing its estate car status with more visits to the local dump and then also a certain well-known Swedish furniture store to refit the heir’s playroom. The best bit was that they also have chargers in the car park, so the whole trip could be done under electric power.
27 July 2021
In our last report, I wrote a lot about the Renault Megane Sport Tourer’s boot. And, more specifically, a lot about the compromises of our plug-in hybrid version versus the petrol and diesel models elsewhere in the Sport Tourer range.
However, part of the reason for me testing this Sport Tourer is to see whether the traditional estate car still had a proper role to play compared to the currently fashionable crossovers. Ironically, as the Megane’s delivey was delayed, Renault kindly loaned me a Captur E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid as a stop-gap for a few weeks, giving me the chance for the perfect comparison.
Also, as much as I love a good estate car, I also happen to have a rather soft spot for the latest Captur, with its pumped-up looks, higher-driving position and 4×4-esque styling. They may not be rivals, but in practice, they’re both family cars at similar price points and using the same plug-in hybrid technology. It’s not beyond the realms of doubt that
But while the Megane has a 447 litre boot expanding to 1408 litres with the rear seats folded, the Captur offers just a measly 265 litres rising to 1118. However you look at it, 265 litres for what is meant to be a family car is not that great, meaning that the traditional estate car can show the crossover a clean pair of heels in terms of sheer practicality.
13 July 2021
Size is important. Or so I keep being told.
Part of the reason for me running this Megane Sport Tourer is to see whether a traditional estate car can still cut it in the current crossover-obsessed world that we all find ourselves in. However, it was also to see how it would fare in the practicality stakes too.
We’ll address that family-car face-off of estates versus crossovers properly in our next report, but the Renault is a good example of how shape is just important as size when it comes to more everyday, kin-carrying motoring.
Compared to the standard Megane Sport Tourer with petrol power, the plug-in hybrid loses 116 litres of boot space with the rear seats up – 447 litres versus 563 litres – although the diesel version sits in the middle at 504 litres. Fold those seats flat and the difference grows with 1408 litres for our plug-in hybrid, then 1484 for the diesel and 1543 litres for the petrol.
That 135 litre loss certainly isn’t to be sniffed at, but in reality it’s the shape of the Megane’s boot and its everyday useability – along with a smart load cover that cleverly retracts with one tap on the leading edge – that’s more important than outright size. Well, that’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
1 July 2021
And just like that, summer has arrived. One moment you’re wondering about Ikea instructions for build-it-yourself arks, the next you’re queuing for the ice cream van.
So far I’ve resorted to opening the Renault Megane’s windows whenever possible when driving, treating the air conditioning button like a platter of garlic bread at a vampire convention. I’ve nothing against air con as a rule, it’s just that I know the detrimental effect it can have on your average fuel economy. So when I’m trying my utmost to keep that heading upwards, I’ll be avoiding the air con whenever possible. Marginal gains and all that.
Talking of which, I’ve previously mentioned the Megane Sport Tourer Plug In’s 30-mile EV range, but not the actual tax implications of that figure. With its official 30g/km emissions, that 30 mile EV range is a crucial BIK threshold point giving it a 11% BIK rate for 21/22 rising to 12% for 22/23 and 23/24.
Even with the same emissions, any plug-in hybrid with less than that 30 mile electric range pays an extra 2% on top of that – 13% rising to 14%. A more generous person than me might shrug their shoulders at that extra 2 per cent, but I’ve always been of the opinion that money is always better in my bank account rather than the tax man’s – no matter how small. After all, that leaves more to spend on ice creams.
17 June 2021
It’s been a slightly a confusing fortnight with the Renault Megane Sport Tourer. In my last report I said that longer motorway journeys weren’t really playing to the strengths of the French plug-in hybrid.
Proving me wrong though, a couple more 100 mile-plus trips saw the Megane’s average fuel actually rise slightly rather than fall. I’d always set off with a full charge but, as previously mentioned, that would soon be depleted on faster roads, leaving the rest of each journey to be undertaken under petrol power.
The hybrid system remains something of a mystery however. I’m familiar with some plug-ins firing up their engines in colder weather or to keep some of the ancillary items ticking along, but the Renault’s 1.6-litre is never afraid to start in some very odd circumstances. It will start when pulling out of our drive or on a slight incline, I’ve even had the engine run when sitting stationary at traffic lights.
Presumably this is to use the battery power in the most efficient way possible, but it still feels a little at odds with the eco-friendly nature of the car. However, underlining that hybrid technology should perhaps not be my Mastermind specialist subject, clearly the car knows best as the upward trajectory on our average economy to 72.3mpg shows.
But the Megane perhaps doesn’t know best in other matters. Two journeys to unfamiliar places saw me rely on the built-in sat nav (rather than on a phone app) to get to my exact location and on both occasions the sat nav had glitches, taking me off route at unusual places, only to then get us to do a U turn and get back on our original route. The first time I blamed a jam that had suddenly cleared, but the second time I wasn’t convinced.
Two journeys later and Apple Carplay decided to disappear from the infotainment system. No amount of switching of cables, phones, swearing profusely, turning the system on and off or locking and unlocking the car, could make it come back. I even took the drastic measure of consulting the manual (I know, crazy right?). In the end, I just let the car stand for 24 hours and then it magically reappeared on the infotainment screen. Sometimes, the oldest solutions are the best.
3 June 2021
Three reports in and it’s only now that I’m just really starting to get to grips with the Renault Megane Sport Plug-In.
The switch from Iconic to RS Line trim has gained me slightly larger wheels, RS trim and some sports seats. With deep side bolsters, they’re certainly comfortable on longer journeys, but they’re also snug enough to be a reminder for me to keep a close eye on the balcony over the beltline. Time to sell the shares in Greggs…
Those longer journeys have been working against the Megane’s average fuel economy though. Officially, a full charge is meant to be up to 30 miles but, of course, venturing onto the motorway sees that drop faster than Editor Barker’s wallet thrown out of his penthouse apartment window. On faster roads, the reality can be closer to 20-22 miles.
Not much overall perhaps, but enough to mean that only a quarter of an 80-mile round trip is spent on electric power. In fact, the Megane seems to use its battery power in a slightly different way to other plug-in hybrids I’ve driven. Like other plug-in hybrids, when the majority of battery power is depleted, the Megane continuously uses any charge gained from regenerative braking, no matter how minimal, to drive the car.
What’s different though is that even with plenty of charge, the Renault’s 1.6-litre petrol engine seems keen to fire up when driving. Go anything beyond halfway on the power meter and, despite having plenty of battery charge on tap, the petrol engine starts up. Presumably it’s to maximise the best overall economy between the two, but it still feels a little counter-intuitive to us.
Either way, with more longer trips coming up, I’ll be doing my best to get that average economy figure up.
First it was five minutes, this time it was five hours. As per my last report, when the Renault Megane Sport Plug-In Hybrid first got delivered, there was a fault with the alarm and the driver who had dropped it off, took it away again immediately.
He returned after three days and all was right with the Megane. Well, to begin with anyway. Then, fate had clearly decided that was enough fun and, you guessed it, the alarm kicked off once more. Infuriatingly, there was no logic to point the finger of blame towards, sometimes it would go off, other times not.
So the white Megane went back to Renault and this near-identical blue one was dropped off in its place – a Sport Tourer Plug-In Hybrid as before, but in RS Line rather than Iconic trim.
Although this RS Line car is slightly older with 5000 miles already under its wheels (the Iconic had done just 600), after a quick debate with Renault the decision was taken that rather than swap back once the Iconic had been repaired, to leave this car with us instead. With its stunning Iron Blue paintwork and nattier RS trim, we weren’t about to object.
So, a new Megane beginning starts here. Again.
6 May 2021
Is the Megane Sport Tourer Plug-In Hybrid, embracing the very latest in high-tech or a bit old-fashioned? After all, it’s got all the advantages of a plug-in hybrid, with a 30-mile electric-only range giving it a seductive 11% BiK rate (rising to 12% for both 22/23 and 23/24), but it’s an estate when the rest of the world is going crossover-crazy.
Call me old-fashioned (plenty do), but I rather like traditional estate cars for their sheer workhorse nature – something that I’ll be putting to the test with this Renault over the coming months. And in the meantime, for all our test drives, I’ll be wearing platform shoes, a tie-dyed T-shirt and digging out a pair of my old ‘Lionel Blairs’ from the wardrobe. Well, maybe.
Although, in 30 years of testing cars, I’ve got a new record. It took all of five minutes before I had a problem with my new Renault Megane Sport Tourer Plug-In Hybrid with the alarm constantly going off.
In fact, it was so fast, that the delivery driver hadn’t left and, despite both our efforts, we couldn’t solve it. So he took it away again. Three days on, it returned fixed (a problem with the 12-volt battery due to it being so new, apparently), so it’s second time lucky.