Review and road test of the Renault Megane E-TECH Plug-In Hybrid 160 (2020 - 2022)

PLUGGING A GAP

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Back in 2020, Renault reckoned that this Megane E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid 160 model offered an ideal compromise between the future requirement for eco-minded electrification and the need for everyday common sense. With this model, there was a 30 mile electric driving range, a choice body styles - five-door hatch or the Sports Tourer estate - and pricing that undercut a number of key plug-in segment rivals. So this contender ought to be worth a second look on the used market.

Models

5-door hatchback / Sport Tourer estate - 1.6 [petrol]

History

Different brands have different perceptions of the right way forward when it comes to electrifying family hatchbacks and compact estates or SUVs. Back in 2020, we had Renault championing plug-in hybrid tech with this PHEV version of the MK4 Megane. Here was an electrified product that was at least easy to get your head around. A plug-in set-up offering up to 30 miles of WLTP-rated all-electric range - quite enough to cover most people's daily commute; a 1.6-litre petrol engine to smoothly cut in when that range is exhausted; and a price tag that was much more affordable than that of the car that back in 2020, had hitherto emphasised the plug-in family hatch, Volkswagen's Golf GTE.

What You Get

The E-TECH plug-in version of this Megane came in Hatch and Sports Tourer estate guises but visual changes over the standard model were limited to a few E-TECH badges. This model did of course feature all the visual updates that by 2020 had been visited upon the revised version of this fourth generation Megane. The bumpers, lower grille and front corner cut-outs were re-designed. And the headlights were of the Renault 'LED Pure Vision' type, with beams increased in range by nearly 30%. Inside, changes over the ordinary Megane with this PHEV version are fairly minimal. There's an EV Button amongst the piano-style keys below the central 'EasyLink' infotainment screen, which will be either 7-inches or 9.3-inches in size, depending on the trim level you choose. This monitor has various EV-specific menus, including a useful 'Energy Info' graphic showing at any given time what's being powered by what. The instrument binnacle display (either 7-inches or 10.2-inches in size, dependent on trim) is EV-specific too, most of the E-TECH features showcased in the right hand virtual dial. As well as a lower charge meter, this features an outer rim showing blue 'regenerative', green 'charge' and white 'power' zones. And has a central area showing a triangulation of battery, e-motor and engine to depict in real time the hyperactive hybrid system's flow of energy. Glance down at the 'e-shifter' auto gearstick and you might notice its extra regenerative braking 'B' option. Otherwise, things are just as they would be in any other Megane. Which means you get quite a premium ambiance, thanks to smart trim and upholstery which is 'R.S.Line-themed in this top model. And you'll like little extra touches like 8-colour ambient lighting and this rim-less electrochrome rear view mirror. Tom Tom Navigation is standard, as is 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone integration. And in the back? Well despite this fourth generation Megane's relatively lengthy wheelbase and the fact that it's one of the widest cars in its class, accommodation here is quite tight, despite Renault's insistence that there's more shoulder room than most rivals can offer. Unless the passengers ahead of you are quite short, you won't find very much space for knees and legs. Lift the tailgate and you'll find that the opening is a good square shape but that this high sill will make it a little awkward to get heavier items in. Inside, the space you get falls by 116-litres over what you'd get in a conventionally-engined TCe 140 petrol model, which means that in the E-TECH Sports Tourer estate, you'll have only 447-litres to play with. There's no space for anything much under the floor - only really room for the charging cables and the tyre repair kit. Use the cargo sidewall catches to drop the 60:40-split rear bench and that increases to 1,408-litres of total capacity.

What to Look For

Most of the owners we surveyed seemed very happy with this MK4 Megane. There were a few of the usual issues with DPF diesel particulate filters getting clogged up; this might happen if the car you're looking at has only mainly been used for urban journeys. We did come across a few other issues. In one case, there was a fuel line leak. Otherwise, it's just the usual things; check the inside for signs of child damage, inspect the alloy rims for scratches and insist on a full service history.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2020 Megane PHEV - Ex Vat) An oil filter is in the £6-£13 bracket. Front brake pads cost in the £16 to £30 bracket; rears in the £11-£40 bracket. Front brake discs cost in the £51 to £107 bracket . A front halogen headlamp is around £209-£249. A rear lamp costs around £133. A pair of wiper blades is around £25. And a pollen filter is in the £20 to £27 bracket. A water pump is around £50-£92. A thermostat is around £70-£78.

On the Road

This electrified Megane's E-TECH Plug-in hybrid 160hp petrol powerplant is an interesting piece of engineering. The under the bonnet package sees a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to two electric motors powered by a 9.8kWh, 400V battery, this package generating 394Nm of torque and allowing for a range of about 30 miles; plus the ability to travel at up to 84mph on electric power alone. It's quite an intriguing package, shared with the brand's Captur small SUV. As with that car, you always pull away silently using all-electric power and beyond that, you control everything with a revised Multi-Sense driving modes system featuring three basic settings. The two extremes are 'Pure' (which engages all-electric drive that can be locked in with a fascia 'EV' button); and 'Sport' (which is engine-only and which you'll have to engage to replicate the claimed performance figures - 62mph in 9.8s en route to 111mph). Most of the time though, your mode choice will be 'My Sense' (which is a hybrid setting engineered to use both power sources most efficiently). This plug-in hybrid Megane's gearbox is an auto of course (but of the more unusual 'dog box' clutchless variety) and it offers an extra 'B' mode which maximises regenerative braking - to the point where you hardly ever have to use the actual brake pedal. Whatever your chosen transmission setting, nearly all the time when you're either off-throttle or slowing the car down, restorative energy is being fed back into the battery. Much of it is then used to aid acceleration, but if you want all of it to be saved for battery-only town travel when you'll most need it, then a further 'E-SAVE' setting is available to allow for that. Inevitably, all of this clever tech carries quite a weight penalty (nearly 400kgs), which has an effect on both ride quality and cornering body control. But unless you go throwing the car about, you'll probably be quite happy at the dynamic balance Renault has achieved here.

Overall

The early decades of this century saw Renault spend an awful lot of time and money offering the market electrified cars it wasn't quite ready for. The Twizy and the Fluence Z.E. spring to mind. You can't help thinking that the French brand would have done much better to start us all off with a product like this Megane E-TECH Plug-in. There's no range anxiety, no curious styling, no confusing battery lease sums to grapple with. Just most of the advantages you'll want from electrified technology with few of the drawbacks you don't. It's not all rosy of course; there's quite a price premium to pay over a conventional petrol or diesel-engined Megane variant. And there'll be a few small practicality compromises to make. But if you can cope with that, then this really is a family hatch for the thinking buyer. A slice of French sense.

Renault Megane E-TECH Plug-In Hybrid 160 (2020 - 2022) review by Jonathan Crouch

Money4yourMotors.com: We will buy your car today

Overview

Car review: Renault Megane E-TECH Plug-In Hybrid 160 (2020 - 2022)
Manufacturer:Renault
Model:Renault Megane E-TECH Plug-In Hybrid 160 (2020 - 2022)
Category:Compact Plug-in Hybrids
Rating:7 out of 10

Scores

Performace:
60%
Handling:
70%
Comfort:
70%
Space:
80%
Styling:
70%
Build:
70%
Value:
60%
Equipment:
70%
Economy:
70%
Depreciation:
60%
Performace:
60%
Total:
67%