Renault Megane E-Tech Electric review: an EV that feels like a regular car

The model with the 60kWh battery returns 470 kilometres, and goes from 0-100kph in 7.4 seconds

Renault is phasing out its combustion engines by 2030. While it has dabbled in the EV market with niche models such as the Zoe and the Twizy in Europe, its major offensive, which will include the Middle East and the UAE, starts with this all-new Megane E-Tech Electric family hatch.

The National was the only regional publication to drive the new Megane at its global launch in Spain, and a day behind the wheel showed how quickly EV development is progressing. In terms of road manners, driving position and feel, this has the most “car-like” feel of any EV I have driven after the Porsche Taycan.

That’s not surprising given that more than 400,000 electric Renaults have covered more than 10 billion kilometres on the world’s roads to date, so there’s plenty of in-house data to pour into the new model. Meanwhile, the French auto manufacturer sold 96,000 EVs in Europe last year alone, taking 8.2 per cent of the market.

This Megane uses the same CMF-V platform from the Nissan-Renault alliance that will also feature in the new all-wheel drive Nissan Ariya that was revealed at Expo 2020 Dubai, as well as a high-performance Alpine crossover coupe. All will have plenty of bespoke features to set them apart, leaving the Megane to fly the front-wheel-drive flag for the modular base.

Renault has kept the entire drive train comprising motor, accessories battery, cooling system and air-conditioning bundled as one for ease of installation. This means that, unlike most EVs, it does not offer extra space where the engine used to be. But it does have an enormous boot with separate cable storage and loads of interior space to compensate.

Numbers game

Two power trains are offered: a 97kW model mated to a 40kWh battery and the 130kW option with a 60kWh battery.

The battery tech differs from the Ariya and Alpine, with LG Chem supplying the slimmest battery in the business at just 110 millimetres tall, compared to 140mm for most others and 170mm for the Zoe. This helps the Megane sit 60mm lower than the Zoe at 1.5 metres in height, but with a larger 2.7-metre wheelbase.

Two power trains are offered: a 97kW model mated to a 40kWh battery and the version we tested, which was the 130kW option with a 60kWh battery. The battery is 30 per cent smaller than the unit in the Zoe and 10 per cent lighter at 145 kilograms. The smaller of the two should return 300 kilometres with our test model claimed to return 470km and 7.4 seconds from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour, with a 160kph governed top speed.

The Renault-built electrically excited synchronous motor does not use magnets, which improve the smoothness of acceleration while cutting down on the use of rare metals. There is also an eight-year warranty on the battery, which will be replaced should its capacity dip below 70 per cent.

Like the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona, Megane offers one-pedal driving with maximum regeneration when you lift off the gas that will almost stop the car. Paddle shifts behind the steering wheel adjust the assistance and, after a little experimenting, they worked almost like conventional gears.

At 1,624 kilograms for the 60kWh model (and just 1,550kg for the smaller version), the Megane E-Tech is light compared with its main competitors, VW’s ID.4 at 2,050kg and 2,000kg for the Tesla Y.

Its centre of gravity is 90mm lower to the ground, which means its flat cornering comes not from tight anti-roll bars, but from a multi-link rear suspension aided by its lower centre of gravity.

Rain on our parade

The overall impression was it felt less boy-racer compared with hot hatches that thrive on adjustable dampers and stiff sports suspension. Yet, while the steering was quick and firmer than other EVs, it lacked a certain amount of self-centring compared with conventional sports hatch standards.

Our test drive featured rain, which brought out a negative in having 300Nm of torque all going through the front wheels, and the traction gadgets were working overtime even on straight lines up hills. The front wheels took turns to spin up over dips while powering out of tight corners, so it required a feather-like technique to keep the drive wheels from spinning up at times.

Its intelligent cruise control recognises speed limit signs, predicts upcoming intersections and roundabouts and has the option to adjust its speed accordingly. This sounds great in theory, but as we found when on a 120kph motorway, it inadvertently read a 40kph slip road sign and momentarily jammed on the brakes that, as you would expect, grabbed everyone’s attention.

Cabin comforts

Renault is the first mainstream manufacturer to use Google’s Automotive operating system.

Inside, you get the feeling that Renault figures we’re over the shock interiors of other EVs; this one looks and feels much like a regular car with a quality, premium feel throughout.

The cabin is spacious, which is to be expected for a car measuring 4,210mm with a 2,700mm wheelbase. While the slim battery gains valuable interior space, it’s still a snug fit in the back and difficult to slide the feet under the front seats.

Despite there being horizontal and portrait 12-inch Android-based screens, it didn’t give the feeling of being dominated by finger-marked glass panels, because the Megane includes plenty of old-fashioned buttons as well.

While it is Android, the twin-screen layout integrates Apple CarPlay, and Renault is the first mainstream manufacturer to use Google’s Automotive operating system. This includes Google Maps, Assistant and Play, making virtually every function immediately familiar.

There is no word yet regarding its on-sale date here, but it’s more than likely to be towards the end of 2023 after the Megane hits European markets by the end of this year, with an estimated starting price of Dh180,000 ($49,012).

Updated: March 17, 2022, 12:23 PM