It's indisputable that Renault set off too early with full-electric vehicle development, trying to sell the market cars it wasn't ready for and haemorrhaging money in the process. Which is why it's taken so long for a second mainstream EV car model to appear from the brand. But we reckon this Megane E-Tech was worth the wait. It looks and feels more sophisticated and stylish than its VW Group and Korean class rivals; if you want a LEAF, Kia Niro EV or Volkswagen ID.3-class EV hatch, this one really has to be on your shopping list.
At a stroke, for the first time in a long time, the Megane E-Tech makes Renault seem more credible force in the mainstream European market. And we're really quite intrigued by the thought of just how good a future high-performance Renaultsport version might be. For the time being though, what we've got is a car that signals Renault back on track.
Who would have forecast back in 2012 when Renault launched its little ZOE full EV that it would be a full decade before we saw another mainstream Renault passenger car EV product in our showrooms. Yet that's what's happened, as the brand over-stretched itself and has been overtaken by nearly all its volume rivals in the electric vehicle segment. But the fightback starts here with this car, the Megane E-Tech.
It sits on the same CMF-EV platform used by the Nissan Ariya and should reach a large audience. Thanks to the success of the ZOE, one in five Renaults sold in Europe has been electric. But this is what Renault calls a '2nd generation' EV, it's development rushed through by the brand's ambitious CEO Luca de Meo, who likes to describe this as 'the GTI of EVs'.
Renault promises that this car's sporty looks will translate into a sporty drive. And to that end, the relatively light weight (for an EV) of up to 1,624kg should certainly help, as does the low 12:1 steering ratio, the stiff CMF-EV chassis and the particularly low centre of gravity (90mm below a conventional Megane). Power is delivered by a 215bhp motor powered by a 60kWh battery capable of 280 miles. This variant can make 62mph in just 7.4s, as long as you engage the provided 'Sport' mode. Our market isn't being offered the alternative entry-level EV40 model, which uses a modest 129bhp motor powered by a 40kWh battery pack capable of 186 miles.
We mentioned selectable settings. Four more of them are provided for the regenerative braking system, the left steering wheel paddle increasing regen for town use, the right one reducing it for highway driving. Early reports suggest that ride comfort might well be class leading, despite the particularly large wheels. Sounds promising. No 4WD variant is offered; Renault says that would have meant design compromises which would have added weight.
Looks good doesn't it? Apparently what we have here was originally going to be the performance version of this car, but designer Laurens van den Acker found that everyone liked it so much that he decided to standardise the 'Evoque'-style look across the whole Megane E-Tech range. It's based visually on the Megane eVision concept car unveiled in 2020 and incorporates the brand's familiar C-shaped headlamps, though with the lower section of the 'C' extended to run a reverse line of light across the top of the bumper. The nose gets Renault's latest art deco corporate badge, the rear lights are of the 3D LED variety, there are flush-fitting electric front door handles and you get big wheels of 18 or 20-inches depending on spec.
Take a seat up front and the first thing you'll notice is the 'OpenR' screen set-up, an L-shaped arrangement which combines an instrument screen and a central infotainment monitor, both 12.3-inches in size. Thanks to an anti-glare screen coating, the instrument display needs no binnacle around it and the centre monitor runs the Google Android operating system. So Google Maps, voice-controlled Google Assistance and Google Play all come included. A wheelbase length increase of 20mm over a conventional Megane means there's little more space in the back than you might expect. And there's a reasonably sized 440-litre boot, though with quite a high lip.
Pricing here starts from around £36,000, the fee these days for an ambitious full-EV hatch, though this means a slight saving on an identically-engineered Nissan Ariya. Megane E-Tech Electric customers can choose from three well-equipped models - 'Equilibre', 'Techno', and a range-topping 'Launch Edition' - with each benefitting from a class-leading digital experience with a 12.3-inch driver information display, a 9-inch multimedia display and Android Automotive OS with integrated Google services.
The 'Equilbre' version starts the range with its 18-inch 'Oston' alloy wheels, full-LED headlights, heated steering wheel and front seats, rear view camera, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a range of connected services including over-the-air software updates. The Megane E-Tech features up to 26 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), including distance warning alert, traffic sign recognition, automatic emergency braking with junction assist, cruise control with a speed limiter, and emergency lane keeping assist with oncoming traffic and road-edge detection.
The mid-range 'Techno' model, priced from around £38,500, goes further with the addition of adaptive cruise control with a speed limiter and lane centring, plus blind spot recognition and intervention, along with rear cross traffic alert with rear automatic braking. The 'Techno's exterior is marked out by 20-inch 'Soren' alloy wheels, full-adaptive LED headlights, front and rear signature lighting and dynamic turn signals. The interior, meanwhile, gains upholstery made from recycled materials, multi-sense customised driving modes with 48-colour interior ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, automatic windscreen wipers, wireless smartphone charging and the full range of Google services including Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Google Play store.
At the top of the range, the special 'Launch Edition' version, priced at around £40,000, aims to stand out, with 20-inch 'Enos' alloy wheels and a gold F1 blade, while the interior gains a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a smart rear-view mirror and an Around View 3D camera system.
We mentioned driving range in our 'Driving Experience' section - 280 miles for this 60kWh EV60 variant. You'll need very proactive use of the various provided regenerative braking modes to match that figure. Bear in mind that as usual with electric vehicles, the range figure just quoted will vary a great deal depending on the type of road you're on and the prevailing weather. If you were to drive this car exclusively on the highway in really cold weather, you might find yourself not getting much more than around 155 miles of range from it. But you'd encounter similar issues with every other EV in this segment. And this one does at least include a standard heat pump to maximise range in cold conditions, an expensive extra on many rivals.
There's the option of different kinds of in-car charger systems, starting with the base 7kW AC 'standard charge' set-up and ranging up to fast DC public charging at 130kW. The car can draw about 186 miles of range in around half an hour from a 130kW DC charger. Around eight hours of charging from a 7.4kW home charger will give you around 248 miles of range.