Small, family friendly, versatile; the Renault Mégane is one of the most well-known cars on the road today, and its dynamic evolution over the past two decades is a study in engineering for car lovers and laymen alike.
The first model of the Mégane was produced in 1995, replacing the Renault 19 and reintroducing the “bird beak” grille style of the legendary 1960s Renault 16. Building on the 19’s floor plan, engine, and chassis, Renault built the Mégane into a new and popular vehicle, offering 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines and a diesel or petrol turbocharged 1.9-litre- engine.
In 1999 the Mégane received its first facelift, with more advanced safety features, 16-valve engines on all models, upgraded equipment on the inside, and a modified grille to please the eye. This model proved very popular in South America and continued to be manufactured even after the release of the Mégane II, until 2009.
The Mégane II was released in 2002 with a fresh look, winning 2003’s European Car of the Year award and becoming the first small family car to earn a 5-star safety rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. Renault also introduced several features that have since become standard in the class, including a keyless ignition system. A minor facelift in 2006 gave the car a new front end and better suspension.
Models of the Mégane II that have proved popular include the Renault Sport (RS) and Coupé-Cabriolet. Naturally, the RS was sporty, with 3- and 5-door hatchback models equipped with petrol 2.0-litre turbocharged engines and tighter handling due to modifications to the front and rear suspension. More elegant than sporty, the Coupé-Cabriolet featured a unique Karmann-designed folding glass roof, earning it the accolade of Britain’s 4th most popular car in 2005.
2008 saw the release of the Mégane III and the loss of the hatchback, though the Mégane Berline (5-door) and Mégane Coupé (3-door, shooting brake) now carry the hatchback torch for the family. Renault made large improvements to the Mégane III’s reliability and preserved the sportiness of the hatchbacks.
Today, Renault has very little regret in the Mégane, which is one of the most popular and innovative cars of the past 20 years. Looking forward to a small facelift in the 2013 models and a possible all-electric version, the Mégane appears destined to stay on showroom floors indefinitely.