Renault’s New Aussie EV Is Small, Zippy, and Missing Something

Renault’s New Aussie EV Is Small, Zippy, and Missing Something

I’m really struggling to find words for the Renault Megane E-Tech. This is the third time I’ve tried to write this review’s introduction; the first two times lamented its sporty aesthetic and fun, well-considered handling, but any praise would be kneecapped by the fact it’s just not there in terms of its competition.

What I mean by that is that there are things changed or missing in the Megane E-Tech that I expect from an electric car between the $60K and $70K price point. Many of those basic features are things you can find in much cheaper alternatives, such as the MG4 and BYD Atto 3, and are obviously included in the specs of many of its similarly-priced rivals, such as the Hyundai Kona Electric Premium and the (now much cheaper) Tesla Model Y.

The Renault Megane E-Tech is a good car on its own terms, but you don’t have to look far for an alternative that’ll satisfy you more.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Looks can only get you so far

Let’s start with the good stuff. Overall, I enjoyed my time with the Renault Megane E-Tech, so I don’t want to dwell too much on the bad things so early on.

For a small SUV, the Renault Megane E-Tech definitely looks gorgeous besides its contemporaries, such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Volvo EX30, and more than those cars it might satisfy a driver that doesn’t want to commit to too much futuristic flare.

Not that the car doesn’t feel fresh, mind you. Like many of its competitors, it has electronic protruding door handles on the front doors, while the back doors are opened by handles on third pillars.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Inside and out, the Megane E-Tech commits to a sporty aesthetic, similar to the Cupra Born. Internal trim lighting is tied to your current performance setting (a light green for Eco, an intense orange for Sport, and so on), with the instrument cluster and infotainment system tilted in the direction of the driver.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Again, it’s a small SUV, so it might feel like a tight fit – especially with its tiny centre screen aimed directly toward you – but I easily had three adults and one child in a booster seat in this car without any discomfort.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Sportiness carries the appeal of the E-Tech. With a 0-100km/h acceleration in just 7.4 seconds with front-wheel driving only, and its considerably small frame, the car feels zippy and flash on highways, in suburbia, and inner city roads alike. You will notice some tyre skipping if you go foot-down on the throttle, but that aside, this car is tonnes of fun to drive.

The car is capable of a 454 km WLTP range, with up to 130kW DC public charging capability. We usually harp on about range in our reviews, but the Megane E-Tech has a nicely sized battery and fairly fine consumption. It feels fine for the price point.

It also has a nicely placed wireless charger for your phone, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and conveniently laid out storage compartments in the front for your accessories. There’s also a convenient spot under the boot tray for your charging cables.

It’s quite a deep boot. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Oh, and also, for my own personal interests – it has a very nice button layout on the centre console, and its OS is fluid and responsive, to the point where Android Auto and Apple CarPlay feel masterfully integrated into the car’s system.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

As far as all of these things go, I feel quite comfortable in saying that you could happily live with the Renault Megane E-Tech.

But. Well. Then we get into the ‘huh?’ side of things.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Renault your limits

The Renault Megane E-Tech has some design decisions that are just pure head-scratchers, not least of which being its extremely small rear window.

Call me old-fashioned, but rear window visibility is quite important in a car, and can’t always be resolved by a rear camera. Thankfully, the car has such a rear camera, that can be fed through to the rear mirror – nothing too impressive there.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Unfortunately on top of this, I often felt that, in low-speed parking environments especially, the car didn’t have enough visibility. The first columns are gigantic and the car has quite a large front end, which makes it difficult to gauge your distance from concrete edges when entering parking garages, for example. I would really have liked a 360 camera for this purpose, but the Megane E-Tech doesn’t come with one. It does, however, have proximity sensors around the car, which beep when you get closer to an obstacle, but these don’t solve all my problems.

Something sticks

But probably the most mind-boggling decision, and I’m coming at this as someone who has never driven a Renault until now, is the four sticks behind the steering wheel.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

On the left, you’ll find the blinkers stick, on the right you’ll find the (from top to bottom) drive select, wipers control, and media control. The media control has volume buttons and a wheel for going forward or back on your playlist, which seems backwards? Wouldn’t a wheel be better as volume control?

Also, why do we have volume control on a stick anyway? this can very simply be added to the steering wheel – just as almost every other carmaker has done.

Anyway, though all of these sticks do feel physically different, it was enough for me to feel confused at times on the road – at one point I tried to click the media control down to change my wiper settings, and my wiper settings down to switch from drive to reverse.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

It’s not helped by the fact that the drive select stick feels quite finicky. At one point, reversing out onto a busy road, the car didn’t register the fact that I had just tried to put it in drive, and so it just stayed in reverse, even though I physically had moved the stick.

At other times, the stick required an extremely firm push or pull to select drive or reverse – more so than it would require at other times on the road. It’s just inconsistent. You could probably live with it, but the design is overdeveloped compared to other EVs.

To be fair, Renault isn’t the only company that has a Drive Select stick behind the wheel. Hyundai also has one, but they’ve done it better – the shifter feels nothing like a stick, and your hand needs to physically pose in a different way to change to Reverse or Drive.

Lane assistance also felt particularly weak in the Megane E-Tech. At times it felt like it was following the set lanes to the sides, sure, but most of the time it didn’t even register their existence. I’m not sure what was happening here, but it’s representative of my entire experience with the car across different driving modes and environments (I had it consistently engaged).

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

In terms of what I would consider missing features, I’m not just referring to the absence of a 360 camera, but also the absence of power front seats and a power boot. Many cars in the $60K-$70K price range don’t have both of these, but they usually have at least one or the other. The Tesla Model Y, for example, has power front seats, while not having a surround camera. The Hyundai Ioniq 5, on the other hand, has a surround camera, but doesn’t have power front seats until you go for a model above the $70K point.

Heck, the inclusions of these features seem remarkably inconsistent in 2024 – many of the Chinese EVs, such as those from BYD, MG, or GWM, have some of the aforementioned features in cars well below $60K.

Though obviously you can live without these things, and indeed I did have a fine time with the car despite them – all I’m saying is that, at $65K, the number is asking a lot.

Verdict: Should you buy the Renault Megane E-Tech?

I recommend the Renault Megane E-Tech if you’ve been looking for a particularly sporty-feeling small SUV, but I stress that you’d need to be extremely comfortable with its design choices, particularly the four sticks behind the wheel and the absence of a 360 camera.

The Renault Megane E-Tech is a lot of fun, and it would likely satisfy a life-long Renault fan, but I would highly recommend comparing it to the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the Tesla Model Y, the BYD Atto 3, and when it arrives, the Volvo EX30, before you make a purchase.

The Renault Megane E-Tech is available now for $64,900.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

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