This is the first time that we’ve been able to climb aboard a Megane fitted with the punchier 1.6-litre dCi engine in the UK, up 20bhp on the 1.5-litre versions we have tested before. There’s also 44lb ft of extra torque, a 7mph higher top speed, and the 0-62 dash is completed 2.3 seconds faster. But it isn’t all good news, the CO2 emissions rise by 6g/km and in terms of fuel economy, there’s a 3.7mpg penalty. Oh, and the extra cost of the 129bhp 1.6-litre dCi engine is £1,200. Is it worth splashing out the extra cash? Read on to find out.

In Dynamique S trim with optional leather, you get hugely comfortable seats with plenty of adjustment. They’re supportive, and hug your frame when cornering in a spirited fashion. Head and legroom is excellent both front and rear, with a well-proportioned 434 litre boot that opens up to 1,247 litres with the rear chairs folded down. Handy underfloor boot compartments add to the car’s versatility, as well as lots of space for oddments dotted around the cabin. There’s a big bin up front, decent sized door pockets and space underneath the armrest, which makes up for the tiny glovebox that suffers from fuse box intrusion. The plastics at the front of the car are pleasantly plush with a squidgy feel, with attractive appliqués and a solid, built-to-last feel. But further down and in the rear of the car, out of sight of the driver, the plastics become harder, scratchier and not so impressive. The large portrait-shaped infotainment screen dominates the centre of the dashboard, while digital instruments are clear and easy to read. The uprated Bose audio system fitted to our test car delivers nice sound, but at £600 extra is a pricey option. Most of the controls are logically arranged and neatly located, however, the start button for the ignition is annoyingly hidden, and the key card bulky. Front visibility is excellent, but the rising window line, thick pillars and a relatively shallow rear window would make reversing more difficult, had it not been for the standard parking sensors and reversing camera.

The larger engine delivers plenty of punch off the line, with strong performance particularly noted in third gear, making overtaking manoeuvres a breeze. The six-speed manual gearbox is particularly smooth, slotting in and out of gear nicely, making it a pleasure to pilot the Megane in stop-start city life. The engine itself is nicely hushed, and while you’ll hear it when driving with vigour, it’s nicely refined and largely a backing track most of the time. There’s a little ruffling from the wind at a motorway pace, but it’s the road noise that you’ll find most irritating as on some surfaces it can be particularly intrusive. Handling through the bends is neat and tidy, with decent accuracy from the steering. While it doesn’t offer the same level of fun as a Focus or perhaps the Golf, it’s easy to manoeuvre with only a small amount of lean when cornering. Grip levels are high, and bump absorption is really good, soaking up the worst surfaces with ease. On the motorway it’s impressively calm, munching the miles with ease.

Price £22,250 Made in Palencia, Spain
Bodystyle 5-door hatchback, 5-seats
Engine 1598cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo diesel with stop-start
Transmission 6-speed manual
Layout Front-wheel-drive
Maximum power 129bhp @ 4,000rpm
Maximum torque 236lb ft @ 1,750rpm
Top speed 123mph 0-62mph 10.0secs
CO2 emissions 104g/km
Official fuel economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 60.1/78.5/70.6mpg
Fuel tank size 47 litres Range 730 miles
Insurance group 19 BIK rate 22%
Size (length/width with mirrors) 4,359/2,058mm
Boot space (minimum/maximum) 434/1,247 litres
Kerb/maximum towing weight 1,429/1,600kg
Euro NCAP crash test rating
What’s Hot Striking looks. Lots of storage space. Great ride comfort. Good motorway cruiser. Smooth gearbox. Large infotainment screen. Well equipped.
What’s Not Hard plastics for rear seat passengers. Keycard bulky. Too much road noise. Not as good to drive as a Focus.
Also consider Peugeot 308 Allure BlueHDi 120, Vauxhall Astra Elite 1.6CDTi
Verdict The extra power of the 1.6-litre dCi engine is welcomed, with decent economy, a comfortable driving experience and the Megane’s generous equipment levels.