While not appearing too different on the surface, SA's Renault Mégane range has been given a subtle nip and tuck, but the big news is some price and spec reshuffling that makes it among the best-value hatches in its class and the arrival of an advanced new 1.6-litre turbodiesel model.
We're not joking about the styling changes being subtle - they're limited to revised grilles and front bumpers and some new exterior colours.
THE 2012 COLLECTION
The Mégane coupé is now more affordable with the introduction of an 83kW/151Nm 1.6-litre Expression model, which costs R209 900 - exactly the same price as the five-door model, which replaces the Shake It version, yet offers more spec for the same price.
The Expressions are not shy on the features front, with standard fare like cruise control, front and rear electric windows, audio system with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, six airbags, ABS and 16-inch 'Kaleido' alloy wheels.
Besides its sporty shape, the 1.6 coupé can be told apart from the five-door by black front bumper trim that gives it that 'wannabe RS' look.
For ten grand more, you can opt for a five-door 1.6 Dynamique, which adds 17-inch Plenum alloys, LED daytime running lights, an integrated TomTom Live navigation system as well as rain and light sensors.
Top of the petrol pile, and also available as a five-door or coupé, is the GT Line - powered by a 96kW/190Nm 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine. Both models cost R249 900, which means a ten grand price reduction on the part of the coupé, despite more features having been added. The GT line has a unique styling package, sport chassis, dual-zone climate control, 3D Arkamys audio system and snazzier partial-leather seats.
The flagship of the sub-RS range is the all-new 1.6-litre Dynamique turbodiesel, which is the most powerful 1.6 diesel on the market with 96kW and 320Nm. The advanced engine is 20 percent more efficient than the long-serving 1.9 dCi unit it replaces and it's mated to idle stop and braking/deceleration energy recovery systems.
Renault claims a combined fuel consumption figure of just 4.0 l/100km, translating into CO2 emissions of 104g/km.
ON THE ROAD
Sadly the new diesel engine wasn't available to test drive at the local launch in Gauteng, but I did get to sample the two petrol engines.
The 1.6, while by no means fast, is actually surprisingly capable on the open road, although it does need a good rev. To the contrary the 1.4 turbo on the other hand, feels a bit less punchy than I'd expect from a 1.4-litre turbo and also lacks low-down pulling power. It's still more than brisk enough for the average driver, but it just doesn't have much of a performance feel.
Both versions offer a reasonably good ride quality, clean handling an intuitive steering and my only niggle is that the gearbox feels a tad notchy.
The Méganes feel quite classy inside and are well built, but rear legroom (even in the five-door) is tight and certainly below par for the segment.
The 2012 Mégane range is competitive in just about every respect and when one looks at the features on offer for the price, there is good value to be had here - at least when compared to many of its over-priced rivals. The cherry on top is a five-year/150 000km warranty and five-year/100 000km service plan.
1.6 Expression - R209 900
1.6 Dynamique - R219 900
1.6 dCi Dynamique - R269 900
1.4 Turbo GT Line - R249 900
RS Sport 265 - R359 900
RS Cup 265 - R399 900
RS Trophy 265 - R409 900