Renault has announced prices and specifications for the New Renault Megane 2006 range and also raised the bar in the sports hatch stakes with the launch of a special edition Megane Renaultsport 225 to celebrate its Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship title from last season.

The Renault Megane continues to be Europe’s best-selling car, so the arrival of two new special editions and the lack of price rises over the current version looks certain to keep the distinctive range at the top of the sales charts. And that’s not forgetting the fact that prices still start from just £11,450 on the road. There are no changes yet to the Scenic MPV range which is built on the Megane platform.

Giving the New Megane 2006 even more impact is the launch of a new special edition, Megane Renaultsport 225 Renault F1 Team, to celebrate Renault’s 2005 Constructors’ and Fernando Alonso’s Drivers’ Formula 1 World Championship titles.

Based on the Megane Renaultsport 225 Cup – and therefore three-door Sport Hatch – the eye-catching newcomer offers a powerful combination of track-proven technology and £1,450 worth of equipment for only £900 more than the Cup, at a price of £19,500.

In addition to the standard specification of the ‘Cup’ version, the latest hot hatch from Renault’s performance division gains: 60W CD/MP3 RDS radio, climate control, new “black-gloss” 18″ spoked lightweight alloys with matching door mirrors and blue/black Recaro front sports seats and blue detailing on the steering wheel and gearshift gaiter. Standard equipment on the ‘Cup’ includes: Cup Chassis (includes Brembo front brakes, disconnectable ESP (Electronic Stability Programme), uprated dampers and springs and shock absorbers to reinforce the sensation of rigidity and augment cornering ability), plus cruise control with speed limiter, exclusive Dunlop SportMaxx tyres and trip computer.

As you would expect when it comes to the glamorous world of Formula 1, the new special edition certainly isn’t lacking in image or exclusivity, boasting ‘Ultra Blue’ paintwork, a numbered plaque at the base of the centre console, plus unique Renault F1 Team decals and badging on the front wings and front and rear bumpers. The production level is not limited to a specific number.

Broadening the appeal of the New Megane 2006 range even further, particularly in the retail sector, a new ‘Maxim‘ special edition will also be available from launch to appeal to the more cost-conscious buyer.

Available for the same price as the already sporty Dynamique versions on which it’s based, the new special edition is available in Hatch and Sport Hatch models with a choice of either the 1.5 dCi 86 or the petrol 1.6 VVT 111, the two biggest-selling engines which account for approximately 60% of Megane hatchback sales.

Reflecting the New Megane 2006 range’s unique French style and built-in value for money approach, Maxim versions boast £450 of free extra equipment such as 17″ Steppe alloy wheels and 60W single CD/MP3 player, with prices of £13,250 and £13,550 for the Sport Hatch versions, £13,750 and £14,050 for the Hatch.

The lower medium sector has seen the arrival of several new and revised contenders in recent months and the arrival of New Megane 2006 could not be more timely. Designed to build upon the success of the previous range, the facelifted line-up offers a revised look, greater refinement and an ever wider choice of engines and options.

The Megane range structure and equipment levels remain very similar to the original collection, with seven distinct body styles, namely the Hatch, Sport Hatch, Sport Saloon, Sport Tourer and Coupe-Cabriolet, offered with a total of five different trim levels (depending on model and excluding Renaultsport range): Extreme, Authentique, Expression, Dynamique, Privilège. Scenic and Grand Scenic do not change until 2007.

From the outside, each of the Megane range’s five body styles receives a subtle exterior facelift. At the front, the new models have a revised “V” shaped front grille and front bumper, a more prominent Renault diamond and new slim, tapered headlamps, whilst at the rear there are new rear light clusters (excluding Coupe-Cabriolet) and bumper unit.

There are also several alterations to specific trim levels, such as body-coloured door mirrors and door handles on Authentique, ‘Flint’ bumper and side rubbing strips from Expression upwards, chrome effect roof bars on Sport Tourer versions from Dynamique and above, plus a wide range of new wheel trims and alloy wheel designs for each version.

The improvements to New Megane are even more apparent on the inside, where the revised interior reflects steps made in quality and materials, similar to those of New Clio and New Laguna which have been received so well.

Each of the New Megane 2006 models features new interior trim and cabin detailing, plus new look dials with white background lighting and soft-touch dashboard materials. To emphasise their sporting air, Dynamique models also have chrome surrounds to the vents, controls and handles.

Renault continues to improve the quality of its products in all areas and New Megane 2006 benefits from the company’s increasingly high standards. As such, the new versions have improved fit and finish, the interior being an even quieter environment than before thanks to enhanced soundproofing of the cabin, engine and drivetrain.

The good news continues with the improvements to the electric steering column gleaned from the development of the Renaultsport Trophy, focusing mainly on a revised “tube in tube” steering column to give superior feel and handling around the centrepoint. The ECU (Electronic Control Unit) has also been re-programmed to give more consistent steering responses.

While some of the revisions to the latest Megane range are clearly quite comprehensive, Renault’s usual attention to detail is also clearly evident even right down to the new flat blade wipers for example.

The Renaultsport range remains the same with a three model line-up, Megane Renaultsport 225 in Hatch and Sport Hatch guise, with the focused ‘Cup’ version in Sport Hatch only. Prices again are unaffected, however, there are several notable revisions to the range in addition to the new Renault F1 Team special edition.

This starts with greater differentiation between the standard 225 and the more hardcore 225 ‘Cup’ version, as the latter receives gets a striking new blue/black ‘Scotec’ cloth interior, while the normal Megane Renaultsport 225 now comes equipped with a full leather interior, climate control and 60W single CD/MP3 RDS radio as standard. These optional extras on the outgoing range would have cost over £1,000, yet the retail price remains the same.

There are also two noteworthy option changes for the entire Renaultsport range. The first picks up where the Clio Renaultsport 182 Trophy hot hatch left off, as the Recaro seats are available as an £850 option on all Sport Hatch versions. And, due to the continued demand for the the Cup Chassis option on the standard Megane Renaultsport 225, which accounts for around 40% of current range sales, the pack now includes anthracite-coloured door mirrors to give the cars even greater on-road presence.

Two colour changes are also made with the launch of the new vibrant non-metallic blue, Ultra Blue, which replaces Capsicum Red, plus the new metallic pearlescent blue, Albi Blue, which replaces Arctic Blue.

The Megane range already featured some of the most highly-regarded engines in its sector and New Megane 2006 will be no different. The line-up gains a new flagship 2.0 dCi 150 diesel engine and sees the welcome addition of an entry-level dCi 106 6-speed option to the Megane Coupe-Cabriolet series, offering an impressive 56.5mpg on a combined cycle. With prices for the new entry-level diesel version starting at £19,110, this top-selling and now even more frugal, convertible looks certain to cause even more o
f a stir among its rivals, whatever the weather.

The class-leading 2.0 dCi 150 engine which was recently introduced on New Laguna is scheduled to appear across the Megane range in May and will offer a strong combination of refined, lusty performance and low fuel consumption for long distance and inner city journeys. This new powerplant offers 340Nm of torque at just 2,000rpm, plus a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds in the Hatch, only marginally slower than the most powerful 2.0T 165 turbo petrol engine at 8.3 seconds.

In keeping with New Megane 2006 sense of style, there are also several colour changes to the range. Nordic Green is added to the Megane Coupe-Cabriolet models, while elsewhere, Hessian is replaced by Quartz, Extreme Blue replaces Ottoman Blue (all except Sport Saloon) and Gunmetal replaces Hologram Grey.

Orders for the New Megane 2006 range can be placed from 1st February in time for the new registration plate change. Scenic and Grand Scenic are unaffected by the changes to the Megane range.