In its own way, the Megane is to Renault what the Golf is to Volkswagen: the foundation stone on which the company is built.

Electric vehicles like the zany Twizy and the pragmatic Zoe town car may nab all the headlines but it’s the Megane that keeps the tills ringing. Ten years ago, a massive 50 per cent of the company’s profits came from this one model.

Renault has diversified somewhat since then, but the Megane platform still underpins many of its most popular models.

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ON THE ROAD:

Once upon a time a new estate car had all the aesthetic appeal of a bashed about Welsh dresser. Not any more. The Sport Tourer shares the same striking looks as its hatchback cousin. The sleek flowing lines, gently sloping roof and complex body surfacing (look at the way the lower side crease running between the doors plays with light and shadow) certainly put the ‘sport’ into the Megane Sport Tourer.

The diesel engine (a further refinement of Renault’s 1.5-litre dCI turbodiesel workhorse that’s been re-designed to meet tougher emissions standards) is quiet and refined, especially when cruising. On the motorway, you can hear some wind and tyre noise but the engine is virtually inaudible. Full marks go to Renault’s noise, vibration and harshness engineers who have doubled down on their efforts. Thicker glass, more sound absorbing material beneath the bonnet and better door seals all contribute to a degree of refinement that’s among the best in the Megane’s class.

A long sixth gear helps make the Megane a relaxing car to drive long distance and the decent fuel economy gives a real-world range of 500 miles between fill-ups.

ON THE INSIDE:

Every time a mass market manufacturer launches a new model it goes on about the big strides it has made in cabin quality. So I wasn’t surprised to read in the press pack that the Megane “boasts an intuitive, modular interior that combines exemplary comfort and refinement” which “reflects the same craftsmanship” found on cars in the class above (specifically the Renault Talisman D-segment saloon which isn’t sold in the UK).

The Northern Echo:

Renault has made big strides in quality (both perceived and actual) since the Laguna III set a new class standard ten years ago and the latest Megane’s interior is a big improvement over its predecessor. All the major touchpoints (steering wheel, stalks, switchgear and stick shift) look classy and feel pleasant to use, while the dashboard is crafted from expensive slush moulded flexible plastics. If you look harder there’s some cheaper stuff buried in the lower third of the dashboard but it’s a very good effort nevertheless.

WHAT DO YOU GET:

Renault has taken a leaf from the Volvo playbook and designed its infotainment system around a large tablet-style 8.7-inch screen fixed in a portrait orientation on the Dynamique Nav trim level and above. This looks very impressive but the plastic bezel is a magnet for finger grease and the system sometimes takes a second or two to register a finger press. A faster processor wouldn’t go amiss.

Standard features on all Dynamique S Nav models includes cruise control, a speed limiter, six airbags, LED daytime running lights, front fogs, ambient lighting in the cabin, part-leather seats, arm rests in the front and back, a 4speaker surround sound audio system, DAB tuner, satellite navigation by Tom Tom with live data streaming and full European mapping, dual zone climate control, electric windows and mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The test car was fitted with a Bose audio system upgrade (£600) and the £400 safety pack which adds adaptive cruise control (very useful if you do a lot of motorway driving) and safe distance warning system. Other options include hands free parking (£500), full LED headlights (£500) and leather upholstery (£1,000).

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HOW PRACTICAL IS IT?

The Sport Tourer is 67mm longer than its predecessor but no wider. There’s more room in the cabin because the wheelbase has been extended. Space in the back is good enough for a trio of adults to travel comfortably without getting too familiar with each other.

Although the dashboard wraps around the driver, creating a feeling of snug safety, careful sculpting of the lower half gives excellent leg and knee room.

As for the boot, compared to the hatchback variant it’s usefully larger, but the swoopy roofline - which is the lowest in the Megane’s class - means it isn’t as big as it could be. Compared to its rivals, the Renault has more luggage space (521 litres) than a.Toyota Auris or a Ford Focus but not as much as the Vauxhall Astra (540 litres) or the Peugeot 308 SW (a hefty 660 litres) The hatchback rises on gas struts but it feels rather heavy and without power assistance it .can be a pain when you’ve armsful of bags.

Once open, however, the boot reveals itself to be highly configurable. There are lateral storage bins on each side next to the wheel arches and it can be divided to prevent items from sliding around.

Beneath the floor is a dedicated storage area for delicate items and Renault’s Easy Folding system enables simple unlocking and automatic folding of the 60/40-split rear seat from handles inside the boot.

The spring-loaded capless fuel filler does away with one less forecourt hassle, as well.

RUNNING COSTS:

Naturally, we couldn’t get anywhere near the official combined fuel consumption figure of 70.6 mpg but the Renault is still a cheap car to run.

The 1,461cc four-cylinder engine returned an average of 55.9 mpg during the test. Motorway cruising saw it stretch a gallon of diesel almost 60 miles, although that dropped to around 40 mpg in town.

VERDICT:

When he took over the running of the company in 2006, boss Carlos Ghosn said: “In future we will make cars for our customers. Every time we make cars to our own tastes, it’s been a failure.”

The Megane Sport Tourer is a perfect example of Ghosn’s pragmatic approach combining, as it does, a large boot, a nice cabin and slinky good looks. If you need a load lugger that’s good-looking and cheap to run the Megane Sport Tourer should be right up your rue.

Spec: RENAULT MEGANE SPORT TOURER dCi 130.

Price: £23,840.

Engine:1,461cc/four cyl/turbodiesel.

Power: 130 bhp.

Torque: 320 Nm.

Top speed: 123 mph.

0-62mph: 10 seconds.

Fuel cons: 70.6 mpg (Official combined).

CO2: 104g/km.