You know, when it comes to rating small cars, the head says Mazda 3 or Holden Astra, the heart says Audi A3 or VW Golf, but, with its famously buxom behind, does the butt say Renault Megane?

Renault is making a big deal over its latest offering’s designer derri?. Those in-your-face wiggling ads say it all.

However, Aussies are a conservative bunch (election results, anyone?) and our collective bum has hesitated to sit inside this particular Renault. Sales have been a bummer.

So, in the spirit of the Megane’s posterior theme, Sydney Star Observer’s motoring column rates the French hatchback according to what it’s ahead in, and where it falls behind.

Styling -“ a superior posterior

Ironically enough, I’ll start by probing that posterior. Full marks to Renault for having the Gaul (so to speak) to be different. A decade ago small cars were crushingly similar. And its achievement is all the more impressive since the Megane is also beautifully proportioned overall. Plus it also proudly identifies it as a Renault.

Practicality -“ a boot up the behind

Sadly, that pert posterior eats into the boot space. Plus there’s not as much rear leg room as something this long ought to have, although it’s fine up front.

Driver appeal -“ near the bottom, I’m afraid

Renault’s wrecked its chances for building a car to inspire the keen driver in you. The smaller engine (83kW/152Nm 1.6) is sweet and keen but not so mean, while the 99kW/191Nm 2.0 is punchier but no smoothie, especially when allied to the four-speed auto trannie. In Europe the best Meganes are the astonishingly gutsy turbo diesel models. The way petrol prices are going, we just may see them here too soon.

You also get a bum steer because, from behind the wheel, it’s just too numb. Sure the handling is safe and secure, and the car sticks to the road like the proverbial to a shovel, but the steering feels dead. Golf, Ford Focus and Mazda 3 have this beat for fast and furious fun, because they use a proper multi-link independent rear suspension. The Megane is not one for the S-bends then. Keen drivers should look elsewhere.

Comfort -“ the interior for your posterior

The Renault’s big on showroom appeal, from a classy yet sensibly laid out dash, great seats and an ace driving position, to all the gadgets you’d expect from a premium priced Euro. There’s also ample space for taller folk up front, and it all seems well screwed together too. Plus it’s a great open road cruiser -“ the sort of small car that feels grown-up at big speeds. Especially in the 2.0, there’s a laid-back ease to the way this thing chews up the miles.

Safety -“ five st-arse

Okay, the latest Golf outguns it for crash-test glory. But the Renault is right up behind,

with an ENCAP five-star safety rating, dual front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with force distribution and brake-assist, and a solid, chunky look and feel to it. The super-stylish three-door Megane also boasts airbags that stop you sliding underneath the dash in severe impacts. Sassy and a smart ass too.

Value for money -“ no bum deal here

Even the cheapest model -“ that’ll be the $25,990 1.6 Authentique -“ gets all the safety gear, plus air-con, cruise control, a CD player, keyless entry, fog lights, power steering/windows/mirrors and a trip computer. The value argument lessens slightly the more you spend, but (and this is a big butt) the $37,190 Megane Dynamique LX is like a little limo, with lashings of luxury.

Verdict -“ it rumps home

When the current Megane was rolled out in Europe during 2002 Renault was absolutely horrified at the slow sales figures. But orders then poured in as people became familiar with the rad shape -“ by last year the Megane was Europe’s bestseller. And it deserves to succeed here too, even if the engines could be better and the steering is disappointingly light. The big-bottomed Megane puts the ass in class.

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