Summer with the Megane

DSC_0244_4b30d318cb460-lightbox‘Bumcar’ as it has become known to almost all has had a very busy summer, filling the role of the old Mazda, and some. Driving in the heat is a far nicer experience now with air conditioning; my old car had huge windows and a lift up sunroof that could be taken out all together, but this usually made the cabin ridiculously turbulent and thus uncomfortable, though driving along with me head protruding from the sunroof (not on public roads) was enjoyable, that is, until someone pulled the windscreen washer lever…

In the heat of the day, the Renault’s AC struggles a little to cool the cabin, but after an incident regarding my front passenger window we had to clear out one side of our double garage to store the car due to heavy rain; this meant that my car could stay cool in the shade.

This window issue then, the first of a few, is apparently very common with the mkII Megane. It seems Renault skimped on water-proofing making the window motors susceptible to damage or complete failure. One grey afternoon, driving home from my 6th Form college, my front passenger window suddenly dropped itself and refused to rise again. Sod’s Law, the minute I arrived home, the heavens opened. To protect my car from the elements, the glass was forced back upwards and the fuse removed, a not-so-helpful temporary solution…

A trip to Halfords was made and a Haynes Manual (£20) purchased. The door card and window with runners and motor were removed and we found the motor’s chip to be faulty, a OneTouch Laguna window motor was ordered from ebay (£15) and fitted, the door was rebuilt and, touch wood, has been fine since.

When I got the car, the handle for the oversized glovebox (small children could live in there!) was broken and so over bumps, the lid would fall open… As well as this, for some reason, Renault painted the numbers onto the gear knob on earlier pre-facelift cars and obviously in the 50,000mi my car had done prior to my ownership, these had worn off.

The Forward-Skip/Fast Forward button refused to work on the standard Renault/Blaupunkt CD Headunit and the volume keys would stick and either turn the volume right down or try to deafen me. My wiper blades were cream-crackered too, smearing water and grime all over the shop and squawking like a parrot on acid. Many an hour was spent trawling ebay for said items and this paid dividends.

The prices Renault were asking for each bit were frankly insane. A scrap yard in Northern Ireland made a fair bit of wedge off me as they had a 2006 Facelift Megane II 1.4 Dynamique with everything I needed. I now have its CD/Radio (£12), its leather gear knob with imprinted numbers (£15), its whole glovebox (£20) and its wiper arms with aeroblade wipers. I wanted these because they look neater then the old-style wiper blades and now sit almost completely out of sight. They’re also completely silent and are far superior at clearing water and leave no smears.

The car came with two ‘RenaultCard’ keys; one was missing a corner having been chewed and suddenly the intact one stopped working. A new card was ordered and programmed by my local Renault dealer. This came to about £130 in total, a lot for a flimsy rectangle of plastic… Back on my beloved ebay that evening I bought a Renault Business Finance leather keycard case to keep this one in good nick; money well spent I feel…

When replacing the missing front foglight surround grille (£15) I noticed that one of my side-lights was blown, about £1 at the local Motor Factors shop got me a new bulb. Fitting it was not so easy. Having remembered the episode of Fifth Gear where they compared bulb-change times of the mkV VW Golf against the mkII Megane and seeing how unbelievably fiddly the Megane was, I wasn’t looking forward to the task, especially after hearing that Renault would charge £150 for the privilege!

Due to the car’s clam-shell front end, (presumably a result of 5* NCAP rating?) you can’t actually access the back of the light units. In the wheel arches though are removable panels giving access to them, the near-side panel is much smaller than the off-side making my bulb change a real pain in the proverbial… Removing the wheel as Fifth Gear did is unnecessary, turning the wheels to the left and resting your elbow atop the wheel is enough to allow access. It took about 20mins in total, having large hands and only being able to bend fingers in three places make it a stupidly fiddly job, but if it saves £150 (£250 for Xenons) it’s most definitely worth it!

Over the summer I was working as a Runner on a feature film, this meant the Megane would have to take me to and from Esher, Walton-on-Thames, Cobham & Woking in Surrey, Chiddingfold in West Sussex, Central London and Tunbridge Wells in Kent for 2 two & a half weeks, carrying 4 other crew-members, as well as printers, folders, a plethora of Apple iBooks, 60l of diesel and 10l of petrol in the odd-shaped boot. The car took it all in its stride, even managed some mild off-roading (not helping the loose exhaust) though the 56-reg Nissan Navara Outlaw I had for 2 days was superior in every way (was that obvious?). The car drank about £250/£300 worth of petrol and covered nearly around 1,750mi in that space of time.

Even after I’d finished there it didn’t stop for the Megane. I had a track experience at Thruxton on my way to a 4-day camping holiday with friends in the New Forest. Again, the car swallowed 3 people’s bags, an 8-man tent, a gas stove and all the associated camping gubbins without fuss.

Getting back into my car after spending the best part of 4hrs thrashing a Porsche Cayman 2.7 and a 997 Turbo was a shock, with a deficit of 400-and-something bhp and the handling which now felt similar to what I can only imagine a 200,000mi RangeRover on its original shocks is like. I was also very disappointed to see that my speedometer doesn’t even go as high as the 164mph I had from the 911..

With the Megane now clean and in complete working order I’m off to University in Canterbury, Kent (September 2009), until Christmas when I shall be looking forward to removing it from its garage and having some fun during the height of winter… Until then, I shall miss it.

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Tom Waugh