French automaker Renault's foray into compact cars produces this attractive little car, the Mégane, in early 1996. A replacement for their aging 19, the Mégane is built to compete against such cars as the Honda Civic, the Ford Focus, and the Peugeot 306.

Originally consisting of a saloon (or sedan), called the Mégane Classic, and a hatchback model, the popularity of the car spawned a sporty 2+2 Coupé and a Cabriolet (convertible) in 1999. The sedan comes in two flavors, a 1.4-liter I4 with manual transmission and 98 horsepower, or a 1.6-liter I4 with automatic (rated at 110 hp, this same engine was also found in the cabriolet and base Coupé). A variety of engines were available for the hatchback, from a 1.4-liter petrol to a 1.9-liter turbo diesel. The coupe utilized the 1.6-liter, 16 valve engine, and a 2.0-liter 16V. The larger-engined Mégane has proven to be extremely popular -- so much so that there are one-make trophy races held all over Europe exclusively for the Coupé 2.0.

Despite its small stature, the Mégane is one of the safest cars on the road, having recieved a four-star (maximum) crash rating from the Euro NCAP, which conducts and rates crash tests. The Coupé model has been discontinued in the UK mid-2002, pending a replacement model -- the same situation is on the horizon for the remaining Mégane models.

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