If it looks good, it sells. Sales folk from the dawn of selling history will tell you that. All other things being equal, if buyers are presented with a choice of good looking or boring, most people will go for whatever pleases the eye.
SUVs are fulfilling this style option at the moment. Better still, they鈥檙e simultaneously making a decent fist of doing what most families need, ie carting them and their lifestyle chattels about the place in a comfortable and affordable way.
Which is all making life a bit difficult for conventional estates such as the Renault Mégane Sport Tourer. Why would you deliberately pick a mainstream estate like this?
We鈥檝e already sampled the 鈥榮portier鈥?diesel option, the 1.6: now we鈥檙e trying the Sport Tourer in the economical 1.5 dCi 110 format. What's it like?
To start with, the 鈥楽port鈥?part of the name is reflected in its lower, wider stance relative to that of the old Mégane estate. One less desirable consequence of the en-sportification process has been to reduce boot capacity. The Astra Sports Tourer beats it in that department, and the long-roofed Octavia destroys it.
Still, the Renault is not an impractical vehicle. It has an adjustable load floor (with no step up to the folded rear seats, creating a nice flat loading area), lots of cargo restraint options, and handles to stash the rear seats away into the boot.
As long as you鈥檙e not above median height you鈥檒l be OK for back seat space. The leg room is class-acceptable but that sloping roof inevitably shears a sizeable chunk out of your head room.
Life鈥檚 less restricted up front, where there is plenty of room and the seats are decently comfortable with a welcome return of velour, though the faux leather sections have a low-rent feel. Soft-touch plastics are in good supply, but then so are less appealing satin-finish plastics, especially around the infotainment screen where you鈥檒l be seeing them a lot. Our car had the 8.7in upright touchscreen infotainment system. There鈥檚 no shortage of functionality, but the proliferation of small icons was a confusing distraction.
Out on the open road, the softly-sprung suspension gets you wondering about the 鈥楽port鈥?part of the name. On smooth roads, cruising is a relaxed affair as long as you don鈥檛 attempt to maintain your speed around a corner, as pronounced body roll will make itself known. On our bad UK roads, the smallish 17in wheels and the suspension faithfully pass on most imperfections. If you鈥檙e lucky, you鈥檒l only hear it, but usually you鈥檒l be feeling it too.
The driver isn't compensated in other ways, unfortunately, as the steering weight is too low in the two softer Comfort and Neutral modes. It improves in Sport mode, but the absence of feedback and lack of variance in steering feel even when you鈥檙e understeering heavily are disappointing factors. Understeer is the norm, too, with the always-on stability control butting in with all the subtlety of a bad-tempered sergeant-major.
Engine-wise, refinement is impressive, even if your rate of progress won鈥檛 be. On the plus side, it鈥檚 certainly possible to top 50mpg if you take things nice and steady.
If you are the type of person to buy on looks, the Mégane Sport Tourer may well appeal. It looks the part and, in 1.5 dCi form, it鈥檚 smooth and cheap to run, all positive persuaders for the business user.
The trouble is, there are other estates that will do a much more comprehensive job for you. The aforementioned Octavia, for example. You can pick one of those up for the same sort of outlay, enjoy its driving manners and space, and then sell it on with a smaller depreciation hit.
2017 Renault Mégane Sport Tourer Dynamique S dCi 110
Price £22,350; Engine 4cyl, 1461cc, diesel; Power 108bhp at 4000rpm Torque 192lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox Six-speed manual; Kerb weight 1387kg; 0-62mph 11.3secs; Top speed 116mph Economy 76.4mpg CO2/tax band 96g/km, 21%; Rivals Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.6CDTi 110 , Skoda Octavia Estate 1.6 TDI