The Renault Mégane is a small family car produced by the French manufacturer Renault since 1995, and was the successor to the Renault 19. The Mégane has been offered in three and five door hatchback, saloon, coupé, convertible and estate bodystyles at various points in its lifetime, and has been through three generations.
Development of the X64 began in the beginning of 1990, with the first sketches of X64 programme being drawn during the first six months of 1990. Very quickly, several themes were outlined and developed into four small scale (1/5) models by September 1990.
The designs retained were developed around four themes. Theme A: a six light version, evoking the Laguna; Theme B: a model with markedly cuneiform line; Theme C: another design with ellipse shaped glasswork and rear notch; Theme D: a model with the same elliptical glazing and rounded rear.
In March 1991, all four styling proposals were developed into full scale (1:1). Theme C by Michel Jardin was chosen by Le Quement and frozen for production in April 1992. The first prototypes were built and presented to management in December 1992. Approximately 432 prototypes were built (at Rueil assembly) and destroyed during development.
In June 1993, Renault purchased production tooling for the X64, with the first test unit being assembled at the Douai plant in October 1994, and pre production units being constructed from December 1994 to the middle of 1995.
The Mégane I was unveiled in September 1995, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, as a replacement for the Renault 19. The car was essentially a reskin of its predecessor, and carried over the 19's floorpan, engines, transmissions and chassis design, albeit with much modification.
Taking its name from a Renault concept car shown in 1988, the Mégane further developed the new corporate styling theme introduced by Patrick Le Quément on the Laguna, most notably the "bird beak" front grille – a styling cue borrowed from the Renault 16 of the 1960s.
As with the 19 and the 11 before it, the Mégane was produced at Renault's Douai plant in northern France starting in July 1995, and at the Spanish plant of Palencia. Market launch began on 15 November 1995 in France, and 15 December 1995 for the coupé. Sales in the United Kingdom commenced in April 1996.
Safety was a key focus of the Megane I, Renault's first car reflecting their new focus of selling on safety. It featured a pillar mounted three point seatbelt for the middle rear occupant (replacing the common 'lap strap'), standard front belt pre tensioners and load limiters, driver's airbag (passenger airbag from 1996) and an impressive[according to whom?] safety structure – a specification ahead of most rivals in 1995.
Some features, such as the three point middle belt, had debuted on the Renault 19 safety concept vehicle (and this feature entered production on the Renault Laguna before the Megane). The car also benefited from Renault's first "System for Restraint and Protection" (SRP), essentially a system of careful optimisation of occupant restraint by interaction of the seat, seatbelt, pretensioner, load limiter and airbag. The Megane I achieved a best in class four star crash test rating in the 1998 round of testing by Euro NCAP.
November 1996 saw the introduction of the Mégane Scénic compact MPV.
Power came from the Renault E type ("Energy") engine in 1.4 L and 1.6 L, and the F-type unit in both 1.9 L diesel and 2.0 L petrol forms, although this time around there was a wider variety of 16 valve derivatives. A 1.9 L diesel engine in both normally aspirated and turbocharged forms was also available.
Renault also produced a limited number of Renault sport edition Phase 1's with the Renaultsport bodywork; however, these were very rare. The Renaultsport kit was available to purchase for a short time direct from Renault France, but has now been discontinued, thus their value has increased.
The estate version of the original Mégane was only available in LHD form, with no RHD variants being built, this could be due to the greater popularity of the Scenic in those markets. It was added with the facelift of 1999.
In Japan, Renault was formerly licensed by Yanase Co., Ltd., but in 1999 Renault acquired a stake in Japanese automaker Nissan. As a result of Renault's purchase, Yanase canceled its licensing contract for all Renault models sold in Japan, including, but not limited to, the Mégane I, in 2000, and Nissan took over as the sole licensee for Renault cars.