Turkish delight

Renault Megane 1.9 dCi Diesel Expression

My local Renault dealer was most apologetic when I picked up the Megane sedan for a test drive.

You see I had quizzed him about where it was made as the Redbook is notoriously inaccurate in terms of country of origin information.

And whilst readers of this column may wonder what the ethnic background of industrial robots has to do with build quality, AMA members do care about the environmental reputation and social responsibility of multi-national corporations who may happily dump their waste in the Third World’s back yard.

And I’m sure that Australian parents do think twice about giving their children toys that may be plastered with lead pigments from a large industrial nation west of Taiwan.

So it was with some trepidation that the dealer told me that the Megane Sedan was made in, wait for it, Turkey.

Although my grandfather may have fought the Turks at Gallipoli he would have said that they were highly organized and well-equipped and fortunately this reputation has also propelled Turkey to the forefront of automobile manufacture.

I had previously tried to take a first-hand look at the Turkish automotive industry when I’d planned a trip to the 2001 ECNP pharmacology conference in Istanbul.

A visit to the Honda and Toyota factories was also on my itinerary to see just how good the Turkish built Civic’s and Corolla’s were.

Unfortunately some thoughtless terrorists had set off some bombs just outside my hotel and I was forbidden by my spouse from visiting Istanbul unless they could promise me APEC type security.

I had assured my wife that the terrorists were probably just kids playing with fire-crackers or comedians dressed up as Osama Bin Laden, but I was over-ruled and the trip was cancelled.

Nevertheless, Turkey is almost perfectly placed to make cars for the world.

Like the old Ottoman Empire it lies at the cross-roads between Europe and Asia and last year Turkey’s 17 automotive plants produced over a million cars. That’s more than any country in Eastern Europe.

And whilst Turkey is outside the European Union wages will stay low, and Turkish workers don’t complain about working a 45 hour week.

Although US models may be politically incorrect, French cars have always sold well in the Middle East where they have a reputation for not falling apart on rough roads.

The Megane sedan was superbly built and I’d like to compliment the Turkish robots on paying so much attention to panel fit.

This tight finish means a quieter driving experience on the road and no rattles or squeaks.

You’d have no problem running into a camel in the Megane as it has seatbelt pre-tensioners and a five star safety rating and Renault have more five star safety rated cars than Mercedes or Volvo.

Another highlight of my test vehicle was its excellent next generation turbo-diesel engine.

With 300 Nm of torque it travelled effortlessly up the steepest hills with a six speed manual gearbox. And with economy running at 49 mpg you won’t need to have your own oil well to run the Megane.

Re-fuelling is also made more convenient by incorporating the fuel cap into the filler lid.

Automatic buyers will have to make do with only four cogs which is a little disappointing considering the rest of the vehicle’s specs.

I was pleased to see climate controlled air conditioning, automatic wipers, traction control, stability control and brake assist in even the most basic Expression model.

Things I didn’t like about the Megane included the storage bins under the floor which would be fighting gravity to keep dirt out.

The Megane also has that silly Renault plastic key thing which is bulky and still has to co-exist with all the other metal keys we carry.

At $27,990 the Megane sedan is comprehensively equipped. It’s also the cheapest European-made turbo-diesel car on sale in Australia.

Safe motoring,
Dr Clive Fraser

For: Great handling and about $7,000 cheaper than a Golf TDi.

Against: Only 4 cogs in the automatic version.

This car would suit: Turkish doctors.

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    Medical Motoring is an online record of the articles written by Dr Clive Fraser and published in the Australian Medicine magazine by the Australian Medical Association.