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Review: Autogas Renault Megane 2.0 Turbo Sport 225 - Big Fun at 69p a Litre
Watch My Wallet's Features Editor, Alastair Walker, reviews a LPG converted Renault Megane 2.0 Turbo Sport 225.
There are many good reasons to live in the UK, but the price of fuel isn't one of them. Fact is, we have some of the highest taxes in the world on petrol and diesel.
So hooning about for a week in a 225bhp Renault Megane, using LPG at 69p a litre, rather than unleaded at £1.37p a litre, was one of life's rare moments of driving joy in Osborne's Downton Abbey Britain. It didn't really matter that when I nailed the car in second and third, shooting past traffic like Eric Pickles spying a free buffet, because it was chinning fuel at about 27mpg.
Basically you're halving your day-to-day fuel costs with LPG, what's not to like?
The more miles you drive, or the bigger and more powerful your engine, the greater the savings every year. So there's no denying that LPG for someone with say a V6/V8 petrol engine is a no-brainer and those who drive say a 2 - 2.5 litre car with a caravan will also find each trip to the pumps less painful in the wallet department.
But it's not all gravy with LPG. In fact there's no gravy involved, it's a kind of propane.
There Are a Few Little Downsides to LPG Conversions
Let's start with the basic problem; you still need a petrol tank. The LPG - Propane stuff doesn't like igniting on a cold day in Grimsby quite so easily as unleaded. So the Renault starts on petrol, the engine warms up, then it switches over to LPG without you even noticing.
But that means the LPG tank goes where the spare wheel normally lives. With a petrol tank next to it. It also means that the government very kindly knock a whole £10 a year off your VED car tax. Yep, ten pounds. Whoop-de-doo.
Despite an LPG car emitting about 0.18 grammes per kilometre compared to about 80-90gms/km for an average small-medium diesel car. Which gets a free VED sticker. Blatantly unfair and makes a mockery of the whole `emissions based' VED tax bandings.
Then there's the fiddly business of refuelling. You have to use one of 1400 LPG stations across the UK. In remote areas, that could mean a 20 mile drive to refuel - that's eating into any theoretical savings.
So you stop at the one LPG pump on the forecourt. Slot the nozzle on, press hard, turn a stiff collet to the right to lock it into position, then push the button on the pump. So far so good.
Once you've fuelled up then you twist the collet left and as the seal breaks, a slightly surprising whoosh of LPG blows out - and you really don't want this stuff on your hands or face. I can see how you'd develop the `knack' of refuelling with LPG, but the fact is putting diesel or petrol inside a car is a bit easier.
It is a tad fiddly using LPG and the smell of gas in the air might be off-putting for some drivers - you may wonder what toxic brew of carbon chemistry is whooshing out each time you twist that collar back anti-clockwise.
Is An Older Megane Sport Turbo a Good Used Buy?
Driving a seven year old sporty hatchback was surprisingly addictive. The Megane Sport uses the Cup chassis, and it is absolute alive with feedback from the road. Every pothole is thumped through your bum end, the steering is generally precise, just gets slightly vague on badly repaired sections of road.
Overall, the Megane Sport felt responsive, much more than involving than I expected and you can place the car inch perfect in corners.
The massive brakes allow the kind of late braking into roundabouts that's almost trackday standard. I loved braking late in this car.
The Megane doesn't flinch, it just squats down - you let the brakes off - and skim through the roundabout before gunning the accelerator and heading off into the distance.
It was ace fun driving this car. In fact, it was such fun, I couldn't believe it was French.
Being French however, meant it did suddenly switch the wipers on a few times when I flicked the right-hand indicator on. It also leaked about a litre of water in the passenger door pocket on a wet night and the air con blew warm air, not cold.
But considering an unholy crew of motoring journos from across the UK have probably hammered this Megane senseless over the last few years, the car was still a joy to drive 90 percent of the time.
How Affordable is This LPG Conversion Lark?
Typical conversion costs are about £1200-£1500, although for something like a two litre turbo, it could be around £1800-£2000 and there's an association of Autogas approved installers for those who want to play safe and have the job done by real professionals.
A bit of research found some places offering gas conversions from £600 upwards on smaller engines. Would you trust their fitment to last...and not damage your engine though?
Personally, if I was investing in LPG then I'd probably choose a BMW 528, Golf GTi or maybe a Honda Integra, over any Renault Megane - the reliability record isn't brilliant on the French brand.
If you do fancy a used Renault Megane 2.0 Sport I found several at around £4000-£5000, so add on another £1500 and you have a 140mph performance car, using fuel at 69p a litre for the price of a new Dacia Sandero.
Can't argue with that.