The Mégane I was unveiled in the autumn of 1995, as a replacement of 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 legendary Renault 16 of the 1960s. As with the 19 and the 11 before it, the Mégane was produced in Renault's Douai plant in northern France, and in the Spanish plant of Palencia.
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 3-point seatbelt for the middle-rear occupant (replacing the common 'lap strap'), standard front belt pre-tensioners and load limiters, driver's airbag and an impressive safety structure - a specification ahead of most rivals in 1995. Some features, such as the 3-point middle belt, had debuted on the Renault 19 safety concept vehicle (and in fact this feature entered production on the Renault Laguna before the Megane). The car also benefited from Renaults 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. Megan I achieved a best-in-class 4-star crash test rating in the 1998 round of testing by EURONCAP.