FOR 2016, RENAULT HAS A SPANKING NEW MEGANE AND A DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT CAR FROM THE SOFTLY STYLED MODEL IT REPLACES.
As well as sharper looks, and Renault’s new family front and rear, the GT model also features a new engine - one that's smaller and marginally down on power compared to the GT220 it will replace, but certainly not lacking for charm.
The same goes for the interior which has had a comprehensive rethink, picking up a huge touchscreen interface and a more mature sense of style.
Vehicle Style: Small Hatch
Engine/trans: 151kW/280Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.0 l/100km
The term 'warm hatch' has sprung from the necessity to describe decent-performing small cars that offer a handy amount of grunt and capable dynamics, without the all-out levels of craziness that have infected the hot hatch genre.
Renault’s Megane GT has been developed by the same engineers that craft the Clio RS and Megane RS ranges. It still packs more oomph and sharper handling than the standard Megane, but does so in a less-aggressive way than the "no-compromises" RS.
We took to the roads of Portugal for an early look at what to expect when the new Megane arrives in Australia and came away impressed with a thoroughly capable, practical, and enjoyable little warm hatch.
- 3D-effect velvet seat trim, front sports seats, 7.0-inch TFT instrument display, keyless entry and start, 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, front, rear, and side parking sensors, LED headlamps, LED front and rear running lights.
- Infotainment: 8.7-inch R-Link 2 touchscreen, Bose audio, USB input, Satellite navigation, reversing camera
- Luggage capacity: 384 litre (seats up)
The star of the new Megane’s interior is the 8.7-inch R-Link 2 touchscreen, the largest in its segment. From it, you’re offered a full range of settings, controls, and display options to tailor the vehicle, and the display, to your personal preference.
The instrument cluster also scores a screen that can be configured with different displays, flanked by a pair of traditional gauges. The dash and its layout is a huge departure from the outgoing model.
As part of the GT trim package, the front seats are heavily bolstered, offering brilliant grip and a sporty driving position while still offering decent comfort. Suede-like ‘velvet’ seat trim, blue contrast stitching, and blue-striped seat belts complete the GT look.
The look and feel is sporty - some may find the front seats a little too grippy, but after three hours behind the wheel on some fairly demanding sections of road, we found it was still comfortable.
Changeable ambient lighting adds an upmarket feel, but the verdict is still out on the appeal of the anodised-look carbon fibre pattern door and dash inserts.
Interior space has also grown, with added leg and shoulder room, making the rear more accommodating for adults. The boot gets a boost as well, to 384 litres VDA (434 litres SAE).
Renault has also added additional steering wheel controls for radar cruise and vehicle menu functions, but audio controls still reside on a paddle protruding from the steering column. That also forces a compromise with the shift paddles, which are mounted higher than you might expect.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 151kW/280Nm 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: Front MacPherson struts with rear torsion beam
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes, 320 mm ventilated front rotors, 290mm solid rear rotors
- Steering type: Front electrically assisted power steering, rear electrically actuated steering, turning circle: 10.4m
Compared to the GT220 that the new GT stands in for, the engine drops in size from 2.0 litres down to 1.6 and power drops slightly from 163kW to 151kW. Despite that, the GT still feels lively, with more than enough power in reserve to thrill on demand.
It may not be a rocket in the same league as a fully-fledged RS model, but nor is it intended to be, with a more balanced approach to performance and comfort.
There’s no choice of transmission however, with the 1.6 litre engine mated solely to a seven-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic transmission. The new auto is a decent unit, with good low speed manners and smooth, rapid gear shifts.
Another trick up the GT’s sleeve is called 4Control - four-wheel steering that turns the rear wheels up to 2.7 degrees. At low speeds the rears turn opposite to the fronts to reduce the turning circle, but as speed rises the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front for added stability.
The 4Control system can also be altered by selecting Sport mode via the Multi-Sense controller, it also offers Normal and Comfort modes, a personal option, plus a more aggressive RS mode.
Punched along a route that took us over some tightly winding roads from Torres Verdas to Santo Isidoro, the Megane GT put its incredible road holding on show - a trip, however, accompanied by constant rain that kept the road surface slick.
Despite the rain, or thanks to it, the Megane GT showed the benefit of its four-wheel steering system and beautiful balanced agility. In Sport or RS mode, the threshold for tighter turn-in is lifted from 60km/h to 80km/h giving a more precise road feel.
Feel through the wheel is numbed slightly, but the front wheels are deadly accurate and the slightly heavy weighting feels just right for open road touring.
We think Renault’s new small hatch has what it takes to charm buyers. Not quite as demanding as some of the hotter performance hatches, but certainly able to deliver a dynamic thrill when needed.
Aussie roads may reveal some important differences once the car arrives on local soil. But, given the state of some of Portugal’s back roads, it’s hard to imagine the Megane GT’s likeable character will diminish much on similar surfaces here.
Premium features such as segment-first four-wheel steering (although much like the Honda Prelude and Accord of twenty or more years ago) and the jumbo touchscreen will be sure to win the hearts of buyers.
Being able to borrow from Renault’s larger cars such as the Espace and Talisman (neither of which will be offered in Australia) has given the new Megane some interesting technologies.
Price will be the deciding factor, and Renault Australia isn’t prepared to reveal the final figure, still negotiating with the factory for the best deal.
If it can get close to the $35,490 entry point of the current manual-only model, the Megane GT has more than enough in its kit to take the fight up to high-end Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf models.
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