An all-rounder is well-appreciated on the cricket field, and in the automotive world the Renault Megane GT-Line aims to impress with fine batting and bowling equivalents.
In this case the regular Megane targets being comfortable and practical, while the GT-Line model grade promises to add a little bit of sporting flair and style. This $30,000-plus five-door hatchback isn’t as ruthlessly pragmatic and affordable as the entry-level models, yet it isn’t as hardcore and expensive as Renault Sport versions.
Renault acknowledges that many rivals clamour within the small car space, with the traditional Mazda3 SP25 GT and Volkswagen Golf 110TSI R-Line, and the new Hyundai i30 SR and Holden Astra RS-V, all keen to be at the top of a buyer’s order.
Is the Megane GT-Line canny enough to catch its foes out on the full?
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $32,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 97kW/205Nm 1.2 4cyl turbo petrol | 7sp dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.6 l/100km | Tested: 7.9 l/100km
The upper-middle-tier Megane GT-Line costs $32,490 plus on-road costs. It adds $5000 to the price of the one-grade-below Megane Zen but shares with it a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Meanwhile it also costs $6000 less than the Megane GT, poaching its sports exterior styling cues, Nappa leather steering wheel, beefy sports seats and the like, but without its faster 1.6-litre turbo engine.
The Zen is the technical batter, playing a considered and defensive shot against the likes of the Toyota Corolla, while the GT is the sprinting fielder diving to save a ball from crossing the boundary against hard-charging SP25/SR/RS-V/R-Line batsmen.
But where does that leave GT-Line – offering the best of both worlds or being a master of none?
- Standard Equipment: Alcantara seats with front heating, cruise control, power mirrors and auto up/down windows, keyless auto-entry and start, leather steering wheel and dual-zone climate control air-conditioning
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, digital radio, AUX and USB input, and eight speakers
- Options Fitted: $1990 Premium Pack (LED headlights, 9.7-inch touchscreen and 12-speaker Bose audio)
- Cargo Volume: 434 litres
Things start very well for the Megane GT-Line, because basically it feels like a GT inside for thousands of dollars less. Towards $40,000 the Renault’s cabin doesn’t quite have the high-quality appointments and cohesive ergonomics to shine – but closer to $30,000 and it is more of a standout.
Some small cars could be considered bland or plain, but not the GT-Line. Walk towards it with the credit card-style keyless entry fob in pocket, and the vehicle detects the driver’s presence and swivels the door mirrors outwards. At night puddle lights flood the ground, before the hatchback automatically unlocks the doors.
Front occupants are greeted with beefy, Alcantara-clad sports seats, while both the front and rear doors include colour-selectable mood lighting that complements the matte-blue trim strips denoting this as a Renault Sport-inspired model grade.
None of the above applies to the cheaper Megane Zen, and nor does this Megane GT-Line’s standard Nappa leather steering wheel, 7.0-inch colour display ahead of the driver, its heated front seats, automatic-dimming rear-view mirror, front parking sensors with auto park assist and electric panoramic sunroof.
Further back a folding centre armrest has been added to the (thankfully) already included rear air-vents missing from some rivals, such as the Mazda3 and Astra. That said, Renault devoted more attention to the massive 434-litre boot volume than back-seat accommodation which, for headroom and legroom, is merely average.
The centre colour screen is also only 7.0 inches in diameter. Our test car featured a $1990 option package featuring a 9.7-inch touchscreen and Bose audio, as well as LED headlights outside. The touchscreen is also far from perfect, with slow touch- response time and poorly tuned voice control, although sound quality is excellent.
However, that takes the price to $34,490 (plus orc). A Mazda3 SP25 GT has Bose audio and LED headlights standard for $31,990 (plus orc). Both that rival and the also-$31,990 (plus orc) Astra RS-V further get 18-inch wheels ($990 option, with 17s standard), full leather and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) not found here.
In most ways the Renault Megane GT-Line is deeply impressive inside, both in terms of features and ambience. However, it feels more $30K than near-$35K as-tested.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 97kW/205Nm 1.2 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
Renault launched its new-generation Megane in October 2016 on some of country Australia’s bumpiest bitumen. While the GT shone, the Zen and GT-Line like they were Parisian catwalk models walking through a construction site.
Aforementioned Mazda and Holden rivals, as well as the Hyundai i30 SR and especially the Volkswagen Golf 110TSI R-Line, thrive in bumpy conditions. However, this hatchback feels out of its depth, lacking in both comfort and control.
Thankfully, however, beyond testing extremities the Megane GT-Line absolutely shines. This is a city hatchback that isn’t aggressively firm, or with fat tyres that throw up deafening road roar. Avoid nasty mid-corner bumps and potholes taken at speed, and this Renault is smooth and even soothing.
Quite soon, a subtle sports personality emerges – and becomes enticing.
On paper the 1.2-litre turbo is out of its depth at this price. With 97kW of power at 4500rpm and 205Nm delivered from 2000rpm, the Renault looks laughably off the pace versus the 1.4-litre turbo Golf (110kW/250Nm), 2.5-litre SP25 (138kW/250Nm), and especially the 1.6-litre turbo Astra (147kW/300Nm) and i30 (150kW/265Nm).
The Megane GT-Line may not be quick, but it’s more refined and more responsive than its modest 10.3-second 0-100km/h claim would indicate.
Thanks to superb response from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – calibration of which Renault has struggled with in the Clio RS but has obviously fixed, and then some – the engine is always kept on the boil and primed. The auto quickly picks lower gears and intuitively holds them, deftly shuffling up and down its ratio set.
Unavailable in the Zen but poached from the GT, the GT-Line also includes multiple driver-selectable modes including Eco, Neutral and Sport, the latter of which adds steering weight and a sportier shift pattern – yet still an intelligent one – for the auto.
It’s a worthwhile addition, with both the lighter and heavier steering settings delivering subtle shifts between city parking friendliness and corner-carving precision. Either way, the steering is lovely. On smooth roads, the handling is also pointed and poised.
When compared with rivals, the Megane GT-Line offers neither the breadth of performance and handling to be at the pointy end of the segment. But it’s also a subtle, sweet drive that impresses beyond the sum of its parts.
The Renault Megane has not been tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera with front/rear/side parking sensors and automatic park assistance.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Capped-price servicing program includes impressively long annual or 30,000km intervals at a highly affordable $299 each – but only for the first trio.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Astra is fast and polished, a brilliant small car, and likewise the i30 SR Premium offers similar virtues while being more aggressively sporty. The Mazda3 is another great all-rounder, but it is noisy and cramped in the back seat, while the Golf offers a premium experience in every way, from cabin to on-road.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Renault Megane GT-Line should be a four-star car. The auto-only semi-sporty model grade offers convincing and smooth driveability, if not outright performance, teamed with a comfy urban and freeway ride, and an engaging steering and chassis.
Combined with its mood-lit cabin and heavily bolstered seats, its al fresco panoramic roof and Bose audio, and its auto park assist prowess, and for most small car buyers most of the time, there is much to be impressed by.
While it could be the pick of the Megane lineup, however, the GT-Line should arguably start at $30K and then add a bigger screen, savvy audio and LED headlights as an option. At nearly $35K as-tested, it feels out of its depth, particularly given it lacks technology such as AEB and lane-keep assistance.
The message is clear, though: this is a Renault worth bargaining hard for, because it is indeed a fine five-door hatchback all-rounder.
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