For buyers tempted by the ascending scale from sensibilities to sports often offered within a small hatch range, the 2017 Renault Megane GT may deliver an answer.
This 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol five-door hatch is no entry-level model. It looks slick and upmarket, and its chassis is tuned by the hot hatchback masters at the Renault Sport division.
Yet this is no hardcore hot hatch in the same vein as the previous-generation Megane RS 265. As its Grand Tourer designation indicates, the GT is meant to balance the pragmatic virtues of the base Life with some dynamism from the RS.
Priced from $38,490 plus on-road costs, it is also out to tempt buyers away from the Volkswagen Golf GTI that in automatic DSG forms asks another $5000 – a sizeable saving of biscuits for those who don’t need the sliding scale set at ‘max sports’.
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $38,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 151kW/280Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo petrol | 7sp dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.0 l/100km | Tested: 8.3 l/100km
Specification for the Golf GTI is almost mirrored with the Megane GT. The Renault steps forward exclusively with heated front seats, digital radio and auto park assistance, but the Volkswagen counters with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, bi-xenon headlights and adaptive suspension.
The GT tested here gets a 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; the GTI gets a 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre and six-speeder. The 0-100km/h performance claims are 7.1 seconds and 6.4sec respectively.
Fellow French rival, the Peugeot 308 GT, would have more closely aligned with the Megane GT, but it’s now available only in 133kW/400Nm 2.0-litre diesel specification with an 8.4sec 0-100km/h. It adds a panoramic roof, LED headlights and blind-spot monitor to the Renault’s equipment list, but costs a hefty $42,990 (plus orc).
At the other end of the pricing spectrum, the Holden Astra RS-V offers a 147kW/300Nm 1.6-litre for $31,740 (plus orc) in six-speed automatic form, complete with full leather trim and heated seats. At least from a price to power to equipment ratio, it leaves the Renault (and Peugeot) looking wildly expensive.
- 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 minimum, 1247L maximum
Although the Megane GT takes an early pricing lead compared with a Golf GTI or 308 GT, a duo of $1990 option packages take the price to $42,470 (plus orc) and right to the door of the other contenders.
One option package includes a larger touchscreen with Bose audio and LED headlights; the other adds a panoramic sunroof to match the Peugeot. Either way, the extra equipment suits the lush, GT vibe to a tee – but for a price.
The Renault exterior’s silver highlights and diffuser with dual exhaust set-up are matched by the interior’s sporty equivalents, including heavily sculpted tombstone bucket sports seats and a chunky, small leather-wrapped steering wheel.
If the blue Alcantara trim is not colourful enough, then the identically coloured mood lighting and digital instrumentation should fill the remaining quota of brightness. It would be cruel to say it then appears like a train station bathroom at night, because the soft-touch plastics and large touchscreen help deliver a semi-premium ambience.
Using the touchscreen presents more of an issue. As with the 308 GT, Renault insists on squeezing the main climate controls in with the navigation and audio on the centre display.
The R-Link 2 software can be slow and glitchy, however, while accessing climate requires pressing or swiping a finger from the lowest few millimetres of the screen – the lowest few millimetres within a 9.7-inch diameter, that is, which can be difficult to access while driving.
Despite being an optional unit, the display is not of the high-resolution variety expected these days and the voice control system on our test car proved one of the least intuitive to use. By contrast the Bose audio system proved one of the sweetest-sounding units we’ve experienced from the brand (either Renault or Bose).
Although the front seats are mounted low and sporty, and provide great long distance comfort, the beefy design impacts on back seat legroom substantially. Renault doesn’t skimp on rear-rider amenities, at least, with airvents, a fold-down armrest with cupholders and door-mounted bottle holders providing a trio of big ticks.
Boot volume is also enormous by class standards, with the quoted 434 litres eclipsing the 360L Astra and 380L Golf, and all-but-identical to the 435L 308.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 151kW/280Nm 1.6 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 with rear steering
Oh the difference a decade makes. Back in 2007 the Golf GTI produced 147kW/280Nm and was considered a hot hatchback. Today’s 2017 Megane GT is considered warm-to-hot despite 151kW/280Nm outputs.
So does that make this Renault a bit like yesterday’s Volkswagen, but with the bonus of extra equipment? Not quite.
The GT debuts four-wheel steering in the Megane range, potentially as a preview technology for the forthcoming new-generation RS. We certainly can’t imagine Renault Sport engineered the technology just for one model.
Dubbed 4Control, it twists the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts when cornering at low speed to enhance agility, forcing the rear to pivot into the bend and help reduce understeer. Yet at greater speed it twerks the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts to keep the rear tracking true and enhance cornering stability.
It certainly looks to be a weighty addition, because the Megane GT tips the scales at a hefty 1392kg. An Astra RS-V comes in at 1344kg; a Golf GTI at 1324kg.
Accelerating from standstill, the Renault Sport-tuned 1.6-litre turbo struggles to feel immediately responsive. On the move, however, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic surprisingly keeps the engine on the ball. We say surprisingly because the six-speed version in the Clio RS fails in the areas in which the Megane GT succeeds.
Kept revving and singing, the turbo/auto combination proves responsive, brisk and engaging. That’s particularly the case in Sport mode or when using the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters.
The medium-weighted and creamy-smooth steering is a delight to use when threading corners together, and the 4Control system can be felt working as it requires less turn-in steering movement than initially expected.
It works as well in town or out in the country as the fixed sports suspension does. The broad damping range of a multi-mode adaptive suspension may be lacking, but the single Renault Sport tune delivers a masterful blend of comfort and compliance.
Perhaps on really rough roads at speed the Megane GT isn’t quite as tightly tied down as the multi-mode Golf GTI is in its firmest Sport setting, but this is a Grand Tourer and there is nothing wrong with slight softness if the chassis is poised.
Thankfully, it most definitely is. Being not overly powerful by today’s standards, the engine rarely overwhelms the front tyres exiting corners, while the enhancements of 4Control bring the rear of the vehicle into play quite passively, but rewardingly so.
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 and front, rear and side parking sensors.
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 RS-V is as much a bargain as the 308 GT is expensive. Those three little letters – GTI – close in on an optioned Megane GT, if you can live without the extra equipment.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For better (for buyers) or worse (for rival manufacturers), the likes of the Astra RS-V have arrived to reset the price-for-performance benchmarks in the small car class.
The Megane GT is as good as that similarly new Holden rival and the Renault’s sportier looks and racier seats could even make a case for the extra surcharge it commands. But a sunroof, LED headlights and a large touchscreen should be standard for this price.
This French contender doesn’t have quite the expected equipment for the price, which is a perspective further enforced by missing intuition on the optional screen, and a lack of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) or even forward collision alert and blind-spot monitor availability.
In every other regard – cabin ambience, drivetrain finesse, and consistently impressive steering, ride and handling – the Renault Megane GT is a solid four-star performer. Alas, because the market’s expectations on price, kit and tech are fiercer than ever, it falls just short of that score.
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