If you’re not convinced by the new compact performance SUV craze, then perhaps a more ‘traditional’ hot wagon might be the ticket, and the Europeans know how to do a good one at that.
Naturally more athletic with a lower centre of gravity and carrying less weight, a compact wagon such as the Megane GT offers a blend of hot hatch performance and big boot practicality but without a sting in price.
And if there’s even the lightest trickle of petrol in your veins the GT wagon is currently the only performance-oriented wagon or SUV in the French brand’s line-up.
Vehicle Style: Compact wagon
Price: $39,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.0 l/100km | Tested: 8.3 l/100km
Renault introduced three new wagon variants with its most recent Megane update that brings an entry model Zen, mid-spec GT-Line and this top-grade GT which effectively replaces the GT220 wagon before it.
While the GT isn’t an elongated version of the incoming Megane RS it has been tuned by Renault Sport and gets a beefier version of the Clio RS200’s 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor that sits in a specially tuned chassis. It’s a little down in output compared to the previous GT220’s naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre engine but unlike that car it now comes with an automatic transmission which is sure to put it in more driveways than before, although the manual has been completely scrapped.
It’s also priced competitively and starting from $39,990 the wagon bodystyle adds just $1000 to the price of the GT hatchback.
The options list is thin with just a panoramic sunroof and Premium Pack available that adds a 12-speaker Bose sound system with LED headlights - though the Bose subwoofer will replace the spare tyre with a do-or-die repair kit.
Sitting above the 1.2-litre powered GT-Line which mimics some of the GT’s looks but lacks its dynamics, the GT adds unique 18-inch alloy wheels, trick four-wheel steering, bespoke Renault Sport front bumper with glossy black grille and of course, GT badging.
It’s a car that shows graceful athleticism rather aggressive intention and it matches its on-road ability.
- Standard Equipment: Alcantara trim, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, heated electric seats, rear seat air vents, keyless entry and start, adaptive cruise control,18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.7-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB radio, CD player, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, seven-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 580 litres | 1504 litres
As far as sport-inspired interiors go the GT gets it right. Black and blue Alcantara cover the seats and rather than finish the lot with only blue highlight stitching, white chequered knit work cuts up the middle of the seats for added character. The Alcantara blue flanks are matched to metallic blue ascents on the dash, door panels and steering wheel, and are met with thin strips of metallic silver trim and aluminium sports pedals.
The Nappa leather steering wheel is just as well thought out and its shaven sculpting fits into the hands nicely, capturing the overall level of quality in the cabin. There’s plenty of creative flair and GT badging but it’s not overdone.
The heated front seats are electrically adjustable and sling low for a good driver's position or high for better vision over the bonnet. The sports-inspired bolstering is hugging and firm but over long distances the seats don’t get uncomfortable.
Despite sitting on the same wheelbase as the hatchback, the GT wagon has squeezed almost 40mm more legroom between the two rows. The result is more comfort for adult passengers and a little more space for setting up a baby seat. It doesn’t offer the sort of space in the back as a full-size wagon but there’s breathing space so families won’t fight for the front passenger seat.
Along with added leg room, the wagon adds 270mm of length over the rear wheels that gives it a 580 litre boot with the seats up - more than 100 litres bigger than the hatch. Pop them down, and use the nifty seatbelt holders to save the sash from being squished, and the cargo area opens up to 1504 litres. That’s on par with the capacious Skoda Octavia wagon and more than a mid-size SUV such as the Mazda CX-5.
The infotainment is a relatively large 8.7-inches with a clean interface but its mounted portrait rather than landscape which makes some commands distracting when driving, but it also removes a few clunky looking buttons from the dash. Some of the climate control commands require infotainment input though and its location low on the screen takes eyes too far away from the road to concentrate properly.
The latest R-Link infotainment software version has been loaded that adds phone connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and sits alongside the usual Bluetooth and DAB+ features.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: Macpherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 320mm ventilated front discs, 290mm rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 10.4m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1400kg braked, 750kg unbraked
The GT is the heaviest wagon in the Megane line-up at 1430kg but its 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine receives a mild tune over the Clio RS200 unit its sourced from and improves performance. Compared to the Zen and GT-Line's leisurely 11.7 second dawdle to the ton from a standstill, the 151kW/280Nm GT gets the job done in 7.4 seconds when using launch control. While that might not frighten any hot hatches, it's about one and a half seconds slower than the Honda Civic Type R and provides enough power for some enthusiastic driving.
That trait is backed up by Renault Sport’s chassis tune and trick new four-wheel steering that turns the rear tyres in opposite direction to the front wheels at low speeds and with them when moving faster for go-kart like handling. Indeed, it reduces the turning circle of the wagon from 11.4 to 10.4 metres but when driving around town it provides an unusual sensation compared to conventional steering setups.
But there’s plenty of composure provided by the tweaked chassis and the GT wagon shines when driven a little harder, and the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission performs best when in RS Drive sport mode, losing its laziness that is slightly frustrating in traffic. The steering column mounted paddle shifters are long and easy to find when needed too but manual mode doesn’t allow complete control, instead insisting on changing gears near the engine’s 6000rpm redline.
Other mechanical changes for the GT include the brake package that receives larger 320mm front and 290mm rear discs and provide responsive braking with plenty of bite when carrying larger loads.
For city driving and around general suburbia the GT is comfortable and its sports suspension is well tuned for less than perfect streets, soaking up bigger hits on the 18-inch alloy’s low profile rubber. Road noise is good too, and the cabin is relatively quiet on mixed surfaces.
ANCAP Rating: The Renault Megane range has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: All Megane models come with six airbags (dual front, front seat side, and full-length curtain), ABS brakes with emergency brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, and tyre pressure monitoring.
The GT adds additional advanced safety features including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, and automatic high beam.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals occur every 12 months or 30,000km (whichever occurs first) with Renault capped-price servicing covering the first three services for a fixed $299. Consult your Renault dealer for full terms, and conditions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The compact wagon segment isn’t plump with sporty contenders so the GT’s position isn’t heavily contended, but there’s a few contenders worth considering.
Holden’s new imported Commodore RS Sportwagon has an energetic 2.0-litre turbo producing 191kW and 350Nm that the lion brand says is good for a 0-100km/h time of around 7.0 seconds. It’s marginally more affordable at $39,490 but it’s also noticeable bigger and almost 2.0L/100km thirstier without some of the sporty appointments of the GT.
French rival Peugeot pitches the 308 Allure as a plush rather than sporty ride with a larger 625 litre boot and cheaper $37,990 price. Performance isn’t its strong point though and it’s diesel turbo-only engine completes the 0-100km/h dash in 10 seconds.
The Czech-built Skoda Octavia RS 169TSI wagon is a strong competitor and its larger 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 169kW and 250Nm that’s the quickest of the bunch, hitting 0-100km./h in 7.0 seconds flat. Its boot is on par with the GT at 588 litres large and it offers a different but equally sporty design, though the French car feels more unique.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4/5
The GT is the most sophisticated model in the Megane wagon line-up and though it costs $6000 over the GT-Line, it adds some needed power and better ride that make it a versatile and fun compact wagon to drive.
Because its without many competitors the GT is an almost unique offering at its size. The new Holden wagon doesn’t have the same sporty feel and the Octavia tends toward a safer and sterile approach to its aesthetic. If the look and feel inside tick the boxes, the GT is a smart option over the tide of incoming compact SUVs.
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