Car reviews - Renault - Megane - GT hatch
Energetic engine, sweet steering and handling, great ride quality, cabin appointments, added active safety kit
Room for improvement
Pricing nears Golf GTI, touchscreen ergonomics, limited rear legroom, wagon roomier and still fun
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16 Oct 2017
IN AT least one way the Renault Megane GT has been an unstoppable force in the market since its introduction in late 2016. The warm-to-hot hatchback did not flatten sub-$40,000 rivals in sales volumes, mind, but it did lack the ability to automatically stop itself before an accident occurred.
Thankfully in mid-2017 the French brand updated its flagship hatchback – until the Sriracha-hot Megane RS arrives – with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) plus adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic up/down high-beam, all of which have been made standard.
The Megane GT finally has the active safety kit to match its sporty swagger, which is an especially good move for this ‘all-rounder’ model grade. Renault promises the GT can be comfortable yet fun, affordable but feature-packed, quick while being economical – and now, both secure and stylish.
So, has this become the Megane to tempt buyers away from other sporty small cars?
Price and equipment
Despite the addition of AEB, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and auto high-beam, the Megane GT is only $500 pricier than before, at $38,990 plus on-road costs. And yet inside it also upgrades from a 7.0-inch to a previously-optional 8.7-inch portrait colour touchscreen.
Although a digital radio and integrated satellite navigation system were already standard, the larger screen was formerly part of an optional Premium Pack that now drops $500 to cost $1490 extra. It still adds LED headlights and a 12-speaker Bose audio system, replacing the eight-speaker unit.
The only other option is a panoramic sunroof, at a pricey $1990 extra. Add both items and the Megane becomes a $42,790 proposition – a Volkswagen Golf GTI is $43,990 with an auto. The GT will be more highly specified by that point, however, with a sunroof, adaptive cruise, auto high-beam, premium audio, auto-reverse-park assistance, digital radio and heated seats eclipsing the GTI.
Dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, and 18-inch alloy wheels are also all standard on Megane and Golf.
If the Megane GT sells its sporty-chic image well on the outside – and it most certainly does thanks to sharp lines, silver detailing and twin-split exhausts – then that character is drawn out equally well inside the cabin. The dark tones of the soft-touch plastics are offset nicely with Renault Sport-trademark blue used for textures on the steering wheel and passenger-side dashboard, for the flanks of the Alcantara-trimmed front sports seats, and also soft mood lighting throughout the cabin.
The 7.0-inch driver display also illuminates with crisp graphics that even eclipse the Golf’s colour driver display, which is low-resolution compared with its high-res centre screen. In the Renault, it is the other way around: the 8.7-inch centre screen lacks clarity, while being ergonomically frustrating thanks to a climate menu that requires a finger to ‘swipe up’ from the lower millimetres of the screen.
The voice control works poorly and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring is lacking, but the inclusion of digital radio and superb-sounding Bose audio more than compensates.
When ensconced in the brilliantly bolstered and wonderfully supportive driver’s seat and gripping the fabulous flat-bottomed steering wheel, however, the Megane’s lack of storage space will grate to a lesser degree. The rear quarters are likewise cramped for legroom, but on the upside it does feature air vents – plus a GT wagon is $1000 extra, and its longer wheelbase adds back-seat space anyway.
Renault engineers have clearly prioritised luggage space over rear rider room, though, with boot volume of 434 litres being comfortably the most capacious of the class. And the wagon? 580L.
Engine and transmission
These days a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine could seem malnourished for around a $40,000 pricepoint. Forget comparisons with the Golf GTI’s 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo, because with 151kW of power at 6000rpm and 280Nm at 2400rpm, the GT’s outputs align with the Holden Astra RS (147kW/300Nm) and Hyundai i30 SR (150kW/265Nm) of the same engine capacity.
Except the top RS-V costs $31,740 while the flagship SR Premium requires a $33,950 outlay.
Initially, at least, the warm-to-hot Megane can feel delayed from a standing start, but once above idle the standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission teams surprisingly well with the engine. We say ‘surprisingly’ because the auto dubbed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) is ditzy in the Clio light hot hatch, although it gets six gears. Here the seven-speed is snappy and intuitive.
In all other circumstances, too, the Renault turbo and EDC combination feels dutifully brisk, surprisingly characterful, energetically rewarding and decently economical – on-test consumption of 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres was 2.3L higher than claimed – despite a portly 1392kg kerb weight.
Ride and handling
There could be several reasons behind why the Megane GT is so heavy, the most obvious being that it includes all-wheel steering – dubbed 4Control – as standard. This unique feature to the segment moves the back wheels slightly in the opposite direction to the front wheels at low speeds to enhance agility, while shifting all wheels the same way at higher speeds to aid stability.
Teamed with crisp and consistently mid-weighted steering, it works a treat, too. This Renault slings through tight corners with boxer-fighter immediacy, all the while feeling grippy and composed, and mostly avoiding understeer.
It is certainly more fun and focused than an Astra RS-V or i30 SR Premium, while it also delivers steering that comfortably eclipses that in a Golf GTI.
Renault Sport engineering magic also feels sewn into the suspension of this Megane, which is firmly disciplined but impressively rounded in almost every situation, but particularly around town.
Only on rough roads does the GT expose itself as a little softer than the (far above) average GTI, but the combination of moderate-to-strong performance gels beautifully with this chassis set-up.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual front, front-side, and curtain protection), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are standard fare.
ANCAP has not tested the Renault Megane.
Renault’s capped-price servicing costs $299 for each of the first three annual or 15,000km services, which is highly competitive for the class.
Renault deserves to be applauded for updating the specification of the Megane GT without substantially increasing its pricetag. Now with competitive active safety specification, it simply feels more complete, cohesive and convincing than ever.
An argument could be made that an Astra RS-V or i30 SR Premium do not feel special enough and are not dynamically rewarding enough, despite being impressive in both regards for the price.
Whether the Megane GT deserves to cost between $5000 and $7000 more is questionable. But in also being $5000 more affordable than a Golf GTI, the Renault makes more sense.
Not only does it sit between the above cohort in pricing terms, but the French warm-to-hot hatchback really does prove to be such a balanced offering in every other respect, from cabin quality and features, to performance and economy, to driveability and dynamics.
Its only major issues are around infotainment ergonomics and rear-seat space, the latter of which can easily be solved with the roomier wagon option.
Hyundai i30 SR Premium from $33,950 plus on-road costs
Fun, fast and feature-packed, but lacking a ‘premium’ cabin.
Volkswagen Golf GTI from $43,990 plus on-road costs
Superb do-everything hot-hatch also starting to get up there on price.
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