Car reviews - Renault - Megane - GT-Line
Proper pseudo-premium small hatch contender for mainstream money, fun round town, frugal on the motorway, flexible engine, pleasant interior, excellent aftercare package
Room for improvement
Snatchy dual-clutch transmission, urban thirst, usability niggles, cramped rear seat, vibrating accelerator pedal
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14 Nov 2016
Price and equipment
All Megane hatches come standard with keyless entry, a reversing camera, parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring system, touchscreen multimedia interface, an eight-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB connectivity and 12V power outlets for front and rear passengers.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob are also standard, as are dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights front and rear and 16-inch alloys.
Currently second from top in the range, the GT-Line tested here ($32,490 plus on-road costs) adds satellite navigation, front parking sensors, an electronic parking brake, a self-dimming interior mirror, an illuminated mirror in the sun-visor, an electric sunroof, a five-mode drive select system, customisable interior ambient lighting, electric adjustable folding door mirrors, black Alcantara upholstery, tombstone-style sports front seats, blind spot monitoring, automated parking, a sports bodykit, rear privacy glass and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Our test car was fitted with a $1990 premium pack that includes a portrait-oriented 8.7-inch touchscreen, Bose audio system and LED headlights.
All up, it is a pretty comprehensively kitted car for the money, save for the current omission of autonomous emergency braking that is fast becoming the norm in most car and SUV segments. Renault promises the safety system will be available in the near future.
Like its bodykitted exterior, the GT-Line interior has the look and feel of the current Megane flagship, the GT that borrows its drivetrain from the smaller Clio RS hot hatch.
Deeply bolstered Alcantara-clad sports seats hold front occupants firm without punishing overindulgence at the pie shop or causing undue discomfort when entering or exiting. Combined with the chunky steering wheel and various metallic blue carbon-look tri strips that match the upholstery’s contrast stitching, it all sets the scene for some dynamic driving.
Apart from lamenting the absence of a driver’s seat tilt adjustment, the front of the Megane is a comfortable place to be and we easily found a decent driving position.
The dashboard is well presented, mostly logically laid out and largely formed of quality materials that seemed well screwed together. For this reason we felt more than a little let down by some cheap looking and feeling surfaces on the lower dash and centre console.
A tray by the driver’s right knee and a reasonably large space beneath the central armrest make up for the small glove compartment. Devices can also be stored in a recess shared with the USB, audio input and 12V sockets in front of the gear selector. The front door bins can take quite large bottles with room to spare for other items, but we never felt completely confident putting hot drinks in the adjustable central cup holders.
Back seat passengers are very much in second class, though. Six-footers cannot sit in tandem, there is little headroom and the high-set bench forces anyone of above-average height to peer downwards through the window. Door bins can take bottles but little else and the concentric cup-holders in the fold-down armrest are a bit odd. At least air-conditioning vents are provided.
The boot has a high lip, which provides additional depth, but makes loading and unloading heavy items difficult. Also, the shape and angle of the rear bench backrest is not conducive to loading a stroller in there. Parents beware. There was no spare tyre under the floor of our test car either, just a puncture repair kit.
Another concern for parents is that while Isofix anchorages are present and correct, the sculpting of the rear bench hinders the fitment of wider child seats.
Despite having used a different automotive multimedia interface every week for many years, we couldn’t get to grips with the portrait-oriented R-Link 2 system fitted to our test car as part of the Premium option pack. Rather than large, easy-to-understand icons it was a sea of confusing text-based menus and too many levels to plough through when accessing basic functions.
The interplay between the rotary dual-zone air-conditioning controls, some buttons beneath the screen and other ventilation options in the touchscreen itself was perplexing. A split-screen layout with a too-small reversing camera image at the bottom rather than the top – forcing us to look low into the car and reducing peripheral vision – was the final straw.
We found some names in the five-mode drive select system odd, too. The default setting is called ‘neutral’ and that word is displayed on the instrument panel.
Some people might think that was the gear position selected. Also, Renault persists with its counter-intuitive cruise control layout and odd reach-around-style audio control panel behind the steering wheel.
The various drive modes alter the digital instrument display. Neutral is best as it combines an attractive rev-counter with large digital speed readout.
Comfort removes the digital speedo in favour of an analogue design. For anyone in zero-tolerance, speed camera-infested Australia, this is far from comfortable.
Finally, the key card. It seems to divide opinions between males and females.
The latter love its handbag handiness, the former are infuriated by its pocket- and wallet- unfriendly thickness and lack of keyring compatibility. Unlike Renaults of the recent past, there is also nowhere to stow it inside the car.
In the end, we just applied mental blinkers to the Megane’s quirks and enjoyed the drive. Because it really is enjoyable.
Engine and transmission
Don’t let the styling fool you. Beneath the furrowed-brow bonnet of the Megane GT-Line is a little 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine.
Thankfully, its respectable outputs of 97kW and 205Nm punt this reasonably lightweight 1265kg hatchback along nicely. It is a sweet little unit with lovely linear power delivery, impressive flexibility and a cheerful, throaty note.
We were less impressed by the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which was often snatchy when accelerating from a standing start, eliciting sideways glances from passengers and jolting awake children trying to sleep in the back.
Also, it would take ages to shift between forward and reverse gears, occasionally making the Megane liable to unfortunate roll-away moments when manoeuvring on inclines.
The transmission is much happier on the move, intuitively selecting the right ratio most of the time. The manual mode’s orientation is spot on, too, with forward for downshifts and backward for upshifts.
Unfortunately we often felt vibrations through the accelerator pedal at higher speeds.
On the motorway we achieved a respectable 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres but urban driving saw this soaring into the high eights and a country road thrash pushed it deep into the nines. Not good considering the official urban figure is 6.8L/100km and the combined cycle is 5.6L/100km.
Ride and handling
With the Megane GT-Line, Renault has achieved that typically French balance between supple ride comfort and dynamic deftness.
Despite its sporty looks and tied-down body control, we never experienced discomfort navigating potholed streets, ridged concrete motorways or patchwork country lanes. The worst of our road test route introduced a bit of shake, but nothing out of the ordinary, and road noise is well suppressed.
Exploring the Megane’s dynamic abilities a bit further, we initially discovered an apparent tendency to get jittery and upset by clipped cats-eyes or poor corner surfaces. It felt as though things could get a little wayward, or the stability systems would intervene unnecessarily.
But the more we drove it quickly, the more the Megane revealed its delightfully agile, eager and nippy nature. It is happiest when driven as smoothly as possible, with carefully chosen lines and mindfulness of surface condition. The car feels genuinely disdainful should the driver deviate from this preferred style, but intensely rewarding when you get it right.
Similarly, we at first felt the Megane’s steering was a bit artificial but soon got used to it and started to enjoy the crisp turn-in and generous feedback.
For the vast majority of purposes, the ‘neutral’ drive select setting works best. For enthusiastic twisty road driving, the meatier steering and more sensitive throttle in ‘sport’ make complete sense.
Safety and servicing
ANCAP is yet to rate the Megane, but continental counterparts Euro NCAP gave it a maximum five-star safety rating.
The adult occupant protection score was 88 per cent, child occupant protection 87 per cent, pedestrian protection 71 per cent and safety assist features 71 per cent.
Dual frontal, side chest and side curtain airbags are standard, along with anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control and seat belt reminders for all seats.
Renault Australia provides a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, roadside assistance and a three-year capped-price servicing plan under which service intervals are 12 months or a barely believable 30,000km, with pit-stops priced at a low $299.
The Megane GT-Line is an immensely enjoyable car to drive, but we often found it infuriating to live with.
Get over the niggles we endured and this is a stylish, well-equipped and uniquely cheap-to-run European hatch for comparable money to mainstream offerings.
Holden Astra RS-V from $33,190 plus on-road costs
Regardless of badge, this is a European car and it promises to come close to class leadership in a number of key areas.
Volkswagen Golf 110 TSI Highline from $33,340 plus on-road costs
The quintessential Euro hatch and reigning small-car class-leader. Renault is probably counting on the Golf’s plain-Jane ubiquity to help shift Meganes.
Mazda3 SP25 GT 2.5i hatch from $31,990 plus on-road costs
If a European badge is not a pre-requisite the Mazda3 makes a Megane sing for its supper considering the Japanese car’s sharp handling, superior performance and the option of a slick-shifting manual or excellent six-speed automatic, for less money.
Ford Focus Titanium EcoBoost from $32,690 plus on-road costs
If we are talking slick-steering hatchbacks here, the comfortable but corner-carving Ford has a lot to offer, with heaps of kit, decent practicality and a sweet drivetrain.
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