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Car reviews - Renault - Megane - range

Our Opinion

We like
More variants to choose from, better value, wagon styling, improved interior packaging, GT220 wagon offers sizzling performance in practical package, refined diesel, long warranty
Room for improvement
Japanese and Korean rivals still cheaper, base 2.0-litre petrol and 1.5 diesel lack dash, some ergonomic eccentricities, dash look and materials below class-best


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18 Jul 2013

AN interesting trend has emerged in the SUV-mad Australian car market in the past 12 months, with a steady trickle of small station wagons hitting the market.

Since early last year, wagon versions of the Holden Cruze and Opel Astra have arrived, as has a new-generation of the Hyundai i30 load-lugger. Favoured by fleets, these models joined existing rivals including the Volkswagen Golf and Peugeot 308.

Perhaps Australia is finally catching on to what the Europeans have known for some time: small wagons are a practical and occasionally stylish alternative to high-riding SUVs.

Renault Australia, it seems, is also aware of this, and has therefore introduced a wagon as part of a mid-life update and variant re-jig for its three-year old Megane line-up.

At the same time, the French brand has attempted to add some spice to the recipe by adding a new GT-Line mid-spec variant available in wagon and hatch bodystyles.

If people bought vehicles based on style alone, the Megane wagon would sell by the... err... wagon-load. It’s a sharp looker for a load-lugger – the Euros sure know how to pen cars of this type.

Very subtle styling changes differentiate the GT-Line to the others, but the honeycomb-shaped grille, boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights GT-Line badging add to the allure.

The Megane’s simple and clean dash design remains unchanged, but the GT-Line comes with red stitching on the leather steering wheel and a carbon-fibre-look dash insert with a thick red strip running underneath.

Renault has tried to break up the grey cabin by using different materials on the dash and door inserts, but it still feels fairly plasticky and can’t match the high-quality dash and cabin materials of the Golf.

We thought Renault’s decision to place the button for the cruise control in the centre console between the gear-shift knob and storage compartment a little odd and the angle of the speedometer and tacho took a while to get used to.

However, Renault does score points for other elements in the cabin, with the super-supportive GT-Line cloth sports seats, front leg and head room and rear head room, and the feel of that steering wheel all giving the little Renault a boost in the comfort stakes.

The 2.0-litre petrol GT-Line wagon starts at $27,990 plus on-road costs, but we sampled the version fitted with the Premium Pack which adds a rear camera, parking sensors and luxuries such as a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery and heated front seats for an extra $3500.

The inclusion of the Premium Pack lifted the cabin considerably, with two-tone leather and white seat-belts adding colour and class.

Cargo space is also notable, with capacity of 524 litres with all seats up and 1600 with the rear seats lowered. This edges out the Golf wagon with 505 litres with rear seats up and 1495 litres when lowered.

There is a neat extra storage space under the floor of the cargo area for smaller objects that can be strapped down if required.

The petrol engine produces 103kW/195Nm of torque and is more powerful than the diesel, and is marginally quicker to 100km/h (10.6 seconds).

On paper it’s there or thereabouts with the key players, but in reality it needs revs – something the CVT provides in copious doses. Renault’s official fuel consumption for the petrol wagon is 7.9 litres per 100km, and on our brief stint in the load-lugger on mountainous roads and urban streets, we recorded 9.3L/100km.

The 81kW/240Nm 1.5-litre oil-burner is small for the class, and cannot belie its undersized capacity. It’s quiet and refined, and frugal too (sub 5.0L/100km), but lacks the fizz of many rivals.

To add substance to the GT-Line’s sportier pretensions, Renault stiffened the springs and dampers and lowered the front roll centre height by 30mm.

The ride was smooth on its 17-inch wheels, and it isolates the driver from the spotty Queensland roads that composed our test route. At the same time, though, the ride is a touch jiggly at lower speeds, and road noise pervades the cabin.

Our final drive of the day was in the limited edition GT220 (not to be confused with the GT-Line) wagon, engineered by Renault Sport and fitted with bits from the Megane RS265.

Renault is limiting numbers to 220 in Australia with the possibility of increasing this depending on demand, and we think they would be wise to put that request in to Renault HQ in France pretty soon.

There are not too many stylish, sporty, small wagons available in Australia – the Skoda Octavia RS wagon is the exception – but Renault has made it even more affordable with a starting price of $36,990 plus on-road costs, $3000 less than the Octavia.

This undercuts the Megane RS265 Cup that retails for $42,640 and while it may not have the same level of performance as the hot-hatch, it is far more practical and will suit buyers who want something that delivers a sports-car like ride but can carry kids, luggage or shopping if required.

The GT220 feels like a completely different car to the Megane GT-Line wagon.

First of all, the engine and throaty exhaust note is pure Renault Sport.

Powered by a de-tuned version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit from the RS265, the GT220 produces 162kW/340Nm, compared to 195kW/360Nm output of the RS265 Cup hatch and races from 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds, 1.1 seconds slower than the Cup.

This is matched solely to a smooth-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, driving via the front wheels.

Our driving route took us on some very windy roads and around some rather tight bends and the GT220 is made for this stuff.

The road holding and cornering ability of the GT220 is, unsurprisingly, a strong point, with the sexy 18-inch black wheels holding on tight – it’s cut from the same cloth as the sublime RS hatch,The GT220 likes hills too, which is lucky, because we encountered a lot of them. The wagon took the challenge of some very steep inclines and conquered them without even the slightest hint of a struggle.

Renault has included idle stop to keep official fuel use down to 7.3L/100km and while we exceeded this with a figure somewhere above 10.0L/100km, we didn’t really care.

This is undoubtedly a wagon for driving enthusiasts, and the appeal of the Renault Sport pedigree will likely ensure all 220 examples of this vehicle are snapped up very quickly.

Well done to Renault for recognising that practicality and performance aren’t mutually exclusive and for packaging a solid performance car into a sexy wagon bodystyle at a price that won’t bring on a financially-induced panic attack.

The updates to Renault’s Megane range have improved what is a good, but not class-leading small car, and by more closely aligning the much-loved Renault Sport performance-brand with the standard Megane range, the French car-maker should see a lift in sales for its refreshed small car.

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