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Future models - Renault - Megane

First drive: Renault lifts Megane

Wide load: The new Megane has been stretched in every direction, including in width and track, over the previous generation car.

Bigger, bolder and smarter, Renault’s fourth-gen Megane hatch moves upmarket

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Renault logo15 Dec 2015

By TIM ROBSON in PORTUGAL

RENAULT has big plans for Australia over the next few years, and the all-new Megane, while not necessarily one of the lynch-pins, will help set the tone for the company’s success – or otherwise – in the brutally competitive local market.

Based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s flexible Common Family Module (CFM) architecture that is shared with the Nissan Qashqai crossover, the five-door Megane is bigger in almost all measurements, and will, for the first time, feature dual-clutch gearboxes and rear-wheel steering on some models.

A bold exterior with short front and rear overhangs still retains visual links to the last two generations of the Megane, while interior presentation and execution take massive steps forward in presence, quality and style.

As well, Renault claims that the Spanish-built Megane – due in Australia late in 2016 – was the subject of more than 700,000 test-road kilometres, while ride and handling improvements were also high on the car-maker’s agenda.

Locally, the new Megane is expected to arrive in the second half of 2016, in a range that, according to Renault Australia, will largely mimic the current line-up.

One key addition to the roster will be the Megane GT, which is set to replace the spicy GT220 range currently on sale locally.

“The GT is the stepping stone between the regular Megane and the RS,” Renault Australia corporate communications and sponsorship manager Emily Fadeyev told GoAuto.

“Our final range specs and pricing will be confirmed mid-way through 2016, but it will all look broadly similar to current line-up.” The company will continue to offer a 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged 97kW/205Nm petrol engine featured in the current Megane that returns 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres and emits 119 grams of CO2 per kilometre. It will be offered with both a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The GT will come with a 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol four, backed by the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It’s good for 6.0L/100km and emits 134g CO2/km.

A single diesel will be offered in dual-clutch spec the current 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that outputs 81kW and 250kW, returns 3.7L/100km and emits 95g CO2/km, will return.

Ms Fadeyev said that the new car will be expected to add volume to the Renault line-up, but declined to specify figures.

“If you look at the current Megane, it’s a product that’s an eight-year-old offering, and it’s been doing reasonably well,” she said. “Depending on the month, it fluctuates between our second and third highest-selling nameplate in the range, if you combined all of Megane. With an all new product, we’re confident that it will increase.”

The stove-hot Renault Sport Megane range will not arrive in Australia until well into 2017, and in a vastly different five-door/dual-clutch gearbox configuration to boot.

The current range – the RS265 Cup and Cup Premium, RS275 Cup Premium and RS275 Trophy – are manual-only three-doors, and have added 335 sales – or 19 per cent – to the Megane's overall tally thus far in 2015.

In total, Renault has sold 977 Megane hatches, 338 wagons and 117 convertibles so far this year, with diesels making up 11 per cent across the range.

Even though the company will prolong the lifespan of the current three-door hot hatch hero range for at least 12 months, the performance role will be left mainly to the Megane GT, which replaces the GT220 in the Australian range.

“The challenge with the GT220 is that it was a manual only, which does make it a more niche product offering,” said Ms Fadeyev. “With the new GT being a dual-clutch only, it gives us an opportunity to open that segment up. Also, having it from the start gives us an opportunity to integrate it into a campaign and raise greater awareness for the product.”

The GT220 uses a detuned version of the Renault Sport Megane’s 2.0-litre turbo four and is more powerful than the new GT with 162kW/340Nm on tap. That said, the GT with its 1.6 TCe and DCT can reach 100km/h from standstill five-tenths quicker at 7.1 seconds.

The 1205kg GT will come with various tricks up its sleeve, including launch control, a five-mode driving mode dial and something Renault calls Multi-Changedown via the steering wheel-mounted gear paddles.

A rear-steer system called 4Control is being claimed as a class-first by Renault, and gives the GT more agility at both city and highway speeds.

Under 80km/h in sport mode and 60km/h in other modes, the rears turn in the opposite direction to the front to aid low-speed turning and parking. The rears will turn in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds, aiding turn-in.

The Megane GT is also fitted with specific springs, dampers, anti-roll bars and steering, while the diameter of the brake rotors increases 30mm over those on the stock Megane (320mm at the front, 290mm at the rear).

Other chassis mods across the Megane line – which runs a semi-MacPherson strut front end and a torsion bar rear – include the elimination of bushings between the body and the front subframe, new front wishbone bushings, revised dampers and bump stops.

Noise, vibration and harshness control measures have been improved, with thicker windows, better exterior seals at the bottom of the doors, and standard acoustic glass windscreens across the range.

More foam and felt underneath the bonnet, around the opening panels and wheel arches, in the footwells, in the pillars and behind the boot’s trim work in conjunction with a stiffer bodyshell to quell noise.

Dimension-wise, the new Megane is 64mm longer than the previous car at 4359mm, 28mm longer in its wheelbase at 2669mm, the roofline is 25mm lower at 1447mm, and the front (1591mm) and rear (1586mm) tracks are 47mm and 39mm wider respectively.

The GT’s front bumper scores a wider air intake, while a honeycomb grille sits behind the large Renault diamond badge. At the rear, two large squared-off exhaust pipe tips protrude from a rear diffuser that Renault – which just announced its return to Formula One as a factory team – claims is ‘F1 inspired’.

Bold LED running lamps and LED tail-lamps always remain illuminated, according to Renault, while models such as the GT also score full LED headlights with an automatic dipping function.

Modified front suspension geometry and damper mountings have also resulted in a ride height drop of up to 30mm, depending on the model. Sixteen-inch rims are standard and 17s and 18s can be optioned on regular Meganes, while 18s are stock on the GT.

The Megane will be built in both five-door hatch and wagon configurations, but the three-door body style is no longer on the cards, which also puts paid to the notion of a convertible version.

The interior has received much attention, as well, with a 7.0-inch multi-mode TFT info screen complementing an 8.7-inch centre pinch/zoom capable console. A colour head-up display is only available on left-hand-drive models.

A multi-sense button on the centre console can toggle between five different predefined driving settings Neutral, Sport, Comfort, Perso and Eco, that modify throttle response, shift speed on the dual-clutch gearbox, steering feel and one of three artificially augmented engine noises (Neutral, Sport and Comfort).

The GT replaces the Eco button with an RS mode.

The Megane will offer adaptive cruise control, active emergency braking system, lane-departure warning, safe distance warning, overspeed prevention with traffic sign recognition (which will not be activated for Australia) and blind-spot warning, along with a reversing camera, automatic dipped and main beam headlights, front, rear and side parking sensors, and easy park assist.

All touch surfaces, including the upper door trims, arm rests and centre console are covered in foam-backed soft-touch material, while the steering wheel is trimmed in top-grade nappa leather.

Dual-density foam seats are built on the same frames that are used in Renault’s Espace people-mover and new Talisman premium sedan, and can be be trimmed in one of five colours. The front seats are heated, while the seat backs are sculpted for more rear knee room.

GT-Line variants will get sportier seats and a specific steering wheel, along with different colour options.

A brief test of the Megane GT around the rough, narrow roads of Lisbon revealed a car with a much more mature character than the ageing current car.

The interior is a huge step forward over what was essentially a ten-year-old car. A large central TFT screen in front of the driver replaces the traditional dials, with all pertinent info prominently displayed, including speed limit, gear position and distance to the car in front.

The large vertical centre console screen houses navigation, climate control, car adjustments and more, and is simple to use, if a bit laggy.

The faux blue carbon trim pieces in the GT’s dash and doors aren't convincing, but the seats, wheel and shifter certainly are. The bolstered seats in particular – unique to the GT – are supportive and comfortable.

Rear seat headroom is sufficient for all but the tallest occupants, while 414 litres of boot room still allows for a spare under the floor.

The GT rides very well in most situations, though it can crash across sharp breaks in the road thanks to low-profile 18-inch tyres. The damping tune changes via the driver mode switch, taking the edge off in comfort mode.

At first blush, at least, the suspension package is very well resolved and well thought out it’s a step above a standard car, but not as taut and frantic as the more focused RS.

The GT’s rear-steer function certainly adds a layer of seamless ability to the car’s talent pool, allowing more direct inputs with less adjustment at the wheel.

Steering feel from the electric system is very accomplished, too, with a decent amount of resistance and precision. It also changes weight and feel when the driver mode button is used.

The Megane’s 1.6-litre turbo engine, too, is willing, progressive and offers lots of low- and mid-range torque. First and second gears in the dual-clutch gearbox feel a bit short, but the transmission is well behaved otherwise.

A buzzing piece of driver’s door speaker trim and a poorly fitted bonnet release were more symptoms of pre-production models – the rest of the fit and finish was of a high standard.

If Renault can price the Megane GT keenly, it deserves a chance on people’s warm hatch shopping lists.

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