The fourth generation Renault Megane hatchback has received plaudits for its styling and refinement.
Now Renault has dropped a more powerful variant into the mix.
The Megane GT isn’t designed to compete against the most blistering hot hatches – Honda’s Civic Type R and Ford’s Focus RS, which have 306bhp and 345bhp, respectively.
Nope, gunning for the big boys will have to wait until the Megane RS arrives, probably in 2018. For now we have the GT, which is best described as a warm hatch. It’s available with a 1.6 litre 163bhp diesel engine or with the 205bhp 1.6 litre petrol I spent a week driving.
It looks terrific. Even the most basic Megane is a handsome car and with smart alloys, twin exhausts and some nice detailing it’s one of the most head turning hatchbacks on the road.
One of the hallmarks of the new Megane is that it’s bursting with technology.
There’s everything from a self-parking function to a head-up display that beams info onto the windscreen, and various choices of driving mode.
You can change the heft of the steering and there’s a large iPad style screen that looks terrific and works responsively. The driver can also customise the dashboard layout, picking everything from what and how much information is displayed to the colour, size and shape of the dials. Even the colour of the ambient lighting can be changed.
Strictly speaking it’s not really necessary but it’s a nice touch that makes it easy to personalise your car.
Another piece of tech is four-wheel steering. At low speeds the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to those at the front, making it easier to manoeuvre and more nimble in tight corners. Above 50mph, the front and rear wheels angle in the same direction, to boost stability and improve cornering. Does it work? Certainly it has an admirably tight turning circle and can nip around multi-storeys well. Whether it works well at higher speeds is harder to judge. The chassis is the biggest factor in what makes a car handle well or badly and few hatches – this one included – have as dynamic underpinnings as the Ford Focus.
The Renault handles well enough, but it’s not a machine that seems designed for on-the-edge driving.
The petrol model costs £25,500, which pitches it at the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Focus ST – the model below the Focus RS. It’s not as big a hoot on a country lane as either of these but it’s more comfortable than the Ford and has the edge over the VW when it comes to technology.
There was a time when 202bhp would have been at the upper end of the hot hatch power spectrum but that’s no longer the case.
It’s still quite a lot of power though. Zero to 62mph takes 7.1 seconds and top speed is 143mph. It isn’t too happy to be taken to the red line but there’s plenty of power available low in the rev range, making it easy to press on without having your foot to the floor.
The interior is a big step up from the last Megane. The GT version comes with slick looking sports seats and some enhanced trim. Renault have worked wonders with soundproofing and the Megane is perhaps second only to the peerless Golf when it comes to refinement at motorway speeds.
Ultimately, the Megane GT is not going to win the hearts of those who like stripped-out old fashioned hot hatches. It has plenty to offer other buyers though.
Think of it as a fairly fast, very stylish, comfortable hatchback (it has five doors and all the practicality of any other Megane) and you’ll be on the right track.