Renault Megane GT

Is the attraction more than skin deep?

RYAN LEWIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

ďYOU donít buy a Renault by accident,Ē says the Renault man next to me. ďItís a deliberate decision not to buy anything else.Ē

Looking at the left-handdrive Megane, I can see what he means. Its design flourishes look nothing like less-brave competitorsí, especially those LED hockey-stick headlight extensions.

This Euro-spec GT model is one of four shipped in by Renault Oz to preview. This model will top the core Megane range, producing 151kW/280Nm from the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol also found in Clio RS.

Itís the fieriest Megane outside the potent Renaultsport models that are more than a year away.

The engine is familiarly punchy, eager to rev, with a broad chunk of turbo torque. Nestling it into the softer, heavier Megane package has taken away some of the dogon- a-leash feistiness, though it remains tightly poised, especially in Sport mode with its sharpened throttle map and taut steering.

The GT gains a first-in-segment four-wheel-steering system called 4Control. At low speeds the rear wheels turn opposite to the fronts.

Itís immediately responsive and surprisingly natural, giving the sensation of the car turning from the middle. Only sharp mid-corner adjustments bring out a bit of Ďbendy busí behaviour.

Above 60km/h (80km/h in Sport mode) the system swaps undetected to turn the rear wheels in the same direction for remarkable highway stability, adding surefootedness without muddying the experience. In fact, it builds on the controlled ride and handling to extend driver appeal. Itís composed over big heaves in the road and feels like it would easily carry more speed through corners than the local constabulary would allow.

The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is quick to react and slick, unlike previous Meganes.

The Meganeís body is bigger and more rigid than before, housing a longer wheelbase and wider wheel tracks. So itís more spacious inside, with notable improvements to leg and knee room in the back seat, where the passengers benefit from generous headroom and their own air vents.

Interior appointments are comparable with its rivals in the C-segment market, though the cabin lacks the premium finish of a Golf. A fully digital TFT instrument display is well implemented, with unique graphics for each of the five drive modes.

Meganes have a history of standing out. Think secondgeneration model and its polarising bootylicious backside. The new model manages to keep Renaultís French individuality while upping accessibility. Priced right, this early preview suggests it has the best chance yet of cutting through to mainstream buyers in Australia.

Ready and waiting

Australians hungry for new Renaultsport product have more than a year to wait for fourth-gen Megane RS models to arrive, so the GTís sporty credentials could sway buyers in the meantime. Its performance figures are not a world away from hotter rivals such as the Golf GTI (162kW/350Nm), and Renault has specified track-ready systems including launch control and a multipledownshift feature, accessed by holding the left paddle until the dual-clutch íbox lands in the desired cog.

PLUS & MINUS

Cabin lacks premium finishes; synthetic engine noises in Sport mode Roadholding and stability; sharp dual-clutch; eager engine performance Model Renault Megane GT Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Renault Megane GT 1618cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 151kW @ 6000rpm 280Nm @ 2400rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1392kg 7.1sec (claimed) 6.0L/100km (EU) $40,000 (estimated) September