If you're looking for something different in your next family hatchback, can afford a pokey petrol engine and like a bit of Gallic character, this Renault Megane GT Nav with its innovative 4-Wheel Steering system could be perfect. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
The fourth generation of Renault's Megane is a big departure from its predecessor and follows a new direction of styling and engineering from the French company. Bolder exterior looks for this Ford Focus-class small hatch are matched by a new platform underneath and lots of clever technology, especially in this GT Nav TCe 205bhp version.
Renault has chosen to take a whole new approach with its Megane family hatch. There's fresh, appealing styling based on a completely new platform shared with the company's Kadjar crossover. It means the French firm's contender sits 25-millimetres lower than the car that went before and it's also wider to create more cabin space. Also aiding that is the extra 28-millimetres that's been inserted between the front and rear axles, something said to improve the ride and handling. All well and good - but what about the engineering changes? To get a feel for those, we chose to test the top variant in the initial range, the 'GT Nav' derivative which uses a pokey 205bhp 1.6-litre TCe petrol turbo engine and includes as standard a clever '4CONTROL' 4-Wheel Steering system, the first set-up of this type to be made available in the class.
This potent 'GT' model uses basically the same 205bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine you'll find in a Renaultsport Clio hot hatch, mated to that car's same 7-speed EDC paddleshift auto gearbox. The Megane GT isn't a full Renaultsport product but it does feature some of that Dieppe division's latest motorsport-derived technology. Things like Launch Control for F1-style starts. And a 'Multi-Change Down' facility for the auto gearbox that allows one touch of the paddle shifter to change you down several ratios at once - which is really useful if you're hurling yourself into a tight corner from high speed. The key clever feature on this 'GT' model though, is something that's really unique in this class - the '4CONTROL' 4-wheel steering system. The set-up's functionality is influenced by the 'Multi-Sense' driving mode setting you choose but basically, it works by allowing the rear wheels to pivot by a very small amount as you turn the steering wheel, making the car more manoeuvrable and easier to park at lower speeds and more precise and involving to drive at higher ones. At speeds of less than 37mph (or less than 50mph if you're in the 'Multi-Sense' system's 'Sport' mode), the rear wheels turn by 2.7-degrees in the opposite direction to those at the front. At higher speeds the front and rear wheels steer in the same direction, turning by up to 1 degree at the back. That might not sound much but you can really feel the effect when, say, tightly cornering round a roundabout or when changing lane quickly on a motorway.
Design and Build
The Megane has always been one of the more distinctive cars in the small hatch class. This fourth generation model is no exception to that heritage. The use of the 'Common Module Family' platform as an all-new base has inspired Renault's designers to come up with something that's fresh and appealing with just the right amount of Gallic sophistication. With the GT model we tried, there are LED main lights and the fogs are replaced with a satin aluminium opening to allow fresh air into the brakes. There's also a wider vent running across the lower section of the front to help with engine cooling. Move round to the side of the car and the first thing that might catch your eye will probably be the 18-inch 'Daytona' alloy wheels which feature a diamond cut finish on this sporty variant. Other distinguishing features for the GT include silver-finished door mirror covers and an evocative front wing side vent with identifying badge set into it. At the back, the GT has a silver-painted diffuser moulded into the bottom edge of the bumper. Twin exhaust pipe openings on either side are another sign this is the top level trim. Inside, there's black cloth upholstery with bold silver stripes running down the middle of sports seats that have an integrated headrest.
Market and Model
The potent 205bhp petrol 'GT Nav' variant we're trying here only comes with the EDC auto 'box, and costs well over £25,000. Finding a direct alternative to this model is somewhat difficult, since none of the cars it would normally be seen as rivalling come with the option of an automatic gearbox. Here, we're thinking of either equivalently-priced fast family hatches like Peugeot's 308 GT 1.6 THP and Ford's Focus ST EcoBoost - or cheaper comparably-performing contenders like Vauxhall's Astra 1.6 Turbo 200PS. The closest options we can think of are DSG auto versions of either SEAT's Leon FR 1.8 TSI or Volkswagen's Golf GTI: the SEAT would cost you around £2,500 less than a Megane GT, while the Golf would cost around £2,500 more. If you're prepared to consider something a little different, you'll find that Megane GT money could also buy you a Steptronic auto version of the MINI Clubman Cooper S. Renault would want us to point out though, that none of the cars we've just mentioned can offer anything like the clever 4-wheel steering system that comes as standard on a Megane GT.
Cost of Ownership
This potent Megane GT variant's 1.6-litre 205bhp TCe turbo motor stands up better to its rivals in efficiency terms than the lesser 1.2-litre TCe 130bhp petrol unit does lower down the range. Despite this variant having to use EDC auto transmission, it manages a very creditable 47.1mpg on the combined cycle and 134g/km of CO2 - returns far better than you'd get in comparably-powerful rival manual models like Vauxhall's Astra 1.6 Turbo 200PS and the Ford Focus ST EcoBoost. A Golf GTI can't better this Renault's fuel return either - and has dirtier emissions. As you'd expect in this day and age, across the range there's a Start and Stop system that cuts the engine when you're stuck at the lights or waiting in traffic. As a potential buyer, you might also be interested to note Renault's claim that this car now offers best-in-class service, maintenance and repair costs. On that subject, every model has a 12-month or 18,000-mile service interval. To spread the burden of garage visit costs, the French maker offers a couple of pre-paid servicing plans at point of purchase that cover you for either three years and 30,000 miles or four years and 40,000 miles.
Coming up with something different and yet still appealing in the super-competitive small hatch class is never easy. Has Renault achieved this? We think so. The styling is distinctive and so is the 4-Wheel Steer '4CONTROL' engineering on this potent 'GT Nav' model. That clever tech makes this car very precise to place through the corners, complementing suspension that already leaves it feeling very composed over bumpy roads. 4-Wheel Steer also makes the car easy to manoeuvre at parking speeds too. It's a pity that Renault currently limits this technology to this top, pricey variant. If you can stretch to it though, you might be surprised at just how much you'll like this Renault's joie de vivre.