THE DEVIL, they say, finds work for idle hands. So with much of the month off, I found time to truly explore the GT side of my Renault Megane wagon.
Colleague Nathan Ponchard had already used AOC-309 as an effective tool to scout for a fresh road loop for Car of the Year. After his first stint behind the lovely wheel of the Spanish-built wagon, our road-test veteran was impressed with its combination of character, agility and comfort. Quite the step up from the bread-and-butter versions, he declared.
Appetite suitably whetted, I too undertook an intrastate blast through south-eastern and central Victoria’s more alluring roads. And as the clicks accumulated, likewise something clicked in me. Namely how masterfully Renaultsport’s chassis magicians have transformed the chassis. Yes, the regular Megane’s core is fundamentally sound, but the GT-specific componentry and tune, combined with active four-wheel steering, infuse true hot-hatch interactivity.
Docile but never dull in Comfort or Neutral modes, pressing the ‘R.S. Drive’ button (that looks like an air purifier symbol) ahead of the electric park brake to select Sport ushers in a number of engine, transmission and steering tweaks that are the automotive equivalent of growing a set of satanic horns.
That additional low-rev turbo shove (plus racier instrument choices, as well as a synthesised baritone exhaust note that I actually enjoy) when booting the 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre GT hard through corners reveals just how reactive its Sport-primed steering is, especially when turning in, and how controlled the rear end is carving back out again.
The handling feels super alive, ultra-planted and utterly non-corruptible, with that devilish RS DNA and darty four-wheel steering endlessly egging you on – just like a GTI ought to. Tight and tricky turns are easily tamed, aided by bolstered seats, big paddles and slick dual-clutch responses. I could live with this thing in perma-Sport mode.
I’ve enjoyed the comfort and versatility that this expressive estate offers but I never really appreciated how athletic the Megane GT is for a 4.6-metre, 1430kg wagon with a 580- to 1504-litre rear hangar. That badge is closer to an RS than I had expected.
Room for improvement? Inevitable tyre drone over coarse highway surfaces; the otherwise dependable adaptive cruise control disengages below 30km/h so it cannot crawl along in traffic jams like the best systems do; and why doesn’t the nearside mirror dip when reverse parking? That ought to be standard at $42K.
Otherwise, in a world now awash with SUVs, the Megane GT wagon stands unique, dealing diligently, and proudly, with everyday mundanity yet with enough chassis dynamism to tempt devilish drivers.
Though the Megane’s large touchscreen does require familiarisation, all the fundamentals are there, from the rear camera and effective climate-control systems to the beaut DAB+ digital radio and superb (optional) Bose audio sound. There are plenty of personalisation options too.
But switching between the different screens, while easy to work out, is fiddly in operation on the move, and the graphics are not especially attractive.
Read part two of our 2017 Renault Megane GT wagon long-term review here!