The jewel among the new entrants is the Megane GT wagon, which has a longer wheelbase than Renault’s warm hatch, but similar tight handling and performance thanks to its 1.6-litre turbo engine, Renault Sport suspension, and four-wheel steering.
It’s roomier in the cabin, with a considerably bigger cargo area, than the hatch, but trim levels and equipment are essentially the same including its two-tone Alcantara sports seats and 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen.
- Renault's 4Connect steering system provides the manoeuvrability of a shorter wheelbase vehicle by slightly pointing the rear wheels in the opposite direction as the front wheels at slow speeds. At speeds above 60km/h, or 80km/h in Sport mode, the rear wheels pivot slightly in the same direction as the front for greater stability.
- The precise steering is backed up by the Renault Sport suspension and excellent body control making this a joy to drive around winding roads.
- The 151kW/208Nm 1.6-litre turbo engine’s performance skirts the border of hot hatch territory, and is coupled to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission that responds well to the revvy turbo’s mid-range torque.
- It’s quieter than the hatch despite running on the same 225/40 R18 tyres, thanks to the narrow windows at the rear and a chunky, but light tailgate, which help keep out road and wind noise.
- It’s reasonably practical with its 580 litre boot that expands to 1504 litres with the 60/40-split rear seats folded down, offering substantially more cargo capacity than the hatch’s 434L/1198L.
- Megane wagon and sedan models are 269mm longer than the hatch and stand astride an 11mm longer wheelbase, resulting in 37mm more rear legroom and a rear seat backrest reclines further back for better comfort.
- The 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen is about the size of an A5 notepad, a shape and size that works particularly with its excellent in-built satnav system.
- The interior is well appointed. The two-tone black and blue Alcantara sports front seats are well-bolstered and firm but comfortable. The mood is enhanced by blue metallic highlights and ambient lighting.
- It has a long list of standard features including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, RS Drive Mode with launch control, auto parking assist, LED daytime running lights, and 18-inch Magny-Cours alloy wheels.
- Its $39,490 price tag seems reasonable for a European car with premium features, warm hatch performance, and small-SUV practicality.
- The infotainment system requires a few steps to go from one function to another, and there are no physical menu buttons, which means you have to try and use the touchscreen while in motion. You can change radio stations with a dial behind the steering wheel, but I found that its operation doesn’t pair up with the selection on the centre touchscreen, particularly when listening to digital radio. It also lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
- You need long fingers to use the paddle shifters that don’t move with the steering wheel, making it difficult to change gears mid turn. Their gangly design also blocks the wiper and light stalks, meaning you don’t always know what setting they’re on.
- Cupholders are tiny, which seem to be a French protest again any coffees bigger than a short black, and the glovebox is just big enough to fit a pair of gloves.
- The lane departure warning sounds like the car has bowel problems.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?