IN REAL years, the outgoing Renault Megane is about nine years old; if it were a human, it would be learning about fractions, if it were a dog, it’d be starting to think about superannuation. In car years, however, it’s old enough to apply for a pension.
Built on the Renault Nissan Alliance’s CFM architecture, the new five-door Megane is bigger in almost every measurement, and for the first time it will feature dual-clutch gearboxes and rear-wheel steering on some models.
Locally, the new Megane is due to arrive halfway through 2016, in a range that, according to Renault Australia, will largely mimic the current line-up. One key addition will be the Megane GT, which will replace the GT220 range.
A straight-bat exterior with stubby overhangs eschews visual links to the previous two quirky generations of the Megane, while interior presentation and execution take massive steps forward in presence, quality and style.
A blast around the rough, narrow roads of Lisbon, Portugal, revealed a car with a more mature character than the current car. The interior, especially, is a huge step forward; a large central TFT screen in front of the driver replaces the traditional dials, with speed limit, gear position and distance to the car in front all displayed.
The large vertical centre console screen houses satellite navigation, climate control, car adjustments and more, and is simple to use, if a bit laggy.
The faux blue carbon trim pieces in the GT’s dash and doors aren’t convincing, but the seats, wheel and shifter certainly are. Rear seat headroom is sufficient for all but the tallest occupants, while 414 litres of boot room still allows for a spare under the floor.
The Megane GT rides very well in most situations, though it can crash across sharp breaks in the road thanks to the stock 18-inch wheels. At first blush, at least, the MacPherson strut/torsion beam suspension package is well resolved.
The clever rear-steer function adds a layer of seamless ability, allowing more direct inputs with less adjustment at the wheel. Steering feel from the electric system is very accomplished, too, with a decent amount of resistance.
The Megane’s 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is willing and progressive, and offers plenty of low- and mid-range torque. First and second gear ratios in the dual-clutch gearbox feel a bit short, but the seven-speed transmission is well behaved otherwise.
If Renault can price the Megane GT keenly – and that’s an extremely crucial element – then it deserves a place on people's warm hatch shopping lists.
3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
Engine: 1616cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 151kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 2400rpm
0-100km/h: 7.1sec (claimed)
Price: $37,500 (est)
Like: Steering feel; torquey engine; interior refinement
Dislike: Stock rubber; early gear ratios feel too short