Back in 2009, when the third generation Megane compact was barely out on the playing field, a designer named Laurens van den Acker was named Senior Vice President of Renault Corporate Design and replaced famed stylist Patrick le Quement.
You might find it odd that a Megane review starts with some background on the man that direct the styling direction of the French brand to this day. But it’s important – because back then I had the opportunity to chat with the still fresh leader and he told me – along with anyone looking to listen – that he was going to make the Renault brand more emotional. The results speak for themselves – and we’re not only talking about this Megane unit we’re reviewing today. We can talk about how the evolution started with the Clio IV and Captur crossover and then exploded into a revolution with the Kadjar, Espace V, Talisman or the compact series represented by the Megane and Scenic / Grand Scenic.
While the first generation Megane was a Renault 19 dressed up in different clothes and with a different name, the Megane II is still appreciated for the quirkiness of the hatchback version. That proved Renault still dares to experiment (yes, even after flops such as the Avantime or Vel Satis) but now the automaker is more mature in its outlandish calls. For example, it decided to go for a crossover-inspired styling for the Espace people carrier, the epitome of European MPVs. The toned down Kadjar proved they are willing to lend the necessary considerations to practicality and the new Megane is another statement to that idea. It’s larger than the predecessor to offer more cabin space – but it’s lower to deliver the bold stance. In earnest, I really like the third generation Megane due to the overall package – it’s comfortable, refined and has amenities such as the entry card no other automaker wants to offer. But it was utterly dull – you can imagine how boring it was since the Sport Tourer had a better rating than the hatchback.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
Enter the current styling theme and problem solved. Really – this is what happened. The Captur and Kadjar are exponents of this new design but they’re not really innovative because they need to cater to a very wide audience. The Megane – in its GT form – is inspiring comments like “is this really a Renault?” Why the bold stance from the automaker considering the compact segment is choke full of rivals and its sales are crucial to the welfare of the entire group? Exactly because there are so many choices – and Renault wanted to stand out. Volkswagen is being slapped over and over again for the evolutionary design between Golf generations – but they still rack huge sales because they’re the ones that established the compact segment. Renault – and everyone else – is still playing catch-up so the French decided that spicing up the design is the best way to attract new clients. No evolutionary treatment here, as the fourth Megane has nothing to do with the Megane III. When viewed from outside, the GT – Grand Tourer is his complete name – will bring all the necessary Renault Sport comments. They are also careful to remind us of that heritage inside the cabin, but we’ll get to that in a few moments. The GT model was established by the predecessor and now comes with less “contentious” elements – we can see the designers thought about it from the get go and it’s not a version cooked along the way when sales started fizzling down.
As far as the exterior design is concerned, I think it’s a bit crowded sometimes, but it might go a long way towards remaining fresh on the long haul. And that’s important, since the compact segment has all the big players in it and some of them will come with all new generations when the current Megane is close to running its course. One of the more interesting facts about this bold design is that it’s not actually playing against any of the quirky competitors – such as Honda – because the Megane has obtained that French flair that marries well a strong appeal to stylistic elegance. The Honda Civic or the Toyota Auris too have a bold appearance, but that one is clearly geared towards the high-tech level of design expected from the technological marvels we all know reside in the Land of the Rising Sun. Instead, the Megane plays the European trump card – it’s a compact that will stylishly stand out from the crowd whether at the stadium during the UEFA Euro 2016 or at the Opera House.
Now on to the most important bit for a compact car – the interior. The Renault Megane GT serves as a preview – or teaser – to the upcoming installment of the Megane RS. That’s not entirely obvious when looking at the exterior design, since the regular Megane looks just as good as the GT. The latter has exterior elements that define it as a flagship model, rather than the sporty installment. Inside the lines get blurred a bit, with the Renault Sport lettering on the dashboard and the R.S. button on the central stack to get you into the Sport setting of chassis directly. There are also elements I fell should have been left out – such as the baguettes that have a bluish chrome tint to match the exterior livery. While the ensemble exudes style and fashion-awareness, these elements seem added for the sake of toddlers. Aside from these questionable elements, the GT is very close to the standard version when discussing the cabin, aside from a few “giveaway” details. First off, we have the GT lettering on the multi-function steering wheel. Then we have the large paddles for the manual command of the EDC dual-clutch gearbox. If these don’t sound obvious, then let’s talk about the front seats. These are among the best in the class, delivering a true sporty feeling without actually eschewing on the comfort elements. That’s because they offer exquisite lateral support and still manage to be comfortable during long hauls. And the seats, as well as the backrest are clad in lovely suede leather – if you’re a family man you know it’s a pain to maintain them, but they do feel great when you sit and touch them.
The Megane series has always been praised for its minimalist dashboard layout and quality of the interior materials and overall execution. I saw the Clio IV unfortunately made a step back when it appeared but the Megane is not going down that road as well. We have the high-tech level of minimalism we come to expect today. That means an almost button-free central stack with an 8.7 inch touchscreen infotainment system (you do get a 7 inch on lesser versions) and a command center on the steering wheel. The Megane II was even more minimalist, but that approach has evolved here for the better – including all the functionalities expected today, including smartphone integration. The portrait-style screen might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its large display does bode well with the level of functionality present in today’s Renault models. We’ll get to experience it on every model in the range in the future, so we’re hoping the system will progress even further and add new functionalities. The personalization touch is present here – you can have different layouts for the central screen as well as for the digital instrument cluster – you may remember Renault was one of the first proponents of this trend, with the digital speedometer of the predecessor. Another plus the Megane and other Renaults have over rivals is the easy-access card key. Present in this enhanced form for a while now, the functionality is still among the best in its class (even beats premium contenders) – you have the card, place it in your pocket or purse and forget about its existence. That’s because the Megane will unlock when you want to go in and automatically lock itself when you walk away. It’s that simple and we want more automakers to adopt similar systems. The Megane even has an enhanced version – when you’re close to the car it will greet you – it’s still locked but the convenience lights are triggered and the mirrors come to the standard position if they were folded. The devil is in the details, and this is what makes the Megane one of the most convenient cars in the segment.
We told you the new Megane is larger but not as tall as the predecessor. The Megane III was 4295 mm long and 1471 mm high, with a wheelbase of 2641 mm, whereas the current one is 4359 mm long, 1447 mm tall and has a 2669 mm wheelbase. At first glance, the lower stance makes you think the compact has shrunk in cabin size as well, but that’s not the case. As I extensively tested the old one I can say the lowered roof has no negative impact on interior height – the headliner is cleverly modified to compensate. While it won’t sit at the top of its class in terms of roominess, the Megane was spacious enough for a family with two kids and their special seats, alongside the necessary luggage for a weekend adventure. The boot could have better entry and egress – the back bumper protrudes inside quite a bit and also makes you work hard to lift the heavy luggage above its sill. Volume is good – at 384 liters – above some of its competitors such as the Ford Focus (363 liters) or Opel Astra, but below one of its main home competitors – the Peugeot 308 (398 liters).
Engine, Transmission and Handling
The world of turbocharging downsizing is making our cars increasingly sound worse. That’s the main statement with the Megane GT. It comes with a preset to deliver a sporty sound (inside the car’s configuration modes) but in fact it’s a pale version of what the naturally aspirated mills in the first generations of the Clio and Megane RS were capable of. Rev the engine and you’ll get the grunt and even some exhaust growl – but it’s nothing worth writing home about. The Sport mode does its best to deliver thrilling sounds, but the 1.6 liter turbo just isn’t cut out for that. Of course, it won’t sound like a one-liter three cylinder, but we can see better forms of the particular factor in the Mini Cooper S for example.
The Megane GT will deliver a chameleonic personality thanks to the personalization modes – four of them in this particular case (five in the regular, with Eco): Sport, Comfort, Neutral and Perso. They are pretty clear cut – you can go for max comfort or sportiness, or just play with them in Perso. The transformation is major enough to warrant the use of the R.S. button when you’re playful. The comfort will do its best to treat you with gloves – though the suspension remains on the hard side of the equation (those 17-inch alloys with low profile are a factor here as well). Opt for the Neutral or have all the Perso settings dialed to Eco and you’ll even get decent consumption readings. But go for the Sport and the Renault Sport character comes to life. If you don’t go to the track on a regular basis but like to hone your driving skills in a safe manner and hit the race circuit on the weekend, the GT might be better suited for you than a Megane RS. This is because the GT version is a daily-usable compact car with RS potential. You can drive your family around all week long and then just smoke the tires during the weekend. Of course, you only have 205 horsepower, but that’s enough for the weekend thrill on the Nurburgring Nordschleife Touristhafen (tourist days). Be it in Neutral or Comfort, the steering remains sharp and precise – and the Sport mode will be there for the full blown experience. This is when the accelerator gets quicker, the EDC box changes gears lees often to let you harness the torque and maximum power. And if the Megane GT is tack sharp, we have high hopes for the next RS installment to go head to head with the phenomenal Focus RS.
The engine inside the Megane GT is the Energy TCe 1.6-liter turbo. This version has no ideas to battle it out with the Golf GTI or the Focus ST due to the lower output. Instead, it will best most flagship offerings from the competition – the Focus 1.5 EcoBoost has 182 hp and Opel Astra 1.6 Turbo delivers 200 hp. The main rival is another French model – the Peugeot 308 GT, with its 1.6 THP and exactly 205 horsepower. The Megane will sprint to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 7,1 seconds and top out at 230 km/h – which is a medium performance compared to the Astra (7 seconds and 235 km/h) or the 308 GT (7,5 seconds and 235 km/h). Thanks to the turbocharger, power delivery is not exactly linear but the EDC dual-clutch transmission does a good job of keeping you in between the maximum torque figure of 280 Nm at 2400 rpm and total output of 205 hp at 6000 rpm. By the way, the one trump card the Megane GT has is the EDC dual-clutch gearbox – the Astra and 308 GT have six-speed manual transmissions. This means the Megane GT is both quick and comfortable – though not having the manual option will upset purists. But in today’s horrendous traffic this is the best choice. We do condemn Renault’s decision to deliver RS models exclusively with the EDC, but the Megane GT is not a track enthusiast toy to begin with. With a start/stop system and the ability to play with the engine and climate system, fuel economy can be acceptable on this turbo gasoline engine. Tipping the scales at 1392 kg the Megane GT by no means a lightweight, so reaching an average fuel consumption of less than 8 liters per 100 km in a mixed setting (city traffic, express highways, air conditioning on) is actually impressive. Go for the Sport setting as your daily setup and such consumptions will be blown out of the water.
Pro: Styling goes a long way towards establishing Renault as an elegant and interesting choice in the segment. A bold stance is also appreciated in the sea of evolutionary generational changes. Interior builds on the minimalist theme of the predecessor and keeps the quality and soft materials. Space is good and the seats are great, though you won’t find them in other versions. Starting price is great, considering the “range-topping” position.
Against: The infotainment system is up to snuff with the latest advancements, but still needs some work: for example, the climate control access is not really intuitive. The window controls are also too far back, making them unwieldy. Some optional, such as the 8.7 inch R-Link 2 infotainment system are priced a bit steep.
Starting price – Renault Megane Life SCe 115 – 14,800 EUR
Tested Version – Renault Megane GT Energy TCe 2015 EDC – 22,250 EUR
Engine: 1.6L four cylinder, gasoline, direct injection, turbo, intercooler (1618 cc)
Power: 205 HP (151 kW) at 6000 rpm
Torque: 280 Nm at 2,400 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch EDC automatic / 4×2
Dimensions: length – 4,359 mm, width – 1,814 mm, height – 1,447 mm, wheelbase – 2,669 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 L
Trunk Capacity: 384 / 1247 liters
Weight: 1392 kg
0 – 100 km/h: 7,1 s
Top Speed: 230 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 7,8L/100 km, highway – 4,9L/100 km, average –6L/100 km
Rating: 4.6 / 5