Ryan Bubear tests the Renault Mégane GT Line coupe...
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The awe-inspiring Mégane Renault Sport needs no introduction. And the common-and-garden Mégane hatch is, well, pretty common these days. Yes, the two extremes of the Mégane range are well and truly covered: we have the sizzling hot hatch, and the practical, fuel-efficient runabout.
But what lies between the two extremes? Is there nothing to satisfy the needs of those who want a blend of both worlds? Those who crave the odd dash of excitement, without having to worry about having their faces ripped off each time they prod the loud pedal?
Actually, yes. There is.
Renault launched the GT Line to "bridge the gap" between the two models mentioned above. And in some ways — the sporty styling, for example — this has worked out rather well. But when it came to power, slotting the GT Line squarely in between the 83kW mainstream Mégane (which employs a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre lump) and the 184kW Mégane RS (powered by an outrageously brutal two-litre turbo), was always going to be an almost impossible task.
Coupe easy on the eye
The GT Line is available as a hatch or a coupe. We tested the ever-so-slightly prettier coupe (two doors almost always trump four when it comes to aesthetics, don't you think?), in Glacier White. The 4.3m-long shell is rather easy on the eye, thanks to favourable Mégane genes and a few tasty additions, courtesy of the kind chaps in the Renault Sport division. Indeed, the coupe is a bit of a looker...
The GT Line gets a unique bumper, featuring an RS-style gloss black centre section, and the front fog lights are housed in dark metal-coloured recesses. The shapely headlights are made all the more menacing by their blacked-out surrounds, while anthracite grey mirror housings add to the sporty feel. Round the back, a contrasting aerodynamic diffuser is incorporated into the rear bumper. Dark 17-inch alloys (specific to this model), a low, wide stance (thanks to the dropped ride height), and front and back GT Line badging complete the exterior package.
Inside — where most surfaces are of a refreshingly high quality — the GT Line borrows its front seats from the aforementioned Mégane RS, and more GT Line badging can be found. An analogue speedometer replaces the standard model's digital display, while a white-faced rev counter with a red needle again hints at sporting credentials.
So, is it sporty? Or is it all show and no go?
Well, under the bonnet lurks Renault's 1.4-litre TCe 130 (that's Turbo Control efficiency, in Renault-speak, and 130 units of power in BHP-speak). Conversion addicts would no doubt be able to work out that this equates to some 96kW — a fair boost over the standard car's 83kW, but admittedly quite some way off the lofty figure pumped out by the RS.
The 1397cc forced induction unit is playful — although some turbo lag is evident — and hits a not-unsubstantial torque peak of 190Nm from 2250rpm. And while it's by no means lightning quick, it is certainly no slouch thanks to a curb weight of less than 1200kg. Renault claims a 0-100km/h time of 9.6 seconds, and a top speed of 200km/h.
While the six-speed manual gearbox is satisfyingly slick, taller drivers — who are forced to position their seats far back — may find themselves having to lean forward when preparing to change from an odd-numbered gear to an even one, thanks to a gear-lever set rather far forward. This is not a major issue, but is definitely something that could become annoying in stop-start traffic.
The French manufacturer claims a combined fuel economy figure of 6.6 litres per 100km and a CO2 rating of 145g/km for the coupe, which boasts a 60-litre tank. With plenty of short trips, and only one reasonably lengthy run during my week with the car, I averaged a bloated 8.7 litres per 100km. But the fact that the zesty little engine quietly asked to be revved didn't do my economy efforts any good...
Sporty through the bends
The steering is pleasantly meaty in a world dominated by feather-light examples, and it inspires plenty of confidence when attacking corners. Also helpful in this regard is the "sport" chassis, stiffer springs and dampers, and lower ride height. Thankfully, comfort is not compromised in the quest for handling enjoyment.
In the age-old sports car tradition, rear visibility is relatively poor, thanks mostly to a small rear screen and tiny, almost triangular rear side windows. The low seating position and high, rising shoulder line add to this "cocoon effect", but if we're honest, also enhance the sporty feel. There's nothing quite like settling snugly into a compact, low-slung coupe, safe in the knowledge that the back seats are not much good for normal-sized humans.
Surprisingly, the boot is rather useful, and able to swallow some 344 litres. It is deceptively large, thanks mostly to its appreciable depth, and can be expanded to 1024 litres by folding down the back seats — far more practical than one would expect from a smallish coupe. On the topic of storage, lift up the mats in the front footwells (both driver and passenger sides), and under-floor lockers (the perfect size to take a small handgun, strangely enough) become visible.
The GT Line benefits from the Dynamique trim level — and as such is pretty well specced. Cruise control, dual-zone climate control, Arkamys 3D Sound audio system with Bluetooth and multifunction connectivity, multifunctional leather steering wheel, rear parking sensors, and auto lights and wipers are all standard. The cruise control is one of the most intuitive systems I've come across, and is a breeze to operate. A keycard is also standard equipment.
But the built-in Carminat TomTom navigation system is without a doubt the interior's party piece. It makes use of live data, and can deliver real-time traffic updates and rerouting, employing an integrated SIM card that links to live satellite updates. And it works. We spotted a tailback of traffic (thanks to an unfortunately fatal accident) on the monitor long before it came into view, allowing us to alter our journey.
Unlike in the Renault Fluence (which features a remote), the TomTom is manipulated through a control-panel mounted between front seats. This is far easier (and perhaps safer) to use than the remote system, but its positioning does mean that the handbrake is angled towards the passenger's knee — which takes a bit of getting used to.
A useful feature of the TomTom is the speed camera warning, which results in an audible caution when approaching a known static trap. Strangely though, a few of the indicated speed limits on my usual route home were inaccurate.
Included in the purchase price are a five-year or 150 000km mechanical warranty, a six-year anti-corrosion warranty, and a five-year or 100 000km service plan.
So, the GT Line coupe is a bit of a head-turner, competitively priced at under R260 000 (with the hatch R10k cheaper), and quite a bit more exciting than the entry-level, standard Mégane.
But those craving true hot-hatchery will have to save up for the stonking RS.
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.