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Driven: Renault's new Mégane has a classy ride

By: Denis Droppa

Johannesburg - The first-generation Mégane was the car with which Renault reintroduced itself to South Africa 20 years ago, and now, over 25 000 Mégane hatchback sales later, generation 4 has touched down.

The styling’s gone more mainstream and Mégane 4 has nothing like the design ooh la la of Mégane 2 (the one with the dashing derriere), though it still has some stand-out factor with elongated tail lamps and C-shaped daytime running lights up front.

Renault’s five-door hatch introduces four-wheel steering as a unique selling point in its top-of-the-range Mégane GT model, in a class where it stacks up against strong rivals like the VW Golf and Ford Focus. A feature usually found in more expensive cars, it applies slight steering to the rear wheels to improve both low-speed agility and high-speed stability.

Classy ride

The effectiveness of this 4Control system was demonstrated at the Red Star Raceway near Witbank where Renault SA hosted part of the new Mégane’s launch. The French car displayed very keen handling manners on both the track and the skidpan, but it was on the bumpy public roads around Witbank that the Mégane played its true trump card: its comfortable ride.

On roughed-up roads this hatch displayed impressive glideability as its suspension competently absorbed the bumps, along with a very solid body feel that elicited no rattles or sqeaks. Partly responsible for this classy ride is a lengthened wheelbase, which has also made for a roomier cabin that now more comfortably seats long-limbed passengers. The interior’s also been spruced up using soft-touch materials, contrasting colours and ambient lighting to create one of the richest-feeling cabins in the class.

Three engine choices

Mégane 4 comes in three trim levels and a choice of three petrol engines.

The entry-level Mégane Dynamique version is a well-priced, normally-aspirated 1.6 (not available to drive at the media launch) with outputs of 84kW and 156Nm, available in five-speed manual only with a claimed fuel consumption of 6.4 litres per 100km.

Standard equipment across the range is pretty comprehensive and includes dual climate control, audio system, cruise control, rear-park distance control, and automatic lights and wipers. ABS brakes, hill start assist and stability control are part of the package too, as are front, side and curtain airbags (new Mégane comes with a maximum five-star EuroNcap crash rating).

More spec and power is available in the GT Line which comes with a 97kW/205Nm 1.2 litre turbo petrol engine and a choice of six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch auto called EDC. The auto I drove at the launch was an easygoing and notably quiet performer, with none of the buzziness expected of a small engine, and its claimed 5.3 litres per 100km is very wallet-friendly if true.

The range-topper is the Mégane GT, moved along by a 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre turbo engine and available only in EDC auto. It falls under true hot-hatch status but has reasonably lively get-up-and-go that made for entertaining progress around Red Star.

No diesel derivative is planned but a hot-performing RS version should arrive some time down the line.

Gadgets galore

The GT Line and GT come with a Multisense system that allows a driver to personalise drive settings between neutral, comfort or sport. At the touch of a button it changes the responses of the engine, steering, transmission, all-wheel steering, engine sound, and even the ambient lighting.

Leather seats in the GT Line (stylish Alcantara dark & blue in the flagship GT), heated driver’s seat and larger mag wheels distinguish the upper models, which also come with a large tablet-sized touchscreen that bundles together the infotainment functions, including navigation. The infotainment takes a little getting used to; sometimes one has to dig deep into the electronic menu to find basic features, instead of having quick-access keys on the dashboard.

Hands-free parking and blind-spot assist are optional features, as is an electric panoramic sunroof.

The range is priced reasonably competitively except at 450 grand the GT’s expensive against similarly-powered rivals like the Peugeot 308 GT and Ford Focus 1.5T.

This is a very competitive segment and Mégane also has to get its ooh la la going against hatchbacks like the Auris, Civic, Astra, i30, Cerato, and Mazda3. It may have lost some of its styling chic, but the ride quality and smart cabin are right up there with the best.

PRICES

Mégane 1.6 Dynamique - R279 900

Mégane 1.2T GT-Line - R339 900

Mégane 1.2T GT-Line auto - R354 900

MéganeGT auto - R449 900

All versions standard with 5-year/150 000km warranty and 5-year/90 000km service plan. Services take place at 15 000 km intervals (10 000km on Megane GT).

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