While it's a good starting point for the full-fat RS version, this Renault Mégane GT Nav feels a bit lukewarm

What is it?

Designing a modern, sporty hatchback is a dark art. If your job is creating Ferraris or Lamborghinis, then life’s a breeze: make it fast, make it look good and make it exciting. Simple.

Yet for a sporty family car, such as this new Renault Mégane GT 205, the brief is so much broader. It has to handle but be comfortable, be quick but drivable and stylish but practical. The juxtapositions are seemingly endless, but the budgets constraining you aren’t. So much so, in fact, you have to wonder how on earth they do it for just £25,500.

Read our full review of the Renault Mégane here

So, let’s run through the Mégane GT's highlights. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol is from the Renault Clio RS 200 and produces a decent 202bhp and 207lb ft. As with the Clio, it comes with the EDC seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as standard.

The Mégane GT is underpinned by Renault’s four-year-old CMF platform, but Renault Sport has played about with the springs, dampers, steering ratio and engine breathing. Although on that last point, don’t be fooled by the twin rear exhaust pipes: one is a dummy.

Renault Sport has also tuned the Mégane GT’s standard 4Control four-wheel steering. Switch it to RS mode and below 50mph the rear wheels steer 2.7deg in the opposite direction to the fronts, sharpening turn-in; above 50mph they steer 1.0deg in the same direction, aiding high-speed stability.

Unique in the class is a huge 8.7in portrait touchscreen, which is complemented by other technology that, while prolific elsewhere, is still noteworthy for the Mégane: LED headlights, traffic sign recognition and launch control, to name but a few. All of this can be had for just £25,500, remember. Of course the burning question is whether or not it's a good sporty hatch.

What's it like?

This engine isn’t a work of art, as we know from the Clio RS. It’s not beset with the mechanical sweetness of the powerplant used in the last warmed-up Mégane, the 220 GT, and it hides its occasionally discordant resonances behind synthesized automotive noises, which are piped in through the speakers.

The Mégane GT's problem isn’t merely one of character; it’s also one of performance. A peak output of 202bhp used to be ample for a C-segment car, but with nigh-on 1500kg to lug around, this Mégane feels a bit flat. Other than that, there are no other big performance holes to pick. Yes, peak torque comes in at a relatively lofty 2400rpm, but there’s still enough low-end to get you moving, albeit not at the pace you might have hoped for after seeing all those Renault Sport badges plastered over the outside.

The transmission mostly slips smoothly through its gears, but when you are pressing on it occasionally faffs about before selecting the cog you need. It’s also a shame that the gearshift paddles don’t have a better-engineered feel; their sloppy action is more befitting of a cheaply built PlayStation accessory than a car.

As always, Renault Sport has done an ace job on the spring and damper rates. Excess energy from a crest or dip is dissipated satisfyingly with just one vertical bounce, and as you tuck the car in to a bend there’s enough stiffness to stifle excessive body lean. It’s pretty comfortable, too, as long as you accept it wants hug the roads and follow every surface undulation. Importantly, though, the Mégane GT retains the compliance to filter out most heavy hits – aside from the odd cosmic crater that UK roads seem to specialise in.   

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You can dabble with the steering’s weight to find which one of its three modes suits you best, but you can’t do anything to improve the feel. There’s no ‘fizz’ through the rim, meaning you feel disconnected from the road surface, and the springy self-centring action away from the straight-ahead is annoying.

We’re not convinced by the 4Control four-wheel steering, either. It’s not subtle at slow speeds, delivering a nervousness that makes most turns a step into the unknown, although to be fair, perhaps a longer stint behind the wheel would get you better synchronised with it.

With regards to practicality, front space is good. Rear space isn't so great for anyone sitting behind someone tall, but the boot is sensibly sized. The interior quality is a huge step on from that of the previous Mégane, with a thoughtful design that makes it easy to use.

This includes the new infotainment system, which responds quickly to inputs on its large, high-resolution touchscreen display. The only technological curiosity is why Renault chose to make the lane-departure warning sound like the right-hand speaker is blowing every time you straddle a white line.

Should I buy one?

There are some things to admire about the new Mégane, especially if you’re looking for your next family hatchback. But as a warm hatch? We’re not so sure. Perhaps the broad brief was simply too all-encompassing to get every box ticked, but it’s certainly a reasonable effort.

Hopefully, the full-fat RS version, with its extra power, will arrive with the ultimate focus this Mégane GT lacks. Speaking of which, if you want a cracking driver’s car for around £25,000, our money would go on a Ford Focus ST.

Renault Mégane GT Nav 1.6 TCe 205 EDC

Location Darlington, UK; On sale Summer 2016; Price £25,500; Engine 4 cyls, 1616cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 202bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 2400rpm; Kerb weight 1463kg; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; 0-62mph 7.1sec; Top speed 143mph; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 134g/km, 23%

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John Howell

John Howell
Title: Senior reviewer

John is a freelance automotive journalist with more than a decade of experience in the game. He’s written for most of the big car mags, not least as a road tester for Autocar and as deputy reviews editor for our sister brand, What Car?. He was also the features editor at PistonHeads and headed its YouTube channel.

Cars, driving and machines are in his blood. When he was barely a teenager he was creating race-bale racetracks on his family’s farm – to thrash an old Humber Sceptre around. It broke regularly, of course, which meant he got a taste (and love) for repairing cars. That’s why he eschewed university, choosing instead to do an apprenticeship with a Jaguar dealer. That’s where he built up his technical understanding.  

After that he moved into high-end car sales, selling Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and Maseratis through the franchised network. But it was a love of writing and appraising cars that, eventually, led him to use his industry experience to prise open the door of motoring journalism. He loves cars that exceed their brief in some way. So he finds as much pleasure in testing a great, but humble, hatchback as he does sampling the latest Ferrari on track. Honest.

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androo 20 July 2016

Four wheel steer

I constantly read in the French magazine I subscribe to, that Renault's four sheel steer is incredible and a game changer. They especially rate it on the big Talisman saloon. They also think the new Mégane is amazing and top of the class. They're French of course, so you might expect them to say that, but I often wonder why they're so much more enthusiastic about cars like this and the Peugeot 308 than Autocar is. Perhaps it's the conversion to rhd or the roads here that makes the difference. Or is it a bit of anti-French sentiment?
Einarbb 20 July 2016

This appears perfectly appropriate for a GT

That is, the aim being respectable performance married to substantive levels of comfort, as well as fair enough refinement. Mind, I don't find the performance exactly lacking. It's more demonstration of how lofty people's expectations have become, that 7,1 appears mildly disappointing.
bowsersheepdog 22 July 2016

Einarbb wrote:

Einarbb wrote:

That is, the aim being respectable performance married to substantive levels of comfort, as well as fair enough refinement. Mind, I don't find the performance exactly lacking. It's more demonstration of how lofty people's expectations have become, that 7,1 appears mildly disappointing.

I have to agree. If one is regularly finding 7.1s to 60mph and 143mph top end insufficient on the public roads then one won't be holding a licence for much longer. As I have said before if one drives an 85bhp supermini at eight-tenths of flat-out then one will be passing ninety per cent of other traffic, so the ultimate pace of these cars isn't really the point, it has to be down to other factors. Personally, while not a Renault fan, I would rather put myself at the mercy of its French electrics than consider a Focus.

Will86 19 July 2016

What about other competitors?

Perhaps an Astra 1.6T 200ps would make a better warm hatch and for a more sensible price.
xxxx 20 July 2016

That's exactly what I was thinking

OK it's not sporty but it helps illustrate how expensive the Megane is. The 200hp Elite Nav Astra is half a second quicker to 60, comes with full leather (heated back and front) and is £3,500 cheaper