Even though this is a detuned engine, it’s still a joyful thing. It pulls well, sounds great and loves to rev, becoming particularly eager above 4000rpm. Indeed, the whole drivetrain feels very well engineered.
The clutch action is positive, which makes the GT 220 easy to get off the line, and the gearbox’s six ratios are spaced perfectly to keep the engine in its power band. It’s just a shame that the long throw of the gearlever takes the edge off the experience.
Happily, Renaultsport has also spent time improving the chassis and brakes. The steering has been recalibrated to work better with the new dampers and tyres that are specific to the GT 220. The brakes use bigger discs than the GT Line, front and rear, as well as the same master cylinder as the 275 to give them a more progressive feel.
It all adds up to a car that is a real delight to use on winding country lanes. The steering might not give much feedback, but it’s accurate and well weighted. This gives you the confidence to push the chassis, and it rewards you by cornering with little body roll and offering lots of grip. There’s no limited-slip differential, so you have to deploy the power gently on damp roads to limit torque steer, but generally traction is good.
The front will wash wide if you push too hard, but the chassis’ playful nature means a gentle lift of the throttle trims it back to your chosen line. Give it a real lift mid-corner and it will oversteer, although sadly the ESP can’t be completely disabled to exploit this.
The suspension might not be as harsh as that of the 275, but there’s no escaping the fact that this car is set up for speed rather than comfort. For the most part, the ride is firm but tolerable for a sporty offering but, particularly at speed, there’s a constant bouncing over ridges and expansion joints, which can become wearing.
There is also a fair amount of wind and tyre noise on the motorway, plus that close-ratio ‘box means the engine spins at close to 3000rpm in top at 70mph.
The Megane’s cabin is acceptable rather than great. There are some nice touches as part of the GT 220 package, like the aluminium pedals and polished carbon finishes throughout. However, other than the soft-feel dash, there are lots of lower-grade materials everywhere else.
There is plenty of space up front and even tall adults will find there’s lots of leg and headroom. However, the reach-adjustable steering wheel doesn’t extend far enough, meaning some drivers will find themselves at full stretch.
The seating position is also relatively high, even with the height adjuster at its lowest setting, while the sports seats are quite narrow between the bolsters. It all adds up to a driving position that for some will feel compromised rather than naturally comfortable.
Getting in and out of the rear seats is more awkward because of the two-door arrangement. Once inside, the coupe’s tiny rear windows make it feel claustrophobic. Limited leg and head room means that, unless you’re carrying kids, the rear seats are best for short trips only. If you regularly carry rear passengers, you’d be better off opting for the five-door hatchback version.
However, even in coupe form the boot is still a good size. At 377 litres with the rear seats in place, it’s on a par with a Seat Leon and a useful 61 litres more than a hatchback Ford Focus. The downside is the narrow opening and a high lip that means that bulky items are difficult to load.