You’ll warm to Renault’s sensible ‘hot hatch’
- Credit: Renault
If you want sporty looks but more MPG than MPH, Renault's GT Line Meganes are stylish and sensible, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
I have a watch that claims to be water-resistant to 100 metres… and the wettest it has got was once inadvertently in the shower. And I have a mountain bike with 'bouncy' forks and disk brakes which has never had muddy tyres. I own them because of how they look rather than what they can do.
I'm also attracted to sporty-looking cars but these days I am more concerned about MPG than MPH and low running costs rather than high speeds.
And that's why I like Renault's Megane GT Line models which combine sporty styling with sensible engines.
It's a while since I drove a Megane but recently revisited the line-up in the form of a Coupe GT Line – a Dynamique version with a £1,500 GT Line option pack that really changes its character and appearance.
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Bridging the gap between mainstream Megane and rampaging Renaultsport 265, the GT Line certainly looks the part with its beefed-up bumpers, black headlamp backgrounds, lowered sport chassis and anthracite-coloured 17in alloy wheels and door mirrors housings. Inside, it gets body-hugging Renaultsport front seats, aluminium pedals and polished carbon interior door handles, outer air-vents and dashboard trim with Renaultsport instruments.
It passed muster with my younger son for its more muscular, yet still tasteful, styling.
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GT Line models, available in all Megane hatchback, coupe, Sport Tourer estate and coupe cabriolet body styles, feature some of Renault's economical and ecological engines with, depending on model, 115hp 1.2 and 130hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol and 110hp 1.5, 130hp 1.6 and 165 2.0-litre turbo diesels.
I drove the 1.6-litre diesel, a cracking unit which replaced the long-serving 1.9 and has the same output but stronger performance and much better fuel economy and emissions.
It pulls willingly from low revs, packs a useful punch of performance in the middle of the rev range for swift, safe overtaking and cruises comfortably and quietly at motorway speeds yet regularly returned MPG in the mid to high 50s in mixed driving.
And because the GT Line is not an out-and-out performance model the sport chassis set-up is also sensible for real-world driving.
It's a happy balance between ride and roadholding, the former generally supple apart from being a little sensitive at low speeds (but show me a car that isn't with the state of some of our roads now) but firm enough to give entertaining, agile handling with responsive, well-weighted steering.
Despite being a three-door model the Megane Coupe will seat five but three in the back is a squeeze – headroom is tight and legroom at a premium if those up front shove their seats back.
The boot is well shaped for luggage but, being deep, has a high sill. Rear seat backs split 60/40 but don't fold flat until you flip the cushions upright against the front seats – a bit of a chore in a three-door model.
The dashboard looks suitably sporty with its red stripe, chrome highlights around the dials and red stitching on the leather steering wheel while the controls are easy to use, including the standard TomTom satellite-navigation system, and there's plenty of seat and steering adjustment. You'll be glad of the rear-view camera with the woeful rear visibility thanks to the small rear screen and tapering side windows.
So the GT Line is a sensible sports version or a sporty sensible model – whatever you decide it's an attractive proposition to look at and live with.