- Published: Thursday, 12 February 2015 20:48
Current Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices aren’t exactly low but they’re not as high as they once were. With the barest of family cars, like the Kia K3 or Hyundai Accent, scraping in at $100,000, owning a car is an expensive possibility, but still a possibility to many more people in 2015 than it was previously.
This means that compact cars are once again a viable option. 2015 will see the launch of new, affordable vehicles like the Kia Rio hatchback and Suzuki Ciaz sedan. While we feel something like $150k for car like the Hyundai Sonata is quite worthwhile, you’ll have to be very bent on owning a new car to fork out $100k for a smaller machine.
To each his own, of course, but this leads to another thing: Affordable cars that pack a punch are still, Suzuki Swift Sport and Honda Jazz aside, still a relative rarity. Last year’s modified Cat A rules killed numerous contenders, such as the Volkswagen Golf Sport 1.4 and similarly-powered Scirocco model. In fact, cross over to Continental territory now, an overtly sporty car below $150k is basically impossible to find.
Which is why Renault’s semi-sporty GT Line version of the Megane hatchback is a surprise. Renault offers the French experience for (generally) less cost than the rest of the Continental brands, but its current range topper, the Megane RS, costs about $200k. Even the tiny terror Clio RS is $160k. The bog-standard Megane and Fluence are all decent enough workhorses of course, but lack any sporting pretensions.
The GT Line features a different front end from the standard hatch, with a more aggressive, chrome-highlighted bottom half and different LED running lights, set off by unique 17-inch alloy wheels,all of which does a good job of making it more sharp-looking without excess.
Inside the cabin, the GT gets sports seats with more prominent side padding and, quite interestingly, the same perf-leather steering wheel as the Megane RS. Both items are highlighted with red stitching and the latter Renault says is covered with ‘bovine leather’ too. There’s also silver highlights (side mirror caps, door sills) and carbon-effect interior trim.
The car doesn’t get any mechanical upgrades in the drivetrain department, with the same 110 dCi turbodiesel engine as the standard model. It’s not the most refined-sounding, but it’s smooth, generously torquey and very, very economical.
That doesn’t sound like much kid, but the GT has it where we think it counts best: The chassis. It has what Renault terms the Sport Chassis, developed in conjunction with RenaultSport. The configuration is the same - MacPherson front and torsion beam rear - but the springs are unique to this car, the damper rates are different, and the car lowered for better handling.
This translates into a rather sweet handling machine, and one that also rides with a supple sportiness but not crashiness. Passengers who’ve experienced the standard Megane will be able to pick this up, but it’s likely they won’t complain about it either.
While the modest diesel drivetrain means you won’t be winning any drag races, the GT Line has what we believe is the best of the French touch. Like the British, and unlike many high-performance Japanese and German brands, they’re great at setting up cars that handle and ride well on crappy roads.
On the comfort side, the GT’s also packed with the features that make the regular Megane an interesting proposition in its segment too: TomTom-based infotainment system with navigation and a premium sound system, cruise control and dual-zone climate control.
So if you’ve been looking out for a little French sporty elan with a price that won’t make you go ‘wah lan’, then GT in line.
Renault Megane GT Line
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,461cc, 16V, inline 4, turbodiesel
Power 110bhp at 4000rpm
Torque 240Nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 190km/h
0-100km/h 11.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.2L/100km
Price $131,999 with COE