It may be an \'RS lite\' but this big bummed turbo Megane offers a strong balance of performance and practicality.
The Renault Megane GT 220 Estate combines a high-performance engine up front with a highly practical rear load area to become the natural stepping stone between regular Megane models and the hardcore coupes.
Priced at $36,990 – see full specifications here – the only real competiton for the Renault Megane GT 220 Estate is the Volkswagen Golf 118TSI wagon below it and the Skoda Octavia RS wagon above it, while the Mazda 6 wagon and Holden Commodore Sportwagon are larger wild cards that each offer a high level of driving enjoyment.
Naturally, however, the Megane GT 220 Estate will also compete against many popular compact SUV models in the sub-$40K family-car buying space – including the company’s own Koleos – although Renault says it actually aims to lure prospective buyers of the Megane RS265 who can’t cop having only two doors.
In most ways, the Renault Megane GT 220 Estate feels exactly as you’d expect from a car pegged between the ordinary sub-$30K Megane hatchback models and the $40K-plus Megane RS265 coupe.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed manual drivetrain from the Megane RS perform almost as well as they do in the slinky coupe. Despite the Megane GT 220 Estate tipping the scales 90kg heavier than its coupe sibling, at 1474kg, and producing 33kW and 20Nm less power and torque respectively, the performance remains strong and induction noise endearing.
With162kW from 4750-6500rpm and 340Nm from 2750-4500rpm, the Megane GT 220 Estate feels gutsy both off the line and when overtaking. Front passengers are treated to a slightly noisy, thrashy soundtrack while rear riders get the same exhaust vworrrp prominent in the Megane RS – in refinement terms, in this family car application, it is for better or worse; we say better.
The alloy-topped gearlever connects to the same wonderfully slick gearbox, and both the brakes and clutch pedal work as naturally as they do in the Megane RS265.
While most family car buyers want an automatic transmission in this segment – and as with the RS265 one isn’t available – the manual drivetrain is both effortless and engaging.
The Megane GT 220 Estate is also the first Renault to include a stop-start system as standard, which helps reduce its fuel use to a claimed combined 7.3L/100km, compared with 11.3L/100km for the Megane RS265. Premium unleaded is required, however.
Renaultsport maestros know how to tune a chassis, as the RS265 demonstrates, but the ultra-taut set-up of its Sport and Cup cars isn’t evident here.
The spring and damper rates have been appropriately backed off so the Megane GT 220 Estate is far more friendly to the kidneys when pounding over speed humps and less sensitive to surface changes.
It is now comfortably firm, with a slight edginess over larger imperfections and restlessness over small surfaces that remain acceptable for a sporting-focused model. The hard thumping and clunking, and ultra-taut rebound control of the RS265 has been eased. There are corresponding reductions in cornering ability, of course.
Gone is the ability to flatten the throttle pedal early in a corner as you would in a Megane RS265. There’s no front limited slip differential in the Megane GT 220 Estate so the stability control interferes instead – impressively, though, only moderately.
There’s no Perfohub front steering set-up as in the Megane RS265, either. The design, which separates the steering hub from the strut, does a sterling job of reducing torque steer – where the steering is corrupted by the effects of lots of grunt going to the same wheels that do the turning.
In the Megane GT 220 Estate, however, torque steer is still reasonably well contained. More troubling is the slower rack and vagueness in the first movements off the centre position. Start winding on lock and the Renaultsport-tuned system offers decent feel and response, but it isn’t the equal of the Megane RS265 system.
With wide tyres and a ride that remains on the firm side, however, refinement levels are average in the Megane GT 220 Estate. There’s plenty of both road and engine noise which link this small wagon closer to its hatchback sibling than family-friendly SUV and mid-sized cars competing in the same price bracket.
What drivers gain in sporting flavour, there’s a compromise in terms of both refinement and interior polish.
The dash design of the Megane GT 220 Estate is starting to feel its age, with some hard and mismatched plastics, although it is well equipped. The front seats are superbly bolstered, while the rear offers good legroom for outboard passengers. A lack of centre rear air vents is, however, disappointing.
Thanks to the Megane’s torsion beam rear suspension permitting a low loading lip, access to the 486-litre boot is easy, while a full-size spare wheel resides underfloor.
The cargo area itself is bigger than many compact SUV models – including the CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan and Subaru Forester – and expands to 1595L when the rear backrest is folded.
While the Renault Megane GT 220 Estate can’t hit the driving highs of its Megane RS265 coupe sibling, it perhaps offers a better balance of abilities.
It remains enjoyable to drive, and offers plenty of practicality, although some refinement issues remain and the interior quality is average for the price. It also faces stiff competition both from the more subtle but slower Octavia RS, and indirect but similarly priced rivals like the Commodore (about to switch to VF) and Mazda 6, both of which are excellent cars to drive and fine value.
While it may not be the most polished wagon for less than $40,000, buyers who find the RS265 too hard and impractical but can’t bear to buy a compact SUV will still find a nicely engaging and spacious offering in the Renault Megane GT 220 Estate.