The new-generation Renault Megane GT-Line looks a million bucks, yet costs $6000 less than the already sharply priced GT. So do you need the latter's extra poke, or will this mere style statement suffice?
Are you one of the small group keen on a loaded-up and sporty-looking wagon who has no need for genuine go-fast performance?
If you are, the new-generation Renault Megane GT-Line wagon is for you: a très chic load-lugger that looks ritzy but costs $33,490 before on-road costs ($37,590 drive-away) – $1000 more than the existing hatch version.
Despite the misleading accoutrements, this French-designed but Spanish-built wagon is actually a humble urban-dweller underneath the skin, positioned between the $5000 cheaper Megane Zen and the $6000 pricier 'proper' Megane GT with its actual dynamic engineering.
Ergo, unlike the 151kW/280Nm GT that has the go to match its show, the Megane GT-Line has a modest 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine making 97kW of power at 5500rpm and 205Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
For comparison, the Volkswagen Golf 110TSI wagon range – $30,490 for the Comfortline and $35,990 for the Highline – has a turbocharged 1.4 with 110kW and 250Nm.
As such, the 0-100km/h sprint time is 11.7 seconds, compared to 7.4sec for the Megane GT and 8.6sec for the Golf 110TSI, though we might blandish Renault by saying such an eye-catching design warrants a relaxed, rather than frenetic, drive-by anyhow.
You won't look twice at a Golf, or for that matter its Czech twin the Skoda Octavia.
In typical downsized-engine style, the turbo lends decent low-down shove, but ultimately the car feels a little breathless under heavy throttle – especially when the body is loaded up to the gills (the car's, not the driver's).
We averaged fuel use of 8.5L/100km, 30 per cent off the claim, but forgivable given our driving style. Note that you'll need 95 RON fuel, though we'd discourage anyone from running any car on 91 RON.
This engine is matched as standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) – putting to bed the days when French cars were defiantly manual-only offerings aimed at purists, but anathema to the wider buying public stuck in gridlock.
It's generally well-behaved around town and benefits from an anti-creeping auto-hold function. However, paddles would be nice, as would less recalcitrance in manual mode where the 'box upshifts near redline. To hell with self-preservation.
The GT-Line also misses out on the GT's nifty understeer-countering 4Control rear-wheel steering system, DCT double-downshift software, launch control and Renault Sport-tuned chassis and suspension.
That's not saying it isn't a nippy, engaging thing to drive though, with a well-balanced front-drive chassis that enables the car to turn-in eagerly and hold on deftly through corners against lateral inputs.
This is coupled to an electric-assisted steering system with adjustable 'weight' (resistance) levels, part of Renault's Multi-Sense software, that errs towards urban-friendliness but is direct from centre nevertheless – though mid-corner adjustments are better done on the throttle.
All told the little French wagon feels small and easy to throw about despite its stretched body – at 4626mm, it's almost a foot longer than the hatch, though its 2670mm wheelbase is, predictably, unchanged.
In most conditions the ride is pretty well-sorted, ironing out minor urban corrugations without impacting body control. However, the dampers feel overawed over really corrugated stretches in a way the VW Golf's won't. It's super-quiet too, though again not quite Golf level.
But it feels remiss to devote too much time to the drive here, because if ever a car was about looks and features, it's the Megane GT-Line.
Over and above the Zen, the GT-Line gets 17-inch alloys, a blacked-out honeycomb lower grille, chrome exhaust tips, satin grey mirrors shells, rear privacy (tinted) glass and a panoramic sunroof. It's glamorous, even in boring white. We'd fork out $600 for Berlin Blue or Flame Red paint, though.
The Megane's ergonomics are great, and the standard sunroof adds ambience without negating body rigidity – something the creaky old model suffered from.
Beyond this, the cabin looks and feels sophisticated, thank to well-bolstered seats trimmed in Alcantara suede, a Nappa leather steering wheel, tasteful blue highlights and adjustable coloured ambient LED cabin lighting.
The centre stack is dominated by the signature 8.7-inch portrait-oriented capacitive touchscreen that's great for mapping, and which defaults to a multi-tile home-screen showing audio and navigation guidance.
Digging through sub-menus is rarely necessary, and the response times proved relatively swift. Downsides include the less-than-fetching slabby black plastic surround and the lack of a volume knob (you have buttons on the screen frame and steering wheel).
We also noticed that the glue holding the blue strip on the dash in front of the passenger was already starting to give out, and towards the end of our loan noticed a glitch where the radio station changed without prompting. There's either a small bug in the coding, or some sort of poltergeist living inside the firewall.
One thing we cannot criticise overmuch (beside the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) is the level of standard equipment, which additionally includes: two USB and two 12V inputs, satellite navigation, branded puddle-lighting, a 7.0-inch TFT driver's instrument cluster, push-button start with card-like proximity key, heated front seats, dusk-sensing headlights, and auto wipers.
There's also six airbags, a rear-view camera, front/rear sensors, auto parking assist, city autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane assist, adaptive cruise control with speed-limiter function, blind-spot monitoring, and auto high-beam.
You can also option a Premium Pack for $1490 that adds a ramped-up BOSE audio system with subwoofer, and 'Pure Vision' full LED headlights, and fork out $990 for 18-inch 'Grand Tour' alloy wheels.
Rear seat space is only okay, though at least the single-piece seats are soft-shelled. Rear occupants enjoy fantastic seat bolstering, air vents, ambient lighting and acceptable knee- and headroom provided they're under about 180cm.
Where the $1000 impost over the GT-Line hatch really becomes worthwhile is when you compare the respective cargo spaces: 580 litres with the back seats in use (up from 434L), expanding to 1504L with the back seats folded.
The loading length in this form is 1754mm (almost six feet), combining with an 1109mm wide space between the wheel arches. The cargo area also benefits from handy flip levers that let you drop the back seats in one smooth motion.
Then again, that pesky Volkswagen Golf wagon offers a longer loading area with greater cargo volume. However, we'd suggest if practicality is of vital import, you also consider the higher-riding Renault Koleos. Actually, don't. Don't be a sheep.
The elephant in the room when discussing any French-designed vehicle is reliability and running costs, which Renault Australia has gotten ahead of thanks to its excellent five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty, recently matched by Skoda and bettered only by Kia – among mainstream brands anyway.
Scheduled services also fall at long 12-month or 30,000km intervals (we're dubious about that distance interval), priced at $299 per visit for the first few years. That's affordable.
All told, we finished our time with the new Megane GT-Line wagon appreciating its sophisticated – borderline lascivious – design language, standard equipment list and decent running costs. Ditto its cabin layout and defiant lack of Germanic influence.
Putting our logical hat on, though, we noticed it's not the last word in practicality for the class, nor does it have the go to match its show. And we'd feel a little shortchanged if we saved $6000 but lacked the GT's superior performance and handling characteristics, and more sophisticated ride.
Ultimately, the GT-Line is a good car, but it's also far too logical. As such, we prescribe splurging a little more and getting the full-on Megane GT wagon. You won't regret the slightly higher monthly repayments.
Click the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser