Still very much advancing on the comeback trail, no brand has quite managed to replicate the same success shown by Renault over the last few years.
Headed by the Clio, Sandero II and Duster ranges, with the recent additions of the Captur and Kadjar helping to strengthen its foothold in the local market even further, the French marque has now more than ever made it clear it deserves to be taken seriously against rivals from Japan, Germany and South Korea.
With the introduction of the fourth generation Mégane to the hotly contested C-segment however, Renault has once more put its neck on the line as its aims to not only provide a credible rival to the likes of Golf, Civic, Focus and Astra, but to shun any lasting memories of the horrendous resale value and service history that blighted previous generations.
On first glance, you cannot help but be stunned at the latest effort from chief designer, Laurens van den Acker. Inspired to a large extent by the Talisman sedan, the exterior, apart from the stunning Iron Blue hue our range-topping GT tester arrived in, adopts a more muscular appearance than before with a combination of strong lines, those striking C-shaped headlights with integrated daytime LED’s, black honeycomb grille, deep front air intake and 18-inch diamond cut alloy wheels.
Just as impressive, the somewhat bloated rear end of the outgoing model makes for a stubbier yet angular rump, highlighted by a subtle boot spoiler, chrome RenaultSport and GT badging, satin silver diffuser and lights running almost the full width of the body.
Inside, the interior exhibits a distinctly upmarket and modern feel with soft touch plastics on most surfaces, a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster, sporty blue inserts and stitching on the gear lever and handbrake, chrome detailing on the steering wheel, centre console and gear lever, and a grippy leather steering wheel.
It is not all good though with some of the finishes lower down, especially around the cupholders feeling somewhat cheap and plasticky, however, the general fit-and-finish is top notch and classy.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the GT’s interior, apart from the incredibly comfortable Alcantara sport seats and those oversized grin-inducing gearshift paddles, is the reworked R-Link infotainment system that features a tablet-like 8.7-inch touch screen display.
As well as incorporating satellite navigation developed by TomTom and hosting most of the functions for the climate control and sound system, the setup proved tricky at first, but soon became a doddle to use with the Bluetooth connection to my smartphone taking less than 30 seconds to hook-up.
Some interesting features of the system, dubbed Multi-sense, includes configurable user profiles, ability to adjust the engine sound, a choice of colours for the ambient lighting and the obligatory drive mode selector with four choices which we will get to later.
In spite of its sporty persona, the GT is still very much a family hatch at heart, meaning it comes with a spacious boot that measures 384 litres or 1 247 litres with the 60/40 rear seats folded down. There are also good levels of rear head and leg room for passengers. A further plus is the 17-inch alloy spare hidden underneath the boot board.
Given its range-topping status, the GT wants for little when it comes to creature comforts, with notable items including heated front seats, push button start, keyless entry, auto on/off lights, panoramic sunroof, cruise control, rear parking sensors, Hill Start Assist, six airbags and optional Blind Spot Assist and Park Assist.
If we were to knit pick, the absence of a reverse camera, given the GT's rather lofty R449 900 price tag, rates as the only blemish on its list of mod-cons, although this will become available at a later stage.
It is however when you press the starter button and slot the seven-speed EDC dual clutch box into Drive that the lack of a camera and the Tupperware centre console becomes of little significance.
Powered by the same M5T 1.6-litre turbocharged engine as the Clio RS, albeit reworked to produce 151 kW and 280 N.m of torque, the GT responds with immediate effect when you punch it with little to no turbo lag and a relentless surge of grunt.
Press the RS button underneath the infotainment display however, and everything changes. As earlier mentioned, the GT offers a choice of four driving modes; Neutral, Comfort, Sport and Perso that adjust throttle response, steering feedback, gear changes and even changes the backlighting on the instrument cluster.
Although left in Neutral for most of its weeklong stay, selecting Sport and taking manual control of the gearbox provided some hints of what to expect from the forthcoming RS. Floor it, and the surge becomes a flood of power with the box shrugging off its abysmal showing in the Clio RS by being quick and precise with each tug of the paddles.
If the performance is not impressive enough, the ride is especially commendable given that the GT still makes do with a torsion-beam rear suspension. It was only upset by really bad patches of road and felt composed, with refinement, engine and road noise also being well dented.
A further boon is the fitment of Renault's 4Control four-wheel steering system which not only helps in tight convinces, but gives the GT a planted feel when you stick into a corner.
Achingly good looking, loaded with a tech and a powertrain guaranteed to keep the smiles coming, the Renault Mégane GT makes for a truly impressive package that justifies its designation to a tee. Granted, some might frown at the hefty price and opt for the cheaper mid-range GT-Line, the GT nonetheless stands out in more ways than just the colour of its skin.
|ENGINE LAYOUT||DOHC 16v Inline 4 turbo|
|MAX POWER||151 kW @6000 rpm|
|MAX TORQUE||280 N.m @2450 rpm|
|DRIVE LAYOUT||Front engine; Front-wheel drive|
|ACCELERATION (0-100 km/h)||7.1 secs|
|TOP SPEED||230 km/h|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION||6.0 L/100 km|