Friday, November 4, 2016

TWIN PLEASURES

Two for one is always a good deal, and when it’s two yummy French creations it’s quite a treat.
No, not macaroons or tarte au citron. but ........
The French have a way with special desserts, and the new Renault Megane is one of the best. I rarely have the chance to drive two such similar cars back to back, but this was one opportunity I could not pass up.

The Megane GT Line (white), and the Megane GT Sport (blue) are a brace of beaux voitures worth writing about.

Recently I talked about Renault’s new Chief Designer, Lauren van den Ackers, and how his smooth, flowing curves have transformed our previous image of quirky Renault’s into attractive, mainstream shapes.

The new Megane goes as well as it looks, and the two cars shown here highlight difficult choices for potential Megane customers.

Is the Megane idiosyncratically-French? No. It's much broader in its appeal, both in terms of design, features, and the overall 'feel' of the car.

Its stance is purposeful, and pretty at the same time, and I think the designers have struck harmonious accord.

I think this car may just be the best French-designed voiture we've seen for a long time. Fashionable, and fun!

You might call the GT Sport Renault’s version of the Golf GTi, except it’s not. The VW version is gutsier, faster, with an image that’s hard to displace in the market.

Also, the Renault Megane GT Sport offers only a 162kW turbocharged 1.6L engine, whilst Golf goes all out with a 2.0L turbo punching out 169kW, and lots more torque.


But, keep in mind the French engine is tuned by Renault Sport; and in my opinion it’s a very responsive, flexible, and thoroughly satisfactory competitor to the VW. And, also remember, the French car is roughly AUD$8 grand cheaper than the German GTi!

The more time I spent in this blue-tinged dessert, the more I liked it. I could get used to this. The performance is punchy and pleasant, although the dual clutch box in the GT was a tad undecided about shifting up, and was easily confused in city driving.

Now, we have the gleaming white Megane GT Line – which is slick way of saying this is the ‘cooking’ version, with dress-up gear and a bigger price tag. 

This one gets a turbocharged 1.2L engine, which despite not being tickled by Renault Sport, also seems lively and punchy in the middle range.

In addition, the dual clutch box worked very well, and changed up and down without the slightest hesitation.

So, Down Under you will pay AUD$37,590 for the GT Line; and AUD$43,090 for the GT model. In my book, you get a lot for your money whichever one you choose to park at your place.

The looks are super chic, and the cohesive compound curves work well to give the new Megane a distinct identity.

The GT Sport also offers four-wheel-steering, which is nothing like the Honda version I sampled ages ago on a Prelude.

On a series of fast, interlinked and flowing curves (in the backblocks) the GT Sport was a dream to drive. The steering is beautifully-weighted, and precise, and together with the paddles, makes for a truly fun-filled fast drive.

The GT Line and its cheaper relatives get manual flexibility courtesy of flicking the transmission lever into manual mode, but no paddles; so when you have the wick wound up on the GT Sport, the column-mounted paddles are a real boon to deriving maximum enjoyment from the experience.

Both versions turn in really nicely, and respond instantly to steering inputs with complete competence.

I really like the way Renault has integrated tacho and speedo. The speedo is digital only, and sits in the centre of a very slick tachometer. It’s so easy to see you don’t need a Heads-Up-Display.

The seats in both performance-imaged cars are some of the best I’ve sampled. They hold the body well, and have just the right degree of firmness to give proper support.

I was confused as to which car I would choose, until I drove the GT Sport.


The GT Line is perfectly pleasant, and performs well, but out on the open road the GT Sport seems to promise much more, and it delivers.

The way I see it, I could imagine a style-conscious, professional female executive looking at the GT Line, and deciding this is one nice car, and wouldn't I look good driving this French beauty.

It’s a fashion statement, with good performance, but without the high performance invoice that comes with the GT Sport.

And, let’s face it, with speed cameras and the highway patrol looking to rack up even more revenue for state governments, I’m not sure you can derive full value for money from the GT Sport, unless your driving demands put you out of towns for long stretches.

I think Renault has delivered a winning combination of looks, performance, economy and value with the new Megane. Whichever one of these French desserts you choose, I’m certain you’ll love it just as much as a genuine French lemon tart!

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