Renault‘s Australian renaissance continues to build momentum, with the all new Koleos and Megane range attracting plenty of positive comment. It’s fair to say that the GT and Zen Megane cars should be on your radar, and here’s why, as A Wheel Thing drives the Renault Megane GT and Renault Megane Zen.The Megane is a sweet looker, with a curvy overall shape and an extra bit of sheetmetal at the rear to emphasise the profile. Both have LED running lights in a hockey stick shape, LED rear lights and the GT takes that further with LEDs powering the main front lights. It’s compact outside, at 4359 mm in length and runs on a 2670 mm wheelbase, which offers 180 mm of rear seat knee room. Shoulder room for the 1814 mm wide (mirrors folded) pair is 1441 mm up front and 1390 mm in the rear. Front and rear track are almost identical at 1591 mm and 1586 mm. It’s a slightly bigger car, this fourth generation Megane, than the previous version, with the wheelbase 29 mm longer for an increase in overall length of 57 mm.Up front there’s a duet of petrol engines, with the Zen packing a mere 1200 cc four cylinder, with 97 kilowatts and 205 Nm. The turbocharged GT has 151 kilowatts at 6000 and a hefty 280 torques at 2400 rpm from a 1.6L powerplant. Both run on standard 95RON and power down via a seven speed dual clutch auto. From the fifty litre tank, Renault quotes a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.6L/100 km and 6.0L/100 km. Around town it’s just 6.8L/100 km or 7.8L/100 km.The GT is marked as 4Control, with subtle badging on the B pillars. This makes one wonder if it’s four wheel drive; no, it’s four wheel steering, with a rear wheel steering setup adding to the amazing agility of the five door hatch. It’s engineered so it’ll turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front at either 80 kph or 60 kph, depending on which drive mode you’ve selected. Above those speeds the rears will turn in the same direction as the front. Does it work? Oh yes sir, it does. So do the brakes, in that unlike too many there’s real feedback, real bite, as soon as the pedal is touched. Distances between you and the car in front can be more finely judged with a variation of pressure, not relying on something to happen with a depression of an inch or so before action happens.With the car riding on GT specific springs, dampers, and roll bars to the rest of the range, and combining with a super responsive steering system, lends the GT a sporting prowess that isn’t at odds with its seemingly cheapish $38K price. Turn in is crisp, sharp, and understeer is relegated to the file marked “No Longer Applicable”. This is thanks to a computer system that analyses steering angle and input 100 times per second. Not only is the GT a sharp handler, it rides better than the Zen. The lower spec car has 16 inch alloys, the GT rolls on 18s. Rubber is 205/55 for the Zen and 225/40 for the GT. The GT is sometimes jittery, but rides across imperfections better than the Zen, with the Zen more prone to bump steer and road intrusions, plus just that little more float from undulations. It’s by no means a bad handler in its own right, but backed against the wall by the brawnier GT, the differences are apparent.
Naturally the GT is better at getting underway, particularly with the dual clutch auto’s habit of thinking momentarily before engaging Drive from Reverse or from a standstill. Having said that, the Zen gets up and runs well enough for its engine size once the transmission has hooked it. There’s a faint buzz from the drivetrain as it does, the sound of the engine rising and falling along with the almost imperceptible changes, and suddenly you’re well and truly at highway speeds. Then the GT takes that and increases the grin factor with Launch Control…Rorty is a word used to describe a mechanical noise that emanates from the engine bay and also the exhaust. The GT has it in bucketloads. As good and as enjoyable as the Zen is in its driveability and handling, the GT amplifies that, enhances it, sharpens it, to the point that the smile you have becomes a grin of sheer enjoyment, visible from Mars. Turn in is precise, accelaration is electics, the aural sensation is sexy, the support of the blue trimmed bucket seats is amazing, and all come together to provide a drive experience for the senses. The Zen isn’t off in the aural caressment stakes, though, with enough of a growl to please most.When not fanging the cars around, you can enjoy the interiors. There’s proper soft touch materials on doors and dash, lacking, for example, in Jaguar’s much vaunted F-Pace. There’s adjustable screens for the dash and the centre touchscreen, satnav for the GT, a bigger 8.7 inch screen in the G as opposed to the Zen’s 7 incherT. Both have touch sensitive aircon controls; touchscreen for the GT and the same setup in the Zen as seen in the Koleos, with a strip built into the console. There’s heating for the seats in the GT which is unneccessary given their blue suede and cloth covering. Bluetooth? Natch.The Zen is simple black and charcoal cloth with contrasting white stitching, with a plastic trim on the doors not unlike the spotted pattern as seen on a whale shark. Both also have the quirk of placing audio on a separate stalk to the lower right of the steering column and cruise control in the centre console. The GT raises the stakes by having LED strip lighting and it’s at a level of intensity to not overwhelm the eyes during a night time drive. Both equal up in items such as Auto headlights, rain sensing wipers, 434 litre cargo which maxes at 1247L with seats down, push button Start/Stop and all four windows one touch up and down. Audiowise, both get great sound, with the GT a 12 speaker Bose system. There’s plenty of punch in the Zen’s 8 speakers though, with DAB available here as in the GT.Renault now offer a five year, unlimited kilometre, warranty, five years roadside assistance, and fixed price servicing for the first three services, providing the best of peace of mind.
At The End Of the Drive.
Renault are well poised in Australia to make a seriously positive impact on our crowded market. The Megane range has been spearheaded by a (soon to return to Australia) RS version however there’s more than enough in the 2017 range to appeal to drivers across the board. Up against tried and true entries from Korea, Japan, and European rivals, the Megane stands out as a worthwhile consideration. And starting at a sub $25K driveaway price, it enters this hotly contested market with plenty of value to back up a great driving experience. Go here Renault Megane for 2017 for the info you need to know.