Renault hot hatches used to be simple things. Four wheels, sharp steering and delightful little engines.
With the Renault Megane now in its fourth generation, things have got more complicated.
The new range-topping GT model – the fastest Megane on offer until the RS arrives next year – comes not just with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox but four-wheel steering.
This sounds good, and reassuring. And it means that in RS mode (if you stick below 50mph) the rear wheels steer 2.7 degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels. This, Renault says, sharpens turn-in, while at speeds above 50mph the wheels steer 1.0 degree in the same direction to help with high-speed stability.
Renault Megane GT
Engine capacity: 1.6-litre petrol turbo
Power output (BHP @ RPM): 202 @ 6,000
Top speed (MPH): 145
Fuel economy (MPG): 47
C02 emissions (g/km): 134
This is all well and good, but does a small family hatchback really need steering from all four wheels? Especially, when on the road it gives the Megane something of an unhinged feel at speed, which takes some getting used to (I actually quite liked this). Surely though, the thing that really counts with warm or hot hatches is the grunt it offers. Here the Megane GT isn’t quite so cutting edge. It gets plenty of nice kit – LED lights and an huge infotainment display – in addition to the heavy four-wheel steering and automatic gearbox, but weighing in at close to 1,500kg, it feels a little bit flat in a straight line.
Fast – but not fast enough
Don’t get me wrong, by most standards the Megane GT is a fast car, it’s just that’s it’s not hot hatch fast.
For all this weight and complexity though, the Megane GT is a handsome and extremely likeable car. It looks fantastic in Renault’s deep blue, and its smooth Gallic lines are refreshingly pleasant in a world of Teutonic domination by the VW Golf GTI.
Less than a Golf… but more than a Ford
And at £25,000, it’s also far less expensive than the newest Golf GTI. It also feels more stylish somehow, and is certainly more loveable. This is a car for a more measured, technical petrolhead then, one who wants a slightly different experience from his or her hot hatch, and doesn’t want to pay a premium for it.
There is one problem though, in many ways this car already exists. It’s called the Ford Focus ST and it’s nearly £2,500 cheaper than the Renault.