TWO CRITICS - ONE CAR: Renault Megane GT Wagon
SMALL wagons are a dying breed here but European brands still have some good ones, such as the Skoda Octavia and VW Golf variants. This is Renault's take on the concept, with a sporty twist.
Ali: I've been looking forward to this. I think the Megane is the best car that Renault does.
Paul: This one is a bit special, too. It's a station wagon and also a GT.
Ali: What does that mean? I thought the go-faster Renaults were all called RS.
Paul: Those are Renault Sport cars, with all the whizzbang stuff. The GT is not as sharp but it still gets a turbo and sports suspension, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with paddle-shifters and lovely front bucket seats.
Ali: I don't quite understand this in Australia, as we are such a nanny state now and no one is allowed to drive fast any more.
Paul: The idea of the GT is that it's accessible driving fun but not so quick that it gets you into trouble or needs a racetrack to push to the limit.
Ali: What's happening with the spare wheel? I can't find it.
Paul: There isn't one. There is a giant Bose subwoofer where it should live. I really don't like that, with just an inflation kit.
Ali: I think the boot is reasonable for a small family. It could easily fit all our shopping and still have room for scooters.
Paul: What about the nifty stuff from the Skoda? How does the Renault compare?
Ali: I like the deep cubby holes on either side at the back, which I seem to keep leaving my sunglasses in. It has the features you expect from a European car - rear aircon vents, lots of storage, Bluetooth connectivity and audio.
Paul: I thought the Bluetooth was really hard to connect and the infotainment was confusing to use. Good sound and all but not as straightforward as others we've had recently.
Ali: People will either love it or hate it. It is fussy, though. I was trying to enter destinations on the satnav and it was so sensitive to touch I resorted to my phone to get what I needed. I like the look but it needs to be simplified. My advice to Renault is to think Apple.
Paul: I really like the drive. The car is quick but not hard work. And the seats and cabin layout are great for me.
Ali: The seats are awful. How are you meant to drive to work each day in this? The lumbar support requires the strength of 10 men to turn the lever and it's not that good. For the average user, these seats are fancy but not functional.
Paul: So we agree to disagree. How about the drive?
Ali: It turns really effortlessly around corners and the pick-up is fantastic. If you like that gruntier sound, it can pack a punch too. Just be careful of the ol' policeman though.
Paul: It's not frantic all the time but it's quick away from the lights. That's good.
Ali: I really like the boot. For me it seems a bit bigger than the Skoda's, too.
Paul: It's not as big as the Subaru Levorg, which I discount as a competitor. But it's way better to drive.
Ali: Eli's stuff all fits well and, unlike all those SUVs, it's easy to load.
Paul: It's really easy to park. It has rear-wheel steering, which means the back wheels turn the opposite way when you're moving slowly.
Ali: Ah, so that's why it feels so strange and turns so well.
Paul: It makes parking easy and also helps stability over 80km/h, when the wheels turn the same way as the steering.
Paul: For me, it's a sweet package. The 1.6-litre turbo gives a solid shove, the car is firm but not jerky in the suspension and it's easy to handle.
Ali: Driving a longer distance, I got some insights into how the car performs. I noticed some quirky rattles that no amount of tapping or hitting alleviated. It seems like that's part of the charm of a Renault.
Paul: You can tune the steering and performance with the "multi-sense” button. There are five driving modes, from dozy to fun.
Ali: I drove the car on a corrugated dirt road and it handled it really well and remained steady. It felt in control the whole time.
Paul: I liked it for a run into the country.
Ali: Not me. More than two hours in those seats would not be fun.
Ali: It does the job and it's not just another SUV.
Eli: It's comfortable. We can take everything I need and still have space in the back.
Ali: And it has five-star safety, right?
Paul: Well, the wagon is not rated separately but the Megane gets a five-star NCAP score in Europe as a hatch. And it has auto emergency braking, radar cruise control and lane-departure warning, which I expect for this price.
Ali: The Tick from me - even with a sore bum.
Paul: My bum is bigger, so the seats are fine. And it's also The Tick from me.
Renault Megane GT Wagon
PRICE From $42,990 drive-away (reasonable)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 5 years/unlimited km, $897 for 3 years (servicing should match warranty)
ENGINE 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 151kW/280Nm (punchy)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, radar cruise control (good)
THIRST 6.0L/100km (thrifty)
SPARE None; inflation kit (bad)
BOOT 580L/1504L (more than enough)