New, smaller, engine pumps up 2014 Renault Mégane GT-Line hatchback

Smaller package, more dynamite

At first glance, almost nothing has changed. The new Mégane GT-Line looks very much like its predecessor and engine power is practically the same. At 97 kilowatts, it’s only marginally stronger than the old one and the difference could be chalked up to different roundings of test reults. Besides, who can feel one kilowatt more, anyway?

As always, bare numbers don’t say much. While the new, 1200 cc, model H5Ft engine produces arguably the same power as the old 1.4 TCe, the difference is in torque delivery. That’s the energy that helps it accelerate and to haul ass up hills. While the 1400 gave you 190 Newton metres at 2250 rpm, the 1200 bumps it up to 205 Nm at 2000 rpm, so you get more. And sooner. With 90-percent of that available from 1500 revs per minute, it pulls like a locomotive from just above idling speed.

Not comfortable with turbocharging? I’ve been there, but Renault has been making turbocharged Formula One engines since 1977 and still supplies a number of F1 teams with motors. Its engines won more than160 races; powering nine World Drivers’ Champions and ten World Constructors’ Champions along the way, so they surely know what they’re doing.

Other Formula One experience that rubbed off onto this little motor includes direct fuel injection with increased tumbling for better mixture, sophisticated friction reduction treatments and improved cooling strategies. So it’s not simply the power, but its ease of delivery. For tech-heads, the engine is all-aluminium, has double cam phasing with variable valve timing for both inlet and exhaust, a variable oil pump that doesn’t waste energy by over-delivering when it isn’t needed, uses automatic stop-and-start to save fuel and has energy smart management with a regenerative braking system.

So what? Similar performance, lower carbon dioxide emissions, up to 14-percent better fuel economy and being easier to drive lazily, is what.
All Méganes are safety-conscious with six airbags, ISOFix anchorages on both outer rear seats, electric child-proof locks, ABS brakes with emergency brake assist, ESP with anti-slip regulation, automatic activation of hazard lights under emergency braking, cruise control and speed limiter.

Comfort and convenience fittings include filtered dual channel air conditioning, automatic windscreen wipers with rain sensor, rear parking distance beepers, a back screen wiper that switches on as you reverse, and height- and lumbar adjustment for the driver’s chair. There’s also an onboard computer, hands-free locking and unlocking, push-button starting, one-touch driver and passenger front windows with anti-pinch, and TomTom Live satnav with traffic updates, weather forecasts and Places search. For entertainment there’s a radio and CD player with USB, SD and auxiliary jacks and Bluetooth connectivity with hands-free telephony.

A note on the hands-free locking mentioned earlier: The car unlocks automatically as you get up close and locks as you walk away, but it doesn’t lock its doors automatically as you drive off. There’s a separate button on the dash for that. GT-Line trim adds warming and folding to the outside mirrors, Alcantara seats with cloth inserts, 17-inch alloys to replace the 16” wheels on entry-level Dynamique versions, some trim items just there to look sexy, and optional sunroofs.

Appearance-wise the grille has been reshaped, is narrower, wider and blacked out with a bigger Renault diamond in its centre rather than on the bonnet. Headlamps are different and the lower side grids feature LED running lights. The back view is essentially the same as previously and the inside hasn’t changed much apart from colours of some trim items.

The parking brake is sited for left hand drive but easy enough to reach. Similar could be said of the six-speed manual gear lever – reach is a bit long for odd-numbered gears but not impossible. Control pedals are comfortably spaced, gear selection is slightly notchy but acceptable and the foot rest is easy to reach.

It’s been almost three years since I drove the previous GT-Line but the new one seemed to have better roll-on acceleration from 120 km/h in top gear – possibly because of changes to gearing or the wider torque band. The suspension is quite firm so those with delicate posteriors might object, but I had no complaints. The main thing is that the car always feels stable and handles confidently. I admit to a certain broadening of beam with advancing age, so the front seats, although nicely supportive with decent under-thigh length, could be uncomfortable for plumper thighs.

Apart from having just one cup holder, storage space throughout the cabin is good with bins on all doors, an open box and seatback pockets in the rear, novel-sized trays under the front carpets, a fair glove compartment and an oddly shaped box under the front, central armrest. It can hold just four CDs in jewel cases, so your parents probably won’t hijack the car too often, unless they carry their personal tunes around on a flash drive. The USB connector plays both MP3 and WM4 files and shows album information on the big touch screen.

Because the body hasn’t changed since the previous model, rear seat accommodation for fully grown passengers is still tight for knees, feet and clambering out again, although head space is acceptable. The boot opens at upper thigh level, is about 20 centimetres deep and practically shaped. There is a light, two lashing rings and a small storage compartment under the hinged floorboard. The full-size steel spare is stowed upside down to accommodate said storage, but a drawback is that checking inflation pressure is awkward. You have to unpack and take the wheel out to do so.

Modern technology has once again made smaller, better. Something about dynamite coming in little packages, I guess.

Test car from Renault SA press fleet
The numbers
Price: R284 900
Engine: 1198 cc, DOHC 16-valve turbopetrol
Power: 97 kW at 5500 rpm
Torque: 205 Nm between 2000 and 3000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 9,7 seconds
Maximum speed: 200 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 7,7 l/100 km
Tank: 60 litres
Warranty: 5 years/150 000 km; with roadside assistance
Service plan: 5 years/90 000 km; at 15 000 km intervals

Motor Man Megane front ed146 nov14

Motor Man Megane interior ed146 nov14

Motor Man Megane rear ed146 nov14