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2014 Renault Megane GT Line TomTom first drive review

The facelifted 2014 version of the Renault Mégane coupé.

Since the launch of this generation in 2008, the Mégane has battled against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

Many of its rivals have since been considerably refreshed however, or renewed from the ground up, leaving the Renault trailing behind. New alternatives, like the second-generation Kia Cee'd, have further weakened its position.

So, in order to modernise the Mégane - and to bring it in line with the rest of the Renault family - it's received the brand's new visual identity. It entails a much more prominent Renault diamond on the nose, new bumpers, lights and grilles, and a new bonnet.

Renault also claims to have revised the suspension for 'strong dynamic performance', while a new 1.2-litre TCe petrol engine is available. The manufacturer's R-Link media system is offered too, alongside a host of technology packs.

The model tested here, a 1.6-litre diesel coupé in range-topping 'GT Line TomTom' specification, commands a price tag of £22,945. That's not insignificant, for a diesel hatchback, but adequate equipment levels go some way to justifying the price.

As standard it includes cruise control, a speed limiter, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, sat-nav, keyless entry and start, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Opting for the GT Line TomTom further adds, over the Dynamique TomTom model below, myriad cosmetic upgrades. The most notable additions are 17-inch wheels, 'dark chrome' exterior trim, a Renaultsport steering wheel and two-tone Renaultsport seats.

These are complemented by a 'sports chassis' with lowered suspension. Our test car was additionally fitted with optional £595 metallic paint, the £300 R-Link multimedia system, a £95 spare wheel and a £600 reversing camera, bringing its total price to £24,535.
What is it like?

Surprisingly likeable, in some respects. Straight from the outset its clear that the GT variant is firmer than the standard car.

This predictably results in a more planted feel, with minimal body roll in corners. The downside is that it's somewhat uncomfortable as well - the Renault will tend to remain unsettled, even on relatively smooth roads, and bumps and divits are frequently transmitted straight into the cabin. Those using it for a long commute will probably tire quickly of its restlessness.

The steering is, on the plus side, quite direct. There's not a great deal of feedback but it's adequately weighted and there's plenty of grip on offer. Coupled with its sporting suspension, and when being hustled across country at pace, the Renault proves quite capable and somewhat rewarding to drive. There has evidently been considerable effort put into ensuring that it can deal with corners in an adept fashion.

Both accelerator and clutch responses are well judged, but the braking response requires work. The initial braking effort is very soft, for a considerable portion of the travel, then the pedal stiffens suddenly. Bleeding off speed quickly requires a significant amount of concerted effort, and some could find themselves caught out.

The six-speed manual transmission offers up a good range of ratios but vertical travel through the gates is long, and the shift action annoying audible. There's a somewhat plasticky 'thunk' between changes and, once you've noticed, it quickly becomes a bugbear.

Power comes from a well-proven 1.6-litre 16-valve turbocharged diesel engine. It produces 129bhp and 236lb ft, which is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

The engine, which sees service in many other Renaults, grants the Mégane adequate performance. The 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in a reasonable 9.8sec; given enough room the Renault will go on to hit 124mph.

It's flexible enough to not become an annoyance, and its power is delivered in a predictable fashion. Refinement is acceptable, with only a slight diesel note emanating through the bulkhead when cruising. During acceleration it can become raucous, but chasing its 5000rpm-odd redline will no doubt be a relatively rare occurrence.

Combined, Renault suggests that the Mégane dCi 130 could average 70.6mpg. During testing it easily returned an indicated average of 54mpg. Emissions of 104g/km of CO2 are admirable too, resulting in annual road tax of £20.

Inside, things are much the same bar the addition of the R-Link media system. Front occupants are offered plenty of room and a decent range of seating adjustments, while the steering column adjusts for both reach and rake.

The vast majority of the controls are sensibly located and intuitive, and everything functions as you'd expect. The cabin feels solidly built too; there are no creaks or rattles, and the materials used feel of an acceptable standard. There's a notable amount of road noise from the tail of the car, however, and rear quarter visibility is poor.

Rear-seat occupants don't have quite as good a deal as those in the front. The seats are comfortable enough, but there are three adjustable headrests, none of which have much vertical adjustment. This means, if you're about six foot tall, you'll have a rest jammed in the back of your neck. There's no central armrest either.

Legroom is acceptable in the back but there's little headroom, and the small windows serve further to make the rear of the car feel cramped and small. Children should be fine, but adults will most likely only want to entertain short trips.

Many will no doubt be irritated by a selection of ergonomic issues. For example, the Renault's instrument cluster is canted away from the driver, forever making you feel like your seating position is wrong. The glovebox is also infuriatingly small, while the cupholder is partially obstructed by the centre console. At least decently sized door bins give you somewhere to stow bottles and larger items.

Predictably, for a coupé, the doors are long - but they're also heavy, and the interior handle is near the front hinge. This can make the doors both difficult to open and hard to control. In tight car parks, or on a slope, this could prove troublesome.

Beneficially, the Renault does have a decently sized boot, but it features a tall lip and a narrow opening. As a result, some may find it difficult to load - especially if the item is bulky or heavy.

Renault's GT Line additions do serve to improve the looks of the standard Mégane, but it does seem a little under-wheeled on 17-inch alloys. Larger items would probably serve to make it look considerably more interesting and should not impede the ride if the car is properly set up.
Should I buy one?

Make no mistake, in isolation the Renault Mégane is not a bad car. The primary problem is that it is now a six-year-old model. Despite myriad revisions, many of the original flaws - such as a lack of rear space and any real flair - remain unresolved.

In GT Line the Mégane also poses somewhat of a conundrum. Here is a frugal, comfortable hatchback with relatively sleek styling. It's ideal for commuting, and drives well enough, but - truth be told - so does the less costly standard car.

Most buyers would no doubt prefer the softer ride of the non-GT Line Mégane too, especially given the car's probable intended usage. After all, buyers of diesel Renaults are unlikely to be seeking out the best in dynamic capabilities, instead preferring a blend of compliance and capability.

It is also not a cheap car, in the specification tested. At £24,535 it costs £2340 more than a similarly specified Ford Focus, in Titanium X Navigator trim with a 1.6-litre TDCi engine. The Focus also feels more modern, features a significantly better interior and is notably better to drive.

Even alternatives like the three-door Audi A3 can be had in relatively well equipped form for less. For example, a 2.0-litre TDI A3 in Sport trim and with sat-nav will set you back £23,480, a saving of £1055.

If running costs are a concern, your money would be better spent on one of the Korean examples. A sharply styled three-door Kia Procee'd, in range-topping SE specification and with a 1.6-litre diesel engine, would cost you £19,595. It even comes with a seven-year warranty, and is claimed average 65.7mpg.

Ultimately, the Renault offers up little to justify a purchase. Yes, it's relatively smartly presented. Yes, it shouldn't cost the earth to run. No, it's not abhorrent to drive. The competition, however, has long moved on - and more distinctive and engaging options are available for less, in many instances.

If its price came down by several thousand, or you were able to strike a good deal, then then it may well prove a worthwhile consideration.

We, however, would still be inclined to look elsewhere.

2014 Renault Mégane GT Line TomTom Energy dCi 130 Stop & Start

Price £22,945; 0-62mph 9.8sec Top speed 124mph Economy 70.6mpg CO2 104g/km Kerbweight 1320kg Engine 4cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged diesel Installation Front, transverse, front-wheel drive Power 129bhp at 4000rpm Torque 236lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox 6-speed manual

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