… Renault Mégane GT TCe 205 …
Numpty alert. There are times when you feel such a numpty. We all do it. No matter how experienced and practiced we may be in our jobs and professions, there comes a day when the habitual humdrum of everyday work can catch us out.
And I was caught out. No damage done or embarrassment caused, but I could have kicked myself. When Renault’s latest Mégane GT TCe 205 was delivered to my door I thought little of it, other than looking forward to taking it for a drive. Having driven the 200 bhp Clio I was looking forward to its bigger brother. Same engine, bigger body.
Anyway, within half a mile of driving it for the first time I was puzzled. Something didn’t feel right. I actually pulled off the road and stopped, and checked the tyre pressures. They were all OK. Then I rubbed the sole of my foot on the main road, and yes it was slightly slippy due to overnight frost, but nothing too bad. That must be it.
So I set off again, but for the first few miles I was very tentative still thinking that all wasn’t right with the world. The car was fine on the motorway and straight roads, but it all felt a wee bit weird on the corners. It was only when I got to the Dalveen Pass heading south that the big light bulb in the space where my brain should be, lit up.
The car’s handling characteristics had nothing to do with its drivetrain or dynamics. The Megane GT has four wheel steering. Dohhh, I felt such a fool. My only excuse was that due to jumping in and out of a huge variety of new cars over the past year I had forgotten. Thank goodness I had no passengers to wind me up. It just proves that even the most accomplished of motoring correspondents (my description!) can be caught out.
Confidence restored, I pressed on. Coming up was that wonderful stretch of road from Moniaive to St John’s Town of Dalry. This meandering stretch of tarmacadamed sinuosity is a favoured destination for assessing performance and the ideal place to check out the four wheel steering.
At speeds up to 50mph, the rear wheels point in the opposite direction to the fronts when cornering, but above that the rear wheels steer in the same direction. It’s not as if the rears can get full lock on hairpins, the changes in direction are much more subtle, they only turn a few degrees off true.
One of Renault’s original ideas was that it would aid stability when lane changing on motorways, and that certainly is where the system excels, but on twisty roads it can make the rear end feel a bit vague at times. Especially when the ‘magic’ sensor judges that the car’s speed is such that it needs to alter the angle of attack at the rear. Outside the car, passers-by won’t notice a car going side-saddle up the roads, but inside the car, the changes are perceptible. It would be interesting to see if rear seat passengers felt anything different too, but on this occasion ‘Jaggy-no-mates’ was travelling alone!
Once you get used to it, progress can be made with confidence although the steering still feels a little light. There is however, plenty of front end grip to provide assurance, but more steering feedback would be appreciated, especially with these 4WS characteristics.
Knowing what to expect and having built up a bit of confidence, the series of ‘S’ bends six miles south of Moniaive were tackled with relish although the frosty covering ensured that enthusiasm was tempered with respect. This also ensured that speeds were well within the countryside limits providing ample opportunity to experience the rear wheels turning with the front. The steering offers real assurance as the front end turns in and bites, but that’s followed by the surreal feeling of the rear wanting to step out. It’s not of course, but until you get used to it, it can be mildly disconcerting.
Is it a good thing on this class of car? I’m not sure. For someone doing high motorway mileage and seeking a little additional motoring security perhaps it is, but I’m not so sure.
The turbocharged 1.6-litre engine is willing enough, but the 7 speed dual clutch EDC transmission is not the most responsive of units. It works well enough for everyday needs, but when you do want to press on, it can be a bit hesitant at times. Not what you want in a sporting car.
Although it doesn’t feel as nippy as the rapid Clio, the Megane does make decent progress and well justifies its ‘GT’ tag as opposed to a proper ‘Sport’ label. The Megane is bigger outside and roomier inside, so to call it a ‘hot hatch’ is a wee bit of a misnomer. It’s just a quick and capable compact with a comfortable interior and a rather handy big boot.
And that is another major attraction. The car’s interior. The front seats are quite splendiferous. The sports seats are firm and shapely without being tight and awkward, and somehow getting in and out is much easier than other cars with such seats. Ideal for auld gits wanting a sporty image, but without the sprachle of climbing out and in a set of buckets.
Naturally, this being a 2016 motor, it has a large touchscreen mounted high on the central dash which hides a multiplicity of functions behind its glazed facade, many of which will never be explored by those of a certain age, but which will bemuse and delight the weans and the teens.
Would I have one? It looks good and goes well, so why not. Although I was a wee bit critical of the gearbox, it wasn’t as bad as some others out there. In other words, likeable, practical and mostly enjoyable.