Peugeot 308 GTi 2015 review
John Carey road tests and reviews the Peugeot 308 GTi with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch.
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Renault took a liberty and went for quality, says John Carey — and Megane stands out in the hatch fraternity.
The aim, according to chief engineer Fabrice Garcia, was "not to make revolution, but to improve". Renault realised it needed to lift the quality of its hatchback to make it stand out in the crowded small car segment, he explains. And the group also wanted to make the car's roadholding more secure, but without reducing comfort.
Renault has achieved these objectives, as an introductory drive of the new Megane in Portugal proved. But the car will attract attention for other, more obvious reasons. The French brand has created one of the best looking cars in the class, both inside and out. It's a big improvement over the old Megane, launched back in 2008 and these days looking dated.
The stylish exterior makes some of the new Megane's key competitors – cars like the VW Golf, Ford Focus, Peugeot 308, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and even the hugely popular Mazda 3 – seem a little plain.
High-grade versions of the Megane will feature a big, 8.7-inch portrait-oriented touch-screen in the centre of a classily designed instrument panel, bringing a touch of luxury car technology to the class for the first time.
A comprehensive set of driver assist and safety technologies can be installed in the new Megane. The list includes autonomous emergency braking, rear view camera, automatic headlight dipping, and side sensors to warn the driver when there's a danger of scraping the car against an unseen obstacle.
The new Megane is a larger car than the old model; length, width and wheelbase all increase, while height is a little less. Despite the growth in size, Renault used special steels in the Megane's body to make sure weight didn't rise. Substitutes for metal are used in places.
The Megane's tailgate and front guards are made of plastic, for example. Compared model for model, the new Megane weighs around 10kg less than the old, Garcia says. There's more room inside. Renault claims gains in shoulder room and rear seat knee room.
There's certainly room enough for a couple of large adults in the rear seat. And the car's 384-litre cargo compartment is among the biggest in the class, although the loading lip is rather high.
The engine is a strong performer that sounds good when revved hard
The new and much improved Megane won't arrive in Australia until sometime in the second half of 2016, probably September or October. Renault Australia plans to import a line-up with two turbo petrol engines and one turbo diesel.
Renault's Energy TCe 130 engine, a 97kW 1.2-litre in-line four, will come with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed double-clutch auto. The manual will be the least expensive model in the range, at about the same $21,000 price point as the current base-model Megane.
The sole diesel will be the Energy dCi 110, an 81kW 1.5-litre in-line four. It will be teamed only with a six-speed double-clutch automatic, which Renault markets as EDC (for Efficient Dual Clutch).
Topping the new Megane line-up will be the GT 205, which Renault Australia aims to price from around $37,500. Its Energy TCe 205 is a turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol-burner, and it will be offered only with a seven-speed EDC.
Intended to bridge the gap between the regular Megane models and the super-sporty RS models, the GT features technology intended to make it a fun car to drive.
Renault has got the basics right
These include more direct steering, a computer-controlled rear micro-steering system to improve low-speed agility and high-speed stability, and larger brakes front and rear.
This is the model CarsGuide spent most time driving in Portugal. The engine is a strong performer that sounds good when revved hard, but the dual-clutch transmission can be hesitant when driving quickly in Sport mode. It's better in the more relaxed Neutral and Comfort modes.
The car's ride and handling are very good. It grips well and corners securely, as it should.
Sampling a more basic Megane, without the GT's agility-enhancing tech, showed that Renault has got the basics right. Ride comfort felt better than class average, and the overall quietness of the car was impressive.
As with the GT, the quality of the interior fit out was hard to fault.
Renault's designers and engineers have created a car that's pretty well equipped to compete in a segment where excellent contenders abound.
If Renault Australia can specify and price the new Megane sharply enough, the way it looks and drives could make this French evolution a real success.
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