Kia Cerato S hatch 2016 review
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the 2016 Kia Cerato S hatch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Renault Megane hatchback with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
Have you ever had one of those nights out with friends where it was just supposed to be drinks, then you all decide to go to dinner spontaneously somewhere you've never been before, and it turns out to be an amazing restaurant and the food is incredible and the atmosphere is unbelievable and it's best night ever?
Then months later you managed to locate the same restaurant, but when go there you it's nowhere near as good as it was that night? It's amazing how much the combination of beer goggles and the right people can distort reality.
Well I was worried about that happening with the new Renault Megane hatch, too. See, back in May this year Renault snuck a few Megane hatches into Australia for us to sample. They were left-hand drive European spec cars, and that can be a tad disorientating (just a like a few drinks). Oh yeah, and Renault flew us in a convoy of choppers to a secret test facility to drive them (just like finding that restaurant).
The cars they gave us were the two top-spec Meganes – the GT-Line and the GT (like being out with the right people) and we drove them on a high-speed banked oval track, a snooker table-smooth skid pan and a hill climb section (beer goggles fully engaged).
Under these unreal-world conditions the cars impressed us greatly. The GT was particularly outstanding with its great handling and grunty engine. The GT-Line felt planted and rode comfortably on the track while it was quiet inside the cabin.
An impression from the preview drive which definitely stayed the same is that the new Megane hatch is beautiful.
We weren't too giddy with excitement not to point out, however, that we would reserve our full judgement until we drove the Australian version on local roads.
Which we did this week when Renault launched the fourth-generation Megane hatch with a test drive route that took us hundreds of kays through NSW and Queensland on nearly every road surface imaginable.
Four grades of Megane are available. Kicking off the range is the Life, then above this is the Zen, then the GT-Line which is sporty looking and then there's the GT which is actually sporty performance-wise.
We drove them all apart from the Life – there wasn't one to drive.
So how did the Australian Megane drive under real-world conditions? Was it anywhere near as good as the test track beer goggle experience?
An impression from the preview drive which definitely stayed the same is that the new Megane hatch is beautiful. If you're buying a small car based on looks alone (please don't do this) then read no further, this is the car for you. In a sea of good looking affordable small cars from Hyundai i30s and Toyota Corollas to Kia Ceratos and Mazda3s, the Megane is in a different league – it's a supermodel, while the rest are doing ads for the undie section of a Target brochure.
The new Megane hatch is longer, wider and not as tall as the previous model, the result is an even more frog-like road hugging appearance. For those who want actual dimensions, the new Megane hatch's wheel base is 28mm longer at 2670mm; while end-to-end the car measures 4359mm (4356 in the case of the GT), with a width of 2058mm and height of 1438 (1436 in the GT).
Compared to the current best-selling car in the segment – the Toyota Corolla hatch – the Megane hatch is 29mm longer, but it's about 100mm shorter than the Mazda3 hatch.
The cabins in the Zen, the GT-Line and GT are almost identical. The difference being that the Zen gets cloth seats while the GT and GT-Line have sports bucket seats up front with Alcantara upholstery and blue stitching – which is also on the leather steering wheel and gear shifter jacket. The GT and GT-Line also have ambient lighting, chrome trim and badging which adds a premium feel, too.
Not adding a premium feel is the use of hard plastics around the centre console. While the front window sills have soft-touch plastic, the ones in the back are hard and cheap feeling – but many of its small car rivals are guilty of this.
The longer wheelbase should equal more space in the cabin, but even at 2670mm the Megane's is still less than the Mazda3's 2700mm and every nanometre in legroom counts when you're 191cm tall like me. I can sit behind my driving position in the GT, GT-Line and the Zen, but only with about a width of a thumb nail's gap. There's more room for my legs in the Mazda, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia but I'm convinced that this is mainly because the seatbacks in those cars are thinner.
The Megane hatch's boot capacity is 434 litres. Renault measures its boot size in ‘different' litres to Mazda (380 litres) and Toyota (360 litres) who use VDA litres which means comparing the volumes is difficult.
Every kid knows that the secret to show bags is all about getting the most stuff for the price. Following the rule of show bag economics the Life is the one to get.
But in more real-world terms I could fit an international sized overhead luggage wheelie bag, two lap top bags and a small backpack in there and only take up half the space. It also fits a 41 year old, 85kg, 191cm man – don't ask.
The GT and GT-line have four cup holders – two up front and two in the back. The Zen only has two cup holders because it doesn't have the fold-down centre armrest in the back which houses the two in the higher grades.
There's small bottle holders in all doors, too. Drink up.
The Megane hatch range kicks off at $22,490 for the Life with six-speed manual – it's the only manual in the range, but if it scares you then another two grand will get you into the seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which is also in the grades above it. Above that is the Zen for $27,490, then the $32,490 GT-Line and the GT for $38,490.
Prices have hardly moved compared to the previous model and entry into the range is only $490 dearer.
The Mazda3 range starts at $20,490 and tops out at $35,490. The GT is more a rival to the Volkswagen Golf GTI which sells for $43,490.
Show bags. Every kid knows that the secret to show bags is all about getting the most stuff for the price. Following the rule of show bag economics the Life is the one to get. There's the seven-inch screen, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, Arkamys stereo with eight speakers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, LED running lights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The auto is excellent, smooth and one of the best dual clutchers out there.
The Zen just adds sat nav, front parking sensors and an electronic parking brake and different 16-inch alloys.
The GT-Line adds the sports seats up front, tinted glass in the back, driving modes, panoramic sunroof, auto parking, blind spot warning, folding mirrors and bling bits such as Alcantara upholstery, ambient lighting, chrome interior trim and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The GT looks similar to a GT-Line but it's what you can't see that makes the difference – the chassis is sports tuned, the engine is larger and there's four wheel steering. There's also the RS Drive mode, paddle shifters and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Optional only on the GT-Line and GT is an 8.7-inch display in a portrait orientation – it comes as part of the Premium Pack which also adds a Bose sound system.
The Life, Zen and GT-Line all get the same 97kW/205Nm 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. The GT is powered by a 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. They seem small especially to Australians but both have plenty of shove delivered smoothly and rapidly. The 1.6 is the pick.
Earlier in the year at the preview drive Renault said the Megane would also come with a diesel engine, but the Australian arm of the company has since decided against it, leaving us with an all-petrol line-up.
As mentioned all have the same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – only the Life comes with the choice of a manual gear box. It's a bit of a shame because the GT-Line we drove in May had the manual and it was a ripper.
That said the auto is excellent, smooth and one of the best dual clutchers out there.
Renault says your GT should drink at a combined average of 6.0L/100km, but after driving like I was trying to outrun the apocalypse I recorded 9.6L/100km. The 1.2-litre officially drinks a little bit less at 5.6L/100km.
I was totally ready to be crushed. Ready for the experience I had in the European versions of the new Megane at the test track to be destroyed by real roads. The equivalent of turning up at the restaurant you had an amazing time at ages ago only to realise it's actually a loo block in a park.
Elbowing everybody out the way to get into a Zen first, it felt nicely balanced with a comfortable ride on the urban roads we started off on. It felt planted just like at the test track and there's a good connection to the car and it to the road – more so than in a Corolla, a Mazda3 or i30. The steering is excellent, smooth accurate and talkative in that it tells you everything that's happening under the front wheels.
But when the road's surface turned patchy with pot holes and speed bumps thrown in the Zen could not maintain it composure and the ride turned a bit hard and crashy. It's hard to blame the 205/55R16 Continental ContiEcoContact tyres on the Zen even though that brand of rubber is known for its hard walls because the GT-Line suffered the same lack of composure with 205 50 R17 Michelin Primacy 3 tyres.
What both the Zen and GT-Line have in common is the suspension. I asked Renault's CEO Justin Hocevar if the cars had been tuned for Australian roads.
"There has been no Australian suspension development," was the reply.
It's disappointing. Kia's Cerato and Hyundai's i30 ride and handle so well on Australian roads ranging from good to bad. That's because they are handed over to the company's Australian engineering teams who painstakingly figure out which springs and dampers work best together to provide the best ride on local roads.
The test route then took us up Lions Rd across the NSW border and into Queensland – it's up there with Australia's shoddiest roads and Renault was brave to send us along it. With hills and tight turns it showed the 1.2-litre engine in both the Zen and GT-Line was excellent. Out on the banked test track it ran out of puff at high speeds but in reality you aren't moving that fast, and its power and torque are everyday usable.
It was time to drive the GT – the car that impressed us hugely on the test track. I was not expecting this– it performed better in real life. The ride even on this worst road in Australia was superb, better than an i30 or Cerato, and better than a Golf GTI which is the Megane GT's closest rival. It's handling is absolutely outstanding too, with strong grip, next to no body roll and wonderful balance.
The GT has four wheel steering which is spooky at first in the way the rear of the car feels like it's following you around a corner like a train, but it only improves handling more. If only the engine had more grunt. At 1.4 tonnes the GT has a power to weight ratio of 108kW/tonne, a P-plater in NSW is allowed to drive a car with up to 130kW/tonne. It's still an angry beastie that wants to run into battle but it needs more cavalry I reckon.
The new Megane hatch hasn't been test rated by ANCAP, but it has scored a maximum five-star rating with the equivalent European NCAP program. There's traction and stability control, ABS and more advanced safety features such as blind spot warning on the GT-line such as blind spot warning, although confusingly the top of the range GT isn't equipped with the system.
Also missing is other advanced safety equipment such as AEB, active cruise control, lane keeping technology, and rear cross traffic alert. This sort of equipment is actually on the same Megane you can buy in France but not in Australia.
Renault explained that AEB and other safety tech will be coming to the Megane soon, but did not give a date.
The driver and front passenger are protected by front airbags, lateral pelvis and chest airbags and curtain airbags. It’s good to see rear passengers are also covered by curtain airbags.
In the back row you’ll also find two ISOFIX mounts for the outside seats and three top tether anchor points.
Renault covers the Megane range with an excellent five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is capped at $299 for each service and is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km.
Well, we could not have given the Megane are more real-world test compared to the track we were initially allowed to drive it on back in May. Australian roads revealed the Zen and GT-Line's suspension isn't perfectly suited to our roads, but showed that the GT was superb both in ride and handling on the same surfaces. All are engaging and fun cars to drive, with stunning looks, but the GT is definitely the pick. If someone in my family was keen to buy one, I'd absolutely give them the thumbs up but tell them to wait until it came with the advanced safety gear.
|Dynamique||2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$21,560 – 27,280||2016 Renault Megane 2016 Dynamique Pricing and Specs|
|GT-Line||2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$13,597 – 20,000||2016 Renault Megane 2016 GT-Line Pricing and Specs|
|Authentique||1.5L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$14,410 – 18,920||2016 Renault Megane 2016 Authentique Pricing and Specs|
|GT 205||1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$22,484 – 27,990||2016 Renault Megane 2016 GT 205 Pricing and Specs|