Renault Megane 2016 review
Craig Duff road tests and reviews the Renault Megane with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
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Tim Robson road tests and reviews the VW Golf GTI with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The original hot hatch still shines in the presence of its newer, shinier stablemates.
The original Volkswagen Golf GTI is nearing its 40th birthday, and it would be easy to suggest that it is being left in the shadows by its younger, sexier siblings, like the GTI Performance, the Golf R, and the limited edition Golf 40 Years.
Those hot editions had to come from somewhere, though, and there are still very few cars on the road today as accomplished and as affordable as the original GTI.
The GTI is the first major step above the regular Golf Highline range, and as such, has quite the different look about it. The front bumper bar, the side skirts, rear bar are all different, and there now are standard bi-Xenon headlights to set it apart, as well.
It imparts a very classic, sleek, and clean look.
Of course, one of the GTI's most defining features are its unique Austin wheels, which stem right back to the original Golf Mark 1 GTI of the 1970s. The red accents on the badges and the red pinstriping is also a nod to its famous father.
Compared to the rim sets on its more sexy brothers, the 18x7.5-inch rims on the standard GTI can perhaps look a little underdone. However, we think it imparts a very classic, sleek, and clean look. The link to the past is pretty cool as well.
The red highlights extend into the cabin, with the leather lined seats, armrests and centre console bin lid stitched in red.
While our tester was fitted with an optional leather interior, standard cars come with the famed Clark tartan cloth pattern. It may not be to everyone's tastes, but again, those who do know about the GTI legacy will be pleased to see the tradition carried forward.
Aussies have an affinity with small hatches for a reason: their practicality around town is hard to beat. What's nice about the GTI is that its performance leanings don't compromise that day-to-day usability.
The front bar doesn't hang so low that it cracks into every parking curb, for example, while the higher-profile tyres on the 18-inch rims afford a little more protection against scuff. Be warned, though, the machined sides of the stock rims will scar awfully quickly should you park by feel.
It's the torque that gives the GTI its drivability edge, with turbo lag all but banished in the modern era.
If you opt for the Driver Assistance Package, though, you'll get VW's easy to use parking assistant which, we're pleased to say, works a treat in most parallel-park situations.
There is room for six bottles fore and aft, for example, while a USB port up front, along with a second 12v socket in the cargo area are both welcome additions.
Five people can be seated in the Golf, especially if the rear riders are under 14. Five adults gets a bit close and personal, though four up is a doddle with adequate head, shoulder and foot room.
Optioned with a $2500 six-speed double-clutch gearbox, the GTI starts at $43,490 before on-road costs. Metallic paint adds $500, while the Vienna leather on our tester costs $3150 extra and the sunroof $1850.
The only other option on offer is the Driver Assistance Package, which for $1500 adds blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, city emergency braking and park assist, along with active occupant safety (pre-tensioning belts and door locking).
Volkswagen's widely used EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine is featured in the GTI, in its most basic performance tune.
It produces 162kW between 4500-6200rpm and a chunky 350Nm of torque from just 1500rpm, peaking at 4400rpm. It's the torque that gives the GTI its drivability edge, with turbo lag all but banished in the modern era.
It's a remarkably high-tech little jigger, too, and its balance between everyday economy and drivability with a real performance edge is almost spot on.
Despite the fact that manual sales continue to slip across the board in Australia, the GTI can still be specced with a six-speed self shifter or optioned with a $2500 six-speed double clutch gearbox as per our test sample.
Our heart says go for the GTI with the manual gearbox and standard Clark cloth trim, but most people's heads suggest that the DSG is the more usable option in everyday traffic, along with leather seats.
Don't sell yourself short by not trying the manual, though. The shift action is very good, and the clutch manages to feel light yet feel feelsome at the same time.
The GTI features Volkswagen's dynamic chassis control and a driving mode switch, where you can choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and individual modes.
The differences between the modes are not as pronounced as on, say, the Golf R, with the GTI's suspension tune remaining softer and more pliable than that in the high performance version
The main difference between normal and sport comes with a louder exhaust, with a sharper throttle, and slightly meatier steering.
If we're honest, though, the sound of the engine in sport mode is artificially piped back into the cabin rather than emanating from the engine bay or the exhaust, and can be quite tiresome and droning at highway speeds. Our preference is to leave that switched off.
The Individual mode allows you to pick different aspects of the DCC system, and tune them to your personal preference. For example, you can set Steering, Drive and Engine Noise to Sport, but leave the dampers in comfort mode for a nicer ride and more grip and feel in, say, wet conditions
Taken on its merits, the GTI is a terrific little handler.
The GTI gets Volkswagen's basic electronic locking diff, which is not up to the same high standards as the version fitted to the GTI Performance.
However, given this was a cutting edge device just two years ago, it still performs more than adequately for a car of the GTI's standard.
Taken on its merits, the GTI is a terrific little handler. The toothed variable steering rack really makes for a fantastic front end, and the GTI benefits enormously from this.
Throw in the inherent stiffness of Volkswagen's MQB platform along with the more compliant ride from the 225/40 R18 Continental tires, and the GTI balances every day civility with much more than a hint of performance from the car that originally defined the genre.
The front diff can allow the front tires to scramble for traction during hard acceleration at times. While is in stark contrast to the brutal efficiency of the Performance version of the diff, we reckon this actually adds a little bit of character to the car, and again harks back to the GTI's heritage as the original hot hatch.
The DSG version tested here is rated at 6.6L/100km combined, but the manual lops 0.4L off that figure.
Our relatively sedate 300km of testing returned 7.1L/100km. Of course, 'sedate' is a matter of conjecture...
As mentioned, the Driver Assistance Package that includes additional active and passive safety electronics is available for $1500.
There is a three-year unlimited-kilometre warranty on the GTI, while service intervals of 15,000km or 12 months are recommended.
Capped price servicing is available, peaking at $1211 for a 60,000km/four-year service. Pollen filters and brake fluid are not included in that price, though.
With the high-end Golf range now standing at four, the GTI serves as not only an entry point to the 2.0-litre on turbo engine, but also as a time marker for the Golf GTI heritage.
Build your GTI in red or white with the manual gear box and the original Clark tartan seats, and you have an affordable, competent, everyday hot hatch that really is something a little bit special.
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