Renault Megane VS Alfa Romeo Giulietta
- Sexy looks
- You can still get a manual!
- More practical than before
- Four-wheel steering adds complexity
- Interior little differentiated from GT
- Rear legroom
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
- Stunning looks
- Great engine
- Big boot
- Poor cabin storage
- Turbo lag
- No reversing camera
More power, more wheelarches, more steering, more doors and more transmissions. Aside from possibly the doors part, it's all sounding pretty rosy for the new third generation of Renault's Megane R.S. hot hatch.
The current Clio R.S. has followed a similar formula to great effect, improving its overall sales figures drastically, but it's fair to say it's lost a certain je ne sais quoi for the purists who've grown to worship the brand.
Selling cars vs brand building is always a tricky balance for car companies, but the previous Megane R.S. is giving the new model a handy head start with Australia being its third biggest market in the world.
Wander down the pit lane at any track day or tarmac rally, and you're bound to come across a handful of previous models. Often more than any other hot hatch, which is a clear sign of approval from those in the know who work their cars hard.
Will the new model build on that legacy? We were among the first to drive the new R.S. on road and track to find out at its Australian launch this week.
|Engine Type||1.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce hatch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Nobody just buys an Alfa Romeo, in the same way that nobody goes out and just buys a top hat. Yes it's functional and yes you'll looking amazing in it whether you're male or female, and people will pay you compliments - possibly question your judgement, too, but it's not the obvious choice and buying one is a conscious decision. See, you don't even know if I'm talking about the top hat or the Alfa any more.
At backyard barbecues and dinner parties throughout Australia you'll overhear people saying: "My heart says yes but my head says no." They're not discussing robbing the convenience store on the corner after dessert, but they're more likely to be talking about buying an Alfa Romeo. See Alfas are famous for their stunning beauty, their racing pedigree and their performance, but in the past they've been infamous for their reliability issues. You knew that, right?
The top-of-the-range Giulietta Veloce with the dual-clutch auto is the best reference to the brand's performance pedigree. This version has only just arrived on the market, and follows a major styling and technology update to the Giulietta in 2015.
Like most test cars, we lived with it for a week. Is it too small to be a family car? What's wrong with the glovebox? Is it as racy as it looks? What's with all the water? And is it just me or are my hands too small to drive this car? We'll even be able to point you in the right direction for a guide to Giulietta's reliability.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The new Megane R.S. is objectively a better car overall, and will probably appeal to more people, but it's not quite as special as the model it replaces.
It will be telling if the expected Trophy R flagship retains the all-wheel steering system, but in base R.S. guise its benefits are questionable.
It's an excellent hot hatch regardless, particularly on public roads, and I reckon it's at its best with the EDC transmission and the Alcantara and Bose option boxes ticked.
Do you think the new Megane R.S. is a step forward or sideways for Renault Sport? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6.3/10
So much right and some things not quite right – the Giulietta has the Alfa Romeo mix of highs and lows which the brand is famous for. There’s no mistaking that this is a unique and sexy looking car, with the practicality of a five-door hatch plus impressive handling and performance. More heart than head decision here though it seems, but romantic Alfa enthusiasts should adore it.
Have you got a 'classic' Alfa Romeo experience, good or bad? Tell us in the comments below.
You can't miss those bulging wheelarches on all four corners, which are needed to cover the 19-inch alloy wheels and tracks which have been widened by 60mm at the front and 45mm at the rear. They cost Renault a lot of money to change over the regular Megane, and no other current hot hatch manages to do it.
The front guards also feature functional air extraction vents and the look is capped with completely different front and rear bumpers and a central exhaust. Unlike most of its rivals, the rear diffuser is able to generate downforce in lieu of a big rear spoiler. The body kit is completed by fatter and lower sills on either side, and other dimensions are largely the same as a regular Megane hatch.
You won't mistake it for just any Megane from the outside, but the interior is a bit more subdued. If you're looking to trade up from the existing Megane GT, the only real changes you'll notice will be carbon-look inlays on the dash and doors and an R.S. logo on the steering wheel.
Aside from R.S. logos on the headrests, the front seats look outwardly similar to the sports seats in the GT, too, but have been treated to specific shaping and materials to balance everyday driving with the extra bolstering required for the track.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta8/10
Alfa Romeo couldn't design a boring car even if it was handed a picture of a Toyota Camry and told to copy it or else. The Giulietta is no exception.
There's the deep 'V' grille shared with the new Giulia sedan and 4C sports cars that make up the current Alfa model line-up. There's the bug-eye headlights with pretty inset LEDs and the chiselled bonnet, a side profile which looks like that of a mini Porsche Cayenne and a cute-but-tough bottom with its elegant taillights and twin exhausts.
The latest update brought a honeycomb mesh grille and a slightly different design to the headlight and LED foglight surrounds. The tail pipes were also given a styling tweak, so too were the alloy wheels.
The cabin saw new materials and finishes added. The Veloce had the Alfa Romeo logo stitched into the integrated headrests, shiny sports pedals, and lashings of faux carbon fibre trim on the doors and dash.
You can tell a Veloce from the outside by the red Brembo brake calipers behind the front wheels, 18-inch alloys, its chunkier exhaust tips poking out of the diffuser, red pin-striping to the front and rear bumpers, and the black window surrounds.
Okay, how big or small is it? Here's some dimensions for you. The Guilietta is 4351mm long, 1798mm wide, 1465mm tall and the Veloce with its sports suspension is 9mm lower than the others with 102mm of ground clearance.
Compared to say a Mazda3 hatch the Giulietta is 109mm shorter end-to-end and only 3mm wider. But if you're considering an Giulietta why are you looking at the Mazda3 anyway? That would be sensible - Like comparing Cancer Council hats to top hats.
Unlike the last generation, the new model is a five-door hatch. This may not be as sexy as the three door, swooping coupe roofline of before, but it makes the R.S. a whole lot easier to live with.
Access is the number one benefit though, as the regular Megane's back seat is somewhat lacking in legroom, which is further compounded by limited toe room underneath the sport front seats.
The other big practicality must-haves are retained though, with two cupholders front and rear and bottle holders in each door. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outboard positions, and it also gets the same 434-litre boot space as a regular Megane hatch, which is pretty decent for its class.
You'll only find an inflation kit instead of a spare tyre though, regardless of whether the Bose audio system is optioned.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta5/10
Beautiful things tend to favour form over function. The Giuletta tries to do both and succeeds…but also fails in places.
Successes first: despite its coupe looks it's actually a five-door hatch with ‘hidden' handles for the rear doors placed up at window level near the C-pillar. So good is the two-door disguise that our photographer climbed into the back seat through the front door.
Rear legroom is a bit tight back there and at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position but I'd hate for me to be sitting behind me because my knees are digging hard into the seat back.
Headroom isn't much chop either and I literally can't sit in the back seat and hold my head high – a combination of that sloping roofline and the optional double sunroof reduces the head space.
A major practicality fail is the lack of storage throughout the cabin.
My wife's phone kept mysteriously appearing in the footwell every time we left it in the glove box, like there was a tear in the time-space fabric, but then we realised it was slipping through a gap.
There's no centre armrest storage bin in the front – actually there's no centre armrest. There is a pop-up hidey-hole on the dash but with only enough room for a pair of sunglasses.
The two cup holders in the front are small. It's safe to say that unless you have somebody with hands at the ready, ordering drive-thru is possibly out of the question.
Or if you have long arms and can reach the fold down armrest in the back there are two decent sized cup holders along with a small storage space. There are no bottle holders any of the doors, but there is fortunately room for a phone and wallet because there isn't space for them anywhere else.
But wait, the Giulietta is saved from a total storage fail by a large-for-the-class 350-litre boot. That's 70 litres bigger than a Toyota Corolla's and only 14 litres less than the Mazda3. We could fit the pram, the shopping and the rest of the gear which goes with a military operation such as a trip to the park with a toddler in there.
Price and features
The new R.S. kicks off $1000 higher than the previous R.S. 265 Cup starting point with a list price of $44,990 with the manual transmission. The EDC auto adds $2500, but the overall price list is still among the best value in its class.
It sits below key rivals like the recently revised $45,490 Golf GTI and the 308 GTis $45,990 starting point, and significantly below the identically priced $50,990 Civic Type R and all-wheel drive Focus RS, as well as the Golf R at $56,490.
However, the Renault is still trumped by the i30 N's $39,990 starting point, as well as entry-level offerings such as the $38,990 Ford Focus ST.
Only one Renault Megane Sport trim level is available for now, with the recently revealed Trophy due to be added in around 12 months. How much it will cost is yet to be determined.
Out of the box, the new R.S. features an 8.7-inch multimedia system capable of displaying performance analytics including acceleration, braking, and wheel angle. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is also now built in, as is GPS sat nav.
It also gains R.S. badging, sport seats, a perforated leather steering wheel and shifter, dual-zone climate control, and heated folding side mirrors.
The only performance option at this stage is the Cup pack, which for just $1490 gets you a Torsen limited slip differential, a sharper suspension tune, red Brembos with two piece rotors that lower the unsprung mass by 1.8kg per corner, and a whole bunch of little detail changes under the skin. You can pick the Cup pack visually by its black versions of the standard wheels.
You can also upgrade the standard cloth trim to Alcantara for an extra $1190, add a 10-speaker Bose sound system for $500, and a panoramic sunroof for $1990.
The new 'Tonic Orange' hero colour is stunning, but it and the now classic 'Liquid Yellow' will set you back a further $880, while other metallic hues will cost $600. The only non-metallic colour is actually 'Glacier White', with the rest of the colours made up of 'Pearl White', 'Diamond Black', 'Titanium Grey' and 'Flame Red'.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta5/10
The 2016 update saw the Giulietta variants renamed. There's the entry grade $29,990 Super Manual which has a six-speed manual gearbox, then buyers can step up to the Super TCT with a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission for $34,900 and then there's our test car – the Veloce for $41,990. There's 10 paint colours at your disposal from the colour of our car (Alfa Red) to Perla Moonlight. Only Alfa White comes at no extra cost, the rest are a $500 option.
The Veloce collects the same features as the Super TCT such as a 6.5-inch touch screen, with sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, three drive modes and then adds bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch alloys, leather and Alcantara seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, the big exhaust tips and the sports diffuser, tinted rear glass and then less cosmetic features such as sports suspension and launch control.
There's no reversing camera which is disappointing, considering they come standard on some cars half the price.
Engine & trans
There's no point having the bulgiest wheelarches in the business if you can't back them up with actual strength, and the new Megane R.S. manages to squeeze out an extra 4kW and 30Nm over the previous R.S. 275.
Technically this new model is the R.S. 280 after its power output in metric horsepower (hp), but the output figure nomenclature seems to have taken a step back this time around in favour of just R.S..
Either way, the new totals are 205kW and 390Nm, with the former reached at 6000rpm and the latter available from a higher than usual 2400-4800rpm.
A twin scroll turbocharger is once again utilised, but the new engine drops from 2.0-litres to 1.8 and is shared with the new Alpine A110 sports car. The Alpine tune is just 185kW/320Nm though, and Renault claims the Megane R.S. spec is the most powerful 1.8-litre motor on the market.
The base engine has been co-developed with Nissan as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but features a specific cylinder head design in Renault form, with a reinforced structure and redesigned cooling passages. It also features plasma-lined cylinder bores like the Nissan GT-R. Previous Megane R.S. owners will be glad to learn that the new engine uses a timing chain instead of a timing belt.
Perhaps the biggest surprise with the new Megane R.S. is that it retains a six-speed manual transmission as its default choice, even though a six speed dual-clutch (EDC) automatic is now available as an option for the first time. This conflicts with the Clio's EDC-only specs these days.
The Megane's EDC is a tweaked version of that used in several other Renault models, but with bespoke gear ratios, shift tuning and strengthening to suit the R.S.'s high torque loads. The weight penalty over the manual is just 23kg.
Gears can be manually selected via the shifter or shift paddles behind the steering wheel, and shift times get faster as you move between 'Comfort'/'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Race' drive modes.
One unique feature is 'Multi Change Down' mode, which will automatically select the best gear for a corner if you hold down the downshift paddle when in Sport or Race drive modes.
The EDC transmission also has 'Launch Mode' to optimise standing start acceleration.
Drive is still sent through the front wheels, but the R.S. now scores four-wheel steering to help with slow speed agility and high speed stability.
The '4Control' system is also seen on the Megane GT, and steers the rear wheels by up to 2.7 degrees to tighten the turning circle at slower speeds, and transitions to follow the front wheels in parallel to effectively extend the wheelbase at higher speeds. This transition generally happens at 60km/h, but moves to 100km/h when Race mode is selected.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta7/10
The Giulietta Veloce has a 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which produce 177kW of power and 340Nm of torque. It's a great engine that lets loose a wonderful scream when pushed hard and the little grunts it makes when it changes gear when driving around normally sound like a giant enjoying his food.
The transmission is a dual-clutch auto which Alfa calls a TCT or twin-clutch transmission. I'm not a fan of them regardless of the brand of car they're in but the Alfa version is better than most of the others in its smoothness at lower speeds and decisiveness.
What about the Giulietta's reliability over time? This version of the car is less than two months old so we can only comment on what it offers as a brand-new vehicle, but you'll find good context in our used review of the earlier 2011-2014 Giulietta.
Renault claims an eight per cent fuel consumption improvement over the previous generation R.S., which leaves the new model with official combined figures of 7.4L/100km for the manual and 7.5 for the EDC.
As you'd expect with such a specific output, top-shelf 98 RON unleaded is needed, and the 50-litre fuel tank suggests a theoretical range between fills of at least 666km.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta7/10
Alfa Romeo says you should see your Veloce drink at a rate of 6.8L/100km during combined driving, but the dash showed more than double that during mainly urban driving while channelling Enzo Ferrari.
Now for the important part.
I always felt the previous Megane R.S. was as if Porsche had been involved, and an assurance that if the Zuffenhausen brand does end up building front-wheel drive models it wouldn't be the end of the world.
It was so direct, tight as a drum and predictable. What you put into it is exactly what it gave back, so the new one has big shoes to fill.
We drove the standard car with the EDC transmission, as well as the Cup pack with the manual transmission around town, and put the R.S.'s money where its mouth is on track with the Cup pack at the Norwell Motorplex in Queensland.
Beyond those fantastic looks, the seats, the steering wheel and the raspy exhaust note are spot on for an R.S.
The steering itself is quite nice, too, no doubt due largely to the front suspension's specific 'independent steering axis' steering knuckles, which move the steering axis 13mm closer to the hub face on each side to reduce torque and bump steer.
You'd expect it to ride like a rollerskate based on the 35 series rubber at each corner, but the ride comfort is actually quite livable.
This continues right through the spectrum of road conditions, with the crashiness that some hot hatches suffer over big bumps absent. This is likely due to its hydraulic compression stop dampers, which effectively puts a dampening bump stop within each shock absorber to create second stage dampening instead of a sudden thud. The new R.S. is proof that you don't have to be harsh to be fast.
The EDC transmission's tune is much nicer than in any other Renault I've experienced, regardless of drive mode, with responsive automatic shifts and quick manual shifts when needed. The manual is also fine, but the fat gear lever doesn't feel as mechanical as I'd like in a driver's car.
The new engine's smaller capacity makes itself known around town, with max torque not available until 2400rpm. Most current turbos manage this sooner, but it's worth noting that the new engine does manage to deliver peak torque 600rpm earlier than the previous 2.0-litre. Once you're underway though, it feels every bit of its 205kW/390Nm.
The 4Control all-wheel steering is largely undetectable under general driving conditions, but when it does become apparent (when you're having fun), it's pros also bring a few cons.
If you're heading through a bunch of corners of varying speeds, which let's face it, most twisty roads do, it's mildly annoying how the all-wheel steering shifts between modes, particularly if it happens mid corner. Think of it as a variable wheelbase and you'll get an idea of what I mean.
The torsion beam rear suspension on the other hand feels fine, and a more complex independent set-up would certainly push the new model's 34-57kg weight gain much higher. For the record, the manual weighs 1427kg, while the EDC is 1450.
The Norwell Motorplex circuit may be dead flat, but its surface is quite bumpy and therefore handy for performance testing a road car.
Once again, the new R.S.'s fundamentals seem fine, and the Cup's stiffer suspension didn't make it skittish on the circuit.
It puts the power down brilliantly through the Torsen diff and 245-section tyres, allowing you to get on the power much earlier and its amazing how it hauls for a 1.8 litre in a near-1.5 tonne car. The official 0-100km/h acceleration claim with either transmission is an impressive (for a front driver) 5.8s, which is also in line with the previous generation's Trophy R ultimate incarnation.
Those 355mm front Brembos reign it in nicely too, retaining a consistent feel after five or so laps of Norwell where we saw 155km/h along the back straight.
The all-wheel steering's effects are more obvious on the track, with quite a few of the corners straddling the 60km/h transition point in all modes aside from Race. The long sweeper straddles the 100km/h transition point in Race, so that's hardly the solution. You're effectively switching wheelbase lengths depending on which corner you're in, and often mid-corner.
It isn't drastic or dangerous, but it adds another dimension to your judgement of corner speeds that would take some getting used to.
Salvation is likely at hand though, as I learned after our drive that it's possible to turn off the 4Control system via the Perso drive mode that allows elements to be adjusted independently. We can't wait to give that a crack.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10
There's so much potential here for a great driving experience such as the accurate and direct steering and great suspension which provides a comfortable ride and great handling, only for all to be let down by turbo lag which kills the responsiveness in the car.
Of the three steering modes: Dynamic, Natural and All Weather, the Dynamic setting was kept on almost always with the other two just feeling too lethargic.
The Giulietta is front-wheel drive and there's a lot of torque being sent to those wheels, but unlike a stack of Alfas in the past there's next to no torque steer. That said, our hill start test on a wet night saw those front wheels scrambling for traction as it accelerated up the slope. Cornering grip from the tyres is excellent, however.
There's some Alfa Romeo ergonomic issues in the cabin we've gotten used to over the years, but just because you're accustomed to something doesn't mean it's okay. For example, the cramped driver's footwell with the brake and accelerator pedals so close that it's easy to hit both at the same time.
The indicator and wiper stalks are also so far from the steering wheel rim that they're almost out of reach – I don't think I have small hands, nobody's ever pointed them out or laughed at them.
And speaking of wipers, the Giulietta is obsessed with keeping itself clean. Pull the wiper stalk towards you to clean the windows and such is the intensity of the spray from both the window washer and the headlight washers it's like you're captaining a fishing trawler that's hit a massive wave at sea. Put the car into reverse and the rear wiper starts squirting and washing.
For Christmas I want Alfa to upgrade their media unit or bin it – the UConnect system disconnected my phone without prompting and isn't intuitive to use.
All variants are equipped with front, side and curtain airbags that extend to the back seat, plus the usual suite of stability and traction control functions and front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has been given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. It doesn't have the advanced safety technology such as AEB and lane keeping assistance which is now standard on any small hatches for a lot less money.
For child and baby seats there's two top tether and two ISIOFIX points in the back seat.
One detail you should be aware of is that Renault Sport models have dropped back to a three year warranty as of May 1, 2018. Kilometres are still unlimited, but all other Renault passenger models carry a five year term.
Service intervals are a decent 12 months or 20,000km, and the first three services are capped at $399 each.
If any reliability issues arise, you'll likely find them on our Megane R.S. problems page.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10
The Giulietta is covered by Alfa Romeo's three year/150,000km warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12month/15,000km intervals with a major service every two years. Alfa Romeo doesn't have capped price servicing but there is Mopar Vehicle Protection which customers can purchase with the vehicle for $1995.