Renault Megane GT Line Hatch TCe 130 2011
Pieter Kotze makes his mind up on whether Renault has managed to give us spicy performance at a reasonable price.
Megane GT Line Hatch TCe 130
Renault is famous for building hot hatches which set new standards for the competition. It all started in the 1980’s with the Renault 5 Turbo which was specifically built for rallying, but was also sold to Jo Public as a car for maniacs. More recently Renault produced the highly acclaimed RS and RS Cup versions of the Clio and Megane which came out top in many comparative tests against its main rivals, including the Golf GTi. To bridge the gap between the ‘milder’ models and the RS versions, Renault decided to launch the GT Line range.
To make the GT Line model look the part, Renault has made a few subtle tweaks to the exterior which make quite a difference. It features a new look front bumper with a restyled air intake and gloss black centre section. The fog lights are housed in dark metal-coloured recesses. Other exterior changes include black headlamp backgrounds, anthracite grey wing mirrors and a diffuser built into the rear bumper. They’ve also added ‘GT Line’ badging on the rear and nose section as well as 17 inch alloys to complete the sporty look. These changes have transformed the attractively designed Megane from a ‘plain vanilla’ hatch into something which looks more hungry for the road. Maybe Renault could also have fitted a subtle rear spoiler to further enhance the sporty look and hide the slightly heavy looking rear, while side skirts would give it a lower and wider looking stance.
But that’s not all. On the inside Renault has turned the interior from a dark and slightly somber place into something with more visual appeal. The quality interior is enhanced with the addition of sport front seats (from the Megane RS), a white-faced rev counter with red needle and an analogue speedometer which replaces the standard digital readout. On top of that you also get aluminium pedals, polished carbon door handles and ‘GT Line’ badging on the dashboard, head rests and kick plates. These changes do brighten up the cabin, but for an extra feeling of sportiness they could perhaps have added a few colour inserts in the seats and door linings. TomTom navigation is also standard and is easily operated from the ‘MMI-style’ controller behind the gear lever. It takes a while to get used to it, and is out of your line of sight when driving, but once you get to know the buttons it is fairly intuitive to use.
Dual climate control, rear parking sensors, a ‘hands free’ key card and cruise control (controlled via buttons on the leather steering wheel) are standard on this model and you can also plug in your music device via a USB or auxiliary port. The controls for radio and phone are on a separate stalk behind the steering wheel and takes a while to figure out as you can only see the controls if you turn the ‘wheel away from the centre position. This however does leave the steering wheel less cluttered. On the downside the Megane is lacking in terms of cabin storage. There is only one cup holder up front, none in the rear and the glovebox is too small. Renault makes up for it with good boot space where you can fill it with 372 litres of stuff with the seats up and a carnivorous 1129 litres with the rear seats down. This compares very well with the Citroën C4 which can gulp up to 1183 litres with the seats down. The rear passengers will also feel short changed as legroom is quite cramped. In general Renault can be proud of the high quality cabin which is enhanced by soft touch dash plastics, neat leather seats with white stitching and buttons with a quality feel. Some people will however find the radio buttons on the centre console to be on the small side and the main radio switch to be sensitive to adjustments.
But the real reason you’ll buy this car is for the combination of performance and handling. The good news is that the handling is plainly superb. Pick your speed, aim for the corner and just trust the Megane. Into a corner, out of the corner or braking into a corner the Megane is super composed no matter what you do. You can even throw a strong cross wind at the Megane and it will remain unfazed. The steering is dead accurate and feedback is excellent, while body roll is minimal thanks to the lowering of the chassis (12mm lower compared to the standard Megane). There is also stiffer springs and dampers. This does lead to a ride which is slightly bumpy around town, but this will be a small sacrifice if you love good handling cars. The A-pillars do produce a bit of wind noise at high speeds, while road noise is only audible on rougher roads.
We tested the TCe 130 model which uses Renault’s 1.4 TCe (Turbo Control efficiency) engine. It produces 130 bhp at 5500rpm and 190Nm from a very low 2250rpm. There is very little turbo lag and the torque is available from low revs, but given the excellent handling you always crave a few extra horses. You can easily rev the little 1.4 to its limit, and the gear changes are slick, but compared to Fiat’s Bravo 140 Sport (147bhp and 230Nm) and the VW Golf 1.4 TSi (157bhp and 240Nm) you feel a bit let down. That’s why, for just under £2000 more, you can buy the TCe 180 model which produces 180bhp and a whopping 300Nm – that’ll keep you busy for a while! Claimed fuel consumption for the TCe 130 is 44.8mpg on the combined cycle, which is decent when compared to similar models, but expect a figure of around 28mpg when having some fun. The 62mph mark will appear in 9.6 seconds, while it will run out of steam at 125mph.
So for £19 225 you can have one of the best (if not the best) handling five door hatches in its price class with a quality interior and a host of standard features. In fact, if you don’t need the rear doors and you want the extra power, go for the much better looking TCe 180 coupe which looks like Daniel Craig in a suit – it will punch you in the face, while still looking stylish. The five door TCe 130 is very competitively priced. The similarly spec’ed Bravo 140 Sport sells for £19 665, while a Ford Focus 1.6T 150 EcoBoost S5 goes for £19 555. The Golf GT 1.4 TSI starts at £21 545, but after adding options to bring it into line with the Megane, you end up at over £24k. This model will be more comparable with the TCe 180 model. Then there’s also the Astra SRi 1.4 Turbo, starting at just over £20k, but you need to add another £2000 to spec it up. The choices are almost endless, but if you want the one which loves being thrown around a mountain pass, the Megane should be top of your list.