Renault Megane GT wagon

Lithe load lugger for the Koleosphobic

DAVID BONNICI

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE THE WINDING roads south of Albury are as good a place as any to see how the Renault Megane GT wagon compares to its similarly equipped hatch sibling.

Like the Megane GT hatch, the wagon is a deceptively quick and agile car with its 4Connect steering system. Its 151kW/280Nm 1.6 turbo engine has performance that borders on hot-hatch territory, and is paired to a sevenspeed dual-clutch transmission that responds well to the revvy turboís midrange torque.

The transmission does a reasonably good job of predicting and selecting the appropriate gear, but on the wet and winding hilly route it occasionally couldnít keep up with rapid changes to pedal inputs. Thankfully, the GTís column-mounted shift paddles allow a manual override for when the road gets truly twisty.

That said you need pianistsí fingers to use them given they donít move with the steering wheel, and also obscure the light and wiper stalks. The gear lever sits a little too far forward to comfortably use its plus-minus manual shift. Ergonomically, the Megane could still use some work.

Road noise on coarse surfaces was surprisingly subdued, helped by the chunky tailgate and narrow D-pillar glass.

Its Renault Sport suspension copes well with big hits too, despite its performance slant.

Cabin comfort also benefits from more generous dimensions.

Both the wagon and sedan are 269mm longer than the hatch with a 11mm longer wheelbase, resulting in 37mm more rear legroom and a more reclined rear-seat backrest.

The wagonís 580L boot space (1504L with the rear seats folded) offers substantially more cargo capacity than the hatchís 434L/1198L. Its sloping roof line means the rear aperture isnít overly high, but the tailgate opens beyond 90 degrees to help facilitate easier loading.

Its dimensional growth sees a 38kg weight gain over the hatch, contributing to a 0.3sec slower 0-100km/h time of 7.5 seconds, but it manages the same claimed combined fuel economy of 6.0L/100km.

From the B-pillars forward, the Megane GT wagon is virtually identical to the hatch with an 8.7-inch portrait-format screen, ambient lighting, heavily bolstered sports seats, and blue metallic door trims. Soft-touch surfaces abound, though the cup holders on the centre console are still ridiculously small.

There arenít many small wagons in Australia, and the Megane GT is the only one that offers the kind of performance and handling that fills the void between hot-hatch enjoyment and small-SUV practicality.

Family reunion

The wagonís arrival alongside sedan (and hatch) variants marks the first time all three Megane body shapes will be sold together here at the same time. Other wagons include the entry-level Zen, and GT-Line which features most of the GTís kit but with the standard 1.2-litre turbopetrol engine. Thereís no GT sedan, with the line-up comprising Zen and Intens, the latter similarly equipped as GT-Line but with a luxury focus. Like the wagon, the sedan is roomier than the hatch and has a 16 percent bigger (503L) boot space.

PLUS & MINUS

Good looks; more space and comfort than hatch; agile handling Unintuitive cabin controls; no smartphone mirroring feature