The Renault Megane GT-Line gets a chassis tuned by Renault Sport
On the right Line The Megane GT-Line features a new and more aggressive front bumper and a new rear diffuser for improved aerodynamics; underneath, it gets a Sport chassis.rnPHOTO: RENAULT

RENAULT models have become a lot more interesting lately. First, there was the Captur. Now, there is the Megane GT-Line.

Unlike the cool Captur, the Renault Megane GT-Line looks like a conventional hatchback although it is rather handsome for a French model, that is, the styling isn't quirky.

The Megane GT-Line supercedes the Megane Hatch, with both sharing the same basic body and suspension. But they drive very differently.

Outwardly, the GT-Line features a new and more aggressive front bumper and a new rear diffuser for improved aerodynamics. But underneath, it gets a Sport chassis. This means the Megane's suspension set-up of front struts with "horned" subframe and rear torsion beam receives new springs, dampers and tuning from Renault Sport Technologies. And the difference is clear.

Where once the ride was a bit softer, the ride is firmer and more confident, but still surprisingly comfortable when shod with 17-inch rubber. Considering it is essentially an entry-level hatchback, the GT-Line's composure in a sweeping curve is good. The steering is inert but there are no accuracy issues because the Megane obediently goes where it is pointed. There are no steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, but the gear lever for the six-speed dual clutch transmission allows for manual changes.

Overall, the dual clutch gearbox is smooth and transfers the good low-end torque from the 1.5-litre turbodiesel without fuss. But it may occasionally hunt for the right gear when going slowly on an incline, say in a multi-storey carpark.

The diesel engine also has the unmistakeable clatter of an oil burner but it isn't obvious when the windows are up. More importantly, it is punchy for its small size, with maximum torque of 240 Newton-metres available early. Its elasticity is especially impressive, for instance, when overtaking on the expressway.

The turbodiesel is also frugal. Together with a relatively low kerb weight of 1,290 kg, the GT-Line consumes just 4.2 litres per 100 km under the combined cycle, or 23.8 km per litre.

Inside, the Megane has a simple but pleasant interior, with a soft-touch dashboard and plastic quality to rival that of a mid-priced Japanese model. The GT-Line's trim is upgraded from the Megane Hatch, with silver contrast accents, a centre touchscreen, rear-view camera and a hands-free key card with engine start button, for example. Even the underfloor storage compartments are new.

The nicest interior touch, however, has to be the front sports seats. Comfortable and supportive, they also go low enough to give even tall occupants a good driving position. Headroom in front and behind are also good, but rear legroom is only adequate, despite the relatively generous 2,641 mm wheelbase.

But perhaps the best part about the Renault Megane GT-Line has to be that it belongs to COE Category A. For some, its driveability and economy are merely icing on the cake.