You can look at the Renault Megane GT in two ways. It’s either a halfway house between regular and hot hatch models, or it’s the perfect blend of sportiness and common sense.
I favour the latter description as the new GT trim level offers user-choosers the chance to have a car with a bit of pizzazz without having to pay out a fortune in benefit-in-kind tax.
Bridging the gap between the top-spec Dynamique models and the performance-oriented Renaultsport versions, the GT offers a sports bodykit with deeper side sills and spoilers front and rear, twin centre-exit exhaust pipes, 17-inch alloy wheels and lowered suspension to give the car a more planted stance on the road.
But instead of a thirsty petrol engine under the bonnet, Renault has installed the familiar 150bhp 2.0-litre dCi turbodiesel unit, offering claimed combined fuel economy of 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 146g/km, putting it in the second-lowest benefit-in-kind tax band for diesels.
Faster versions are available in the Megane family, most notably with the Megane Renaultsport dCi 175, but the 150bhp unit in the GT is more than enough for everyday driving.
It offers plenty of power from low down the rev range, and with 250lb-ft of torque available from just 2,000rpm there is enough on offer to make acceleration from low speed in a high gear effortless. Power is transmitted through a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.
At start up the engine is quiet and doesn’t make the clattery sound that you get with some other diesels from volume carmakers, and it continues to be unobtrusive when up to speed.
Cruising in top on the motorway is a relaxed affair, with little wind or engine noise coming into the cabin, and the engine ticking over at low revs.
And thanks to the lowered suspension the Megane handles well, remaining flat and composed in cornering while offering ride quality which doesn’t get too jittery over poor road surfaces.
Inside the GT looks and feels the part thanks to a pair of heavily-bolstered front seats and a chunky leather steering wheel, plus some silver-effect flashes to lift the predominantly black cabin. It’s also well equipped with air-conditioning, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, electric windows and mirrors.
Our test car also felt well screwed together and bears the fruit of Renault’s continuing action to improve quality and cut down on the number of problems which have afflicted its cars in the past few years.
The Megane may be getting on a bit but this new model demonstrates what a good car it is. The GT looks and drives well, and is priced to sell. It remains to be seen if fleet managers will be convinced thanks to the model’s poor reliability legacy.
P11D value: £17,022
CO2 emissions (g/km): 146
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 19%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 52.3
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £4,525/26%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £411
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
These four cars are aimed squarely at the user-chooser with sporty looks and economical diesel engines.
The Astra and Megane offer 150bhp with the other two offering 10bhp less. All come replete with sporty styling inside and look the part with alloy wheels and body kits.
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
There’s little to choose in terms of benefit-in-kind tax here, with £9 a month separating first from last. The Civic is the cheapest, costing a 22% taxpayer £57 a month, compared with £59 for the Renault, £62 a month for the Volkswagen and £68 for the Vauxhall Astra.
Around £500 separates top and bottom here, with the Volkswagen being the cheapest to service, maintain and repair over three years and 60,000 miles. It wins by having the lowest service rates of the four. In contrast, the Renault comes last with the highest service rates.
Golf: 3.72 (pence per mile) £2,232 (60,000 miles total)
Astra: 3.77 £2,262
Civic: 4.14 £2,484
Megane: 4.50 £2,700
Civic: 7.64 £4,584
Megane: 8.07 £4,842
Golf: 8.07 £4,842
Astra: 8.52 £5,112
The Golf has the best residual value with CAP estimating it will retain 41% of its cost new after three years and 60,000 miles.
The Civic matches it though – it has an RV of 40% but is around £600 cheaper at the front end. The Astra retains 33% and the Renault a poor 26%.
Civic: 17.12 £10,272
Golf: 17.12 £10,272
Astra: 19.52 £11,712
Megane: 20.16 £12,096
In the tighest of finishes the Civic just edges the Golf by 0.01ppm over 60,000 miles.
The Honda leads the way in fuel and depreciation costs while the Golf has usefully lower SMR bills. The Astra and Megane are way off the pace thanks to much lower residual values.
Civic: 28.90 £17,340
Golf: 28.91 £17,346
Astra: 31.81 £19,086
Megane: 32.73 £19,638
Looked at in isolation the Megane is a good car. It looks sporty, drives well and has plenty of equipment but in running cost terms it is miles off the pace thanks to a poor RV forecast.
And the same can be said of the Astra, although its RV is not as low as the Renault’s.
Which leaves the Civic and Golf – two exceptional user-chooser cars. There is nothing between them in wholelife costs, so victory goes to the Honda – it offers drivers lower benefit-in-kind tax bills, looks striking and is better to drive than the Golf.