2015 Renault Megane GT 220 Coupe review

The new Renault Megane GT 220 is essentially a toned-down version of the hallowed Renaultsport 275, but does it have the required DNA?

What is it?: 

The new Renault Megane GT 220 is based on the existing GT Line TomTom, but gets more power and firmer suspension. The objective was to create something quicker and sharper to drive than the GT Line, but easier to live with than the even harder-riding, full-fat Megane Renaultsport 275.

The GT 220 uses the same Renaultsport 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol as the 275, but it's detuned to produce 217bhp and 251lb ft of torque. In the process it has become slightly more efficient. Average combined fuel consumption is now 38.7mpg and its CO2 emissions are 169g/km.

Renault offers customers the GT 220 as a five-door hatchback, estate, and, in this case, a three-door coupe. They all have a more aggressive look, with deeper bumpers that incorporate a bigger air intake at the front and an aerodynamic diffuser at the rear. They also have dark grey door mirrors and 18in alloy wheels. 

It sounds exciting, but how does it fare against similar performance offerings such as the Seat Leon 180 FR or Ford Focus ST?

What's it like?: 

Even though this is a detuned engine, it’s still a joyful thing. It pulls well, sounds great and loves to rev, becoming particular eager above 4000rpm. Indeed, the whole drivetrain feels very well engineered.

The clutch action is positive, which makes the GT 220 easy to get off the line, and the gearbox’s six ratios are spaced perfectly to keep the engine in its power band. It’s just a shame that the long throw of the gearlever takes the edge off the experience.

Happily, Renaultsport has also spent time improving the chassis and brakes. The steering has been recalibrated to work better with the new dampers and tyres that are specific to the GT 220. The brakes use bigger discs than the GT Line, front and rear, as well as the same master cylinder as the 275 to give them a more progressive feel.

It all adds up to a car that is a real delight to use on winding country lanes. The steering might not give much feedback, but it’s accurate and well weighted. This gives you the confidence to push the chassis, and it rewards you by cornering with little body roll and offering lots of grip. There’s no limited-slip differential, so you have to deploy the power gently on damp roads to limit torque steer, but generally traction is good.

The front will wash wide if you push too hard, but the chassis’ playful nature means a gentle lift of the throttle trims it back to your chosen line. Give it a real lift mid-corner and it will oversteer, although sadly the ESP can’t be completely disabled to exploit this.

The suspension might not be as harsh as that of the 275, but there’s no escaping the fact that this car is set up for speed rather than comfort. For the most part, the ride is firm but tolerable for a sporty offering but, particularly at speed, there’s a constant bouncing over ridges and expansion joints, which can become wearing.

There is also a fair amount of wind and tyre noise on the motorway, plus that close-ratio ‘box means the engine spins at close to 3000rpm in top at 70mph.

The Megane’s cabin is acceptable rather than great. There are some nice touches as part of the GT 220 package, like the aluminium pedals and polished carbon finishes throughout. However, other than the soft-feel dash, there are lots of lower-grade materials everywhere else. 

There is plenty of space up front and even tall adults will find there’s lots of leg and headroom. However, the reach-adjustable steering wheel doesn’t extend far enough, meaning some drivers will find themselves at full stretch.

The seating position is also relatively high, even with the height adjuster at its lowest setting, while the sports seats are quite narrow between the bolsters. It all adds up to a driving position that for some will feel compromised rather than naturally comfortable.

Getting in and out of the rear seats is more awkward because of the two-door arrangement. Once inside, the coupe’s tiny rear windows make it feel claustrophobic. Limited leg and head room means that, unless you’re carrying kids, the rear seats are best for short trips only. If you regularly carry rear passengers, you’d be better off opting for the five-door hatchback version. 

However, even in coupe form the boot is still a good size. At 377 litres with the rear seats in place, it’s on a par with a Seat Leon and a useful 61 litres more than a hatchback Ford Focus. The downside is the narrow opening and a high lip that means that bulky items are difficult to load.

Standard equipment is similar to the high-spec GT Line, so it comes with features such as sat-nav, a premium audio system and a rear camera for reversing. The package also includes Bluetooth, a USB port, auto headlights and wipers, cruise control, LED daytime running lights and dual-zone climate control.

If you want to add extra equipment the options list includes lane departure warning with auto-dipping headlights, plus heated leather seats.

Should I buy one?: 

This is a hard one to call, and here's why. To drive, the Megane GT 220 Coupe is as good as any warm offering out there. The problem is its driving position and high-speed ride detract from what it was designed to be, which is a more useable version of the Renaultsport 275. Most pertinently, at £24,230, it’s expensive for the performance and package that it offers.

The Focus ST might not have those coupe looks, but it feels just as good to drive, with an equally superb chassis. It is also more than a second faster to 62mph and arguably has a slightly better high-speed ride. At the same time it manages to be more economical and efficient. Plus, if you aren’t concerned about lots of standard kit, its price starts from £22,195.

The same can be said of the Seat Leon 180 FR. The chassis isn’t as playful as the GT 220’s, but its more forgiving ride makes it easier to live with. It also matches the Megane’s pace, but it’s far more efficient, meaning it’s cheaper to run, be that privately or through work. Where it really trumps the Renault is on price: at £20,740, it is £3500 cheaper.

That said, a bit of research into online brokers reveals the Megane GT 220 Coupe is available from as little as £15,570. Quite frankly, at that price it’s an absolute steal and worth every penny.

Renault Megane GT 220 Coupe

Price £24,230; Engine 4 cyls in-line, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrol;Power 217bhp at 4750rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 2400rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1320kg; Top speed 149mph; 0-60mph7.9sec Economy 38.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 169g/km, 28%