The GT 220 Sport Tourer version of Renault 's B32 series Mégane is that rare thing – a small estate that brings a smile to the driver's face. And while the replacement models will have a new platform, will they be as much fun to drive?
It sometimes happens that a car is at its best as the end of the lifecycle approaches. This estate is a case in point. Renault has refined this model over the last seven years, changing engines, updating the styling, adding standard equipment and most recently, cutting prices. This variant sits at the top of the Sport Tourer line-up and is priced at just over GBP23,000 but other estates in the Mégane line-up start at under GBP19,000.
The Laguna is not sold in Britain, and its replacement won’t be either, so Renault ’s largest estate is this one. It comes really well equipped, as you’d expect for the amount of money being asked for it. Over and above the Expression Plus, Dynamique TomTom and GT Line TomTom, and Limited, the GT 220 has a lowered and stiffened chassis, special 18-inch wheels and no foglights. A special paint colour, ‘Malta Blue’ is exclusive the GT Line and GT 220, while the 220 is the only estate to be available with the 18-inch rims. On the inside, Renaultsport is embossed into some chrome-effect doorsill plates, while the same legend appears on the steering wheel. There are also alloy pedals and some especially grippy sports seats.
The engine is this variant is offered in no other Mégane estate. Codenamed F4R M 874, this turbocharged 1,998cc unit is marketed as the TCe 220. It produces 162kW (220hp DIN) and sends power to the front wheels only through a six-speed manual gearbox. Maximum torque, developed at 3,400rpm, is 340Nm.
You could merrily use this estate as a family runabout never suspecting what aural and accelerative pleasures wait hidden towards the top of the engine’s rev range. Renaultsport isn’t some disappointingly nonsensical marketing term: it marks this model out as a car you might not otherwise suspect to be an authentic wagon for driving enthusiasts.
Two hundred and twenty horsepower doesn’t sound a lot but it’s the way it’s delivered that impresses. Torque steer is very hard to induce, cornering limits are way higher than you might think any Mégane estate would be capable of and the only trade off is a slightly thumpy ride over some speedhumps. So just take them slowly, as I learned to do, after discovering just good this car’s chassis is.
Let’s be honest about the overall design – it’s very good but perhaps not quite bang up the moment against models such as the imminent Astra. Oddly enough I wouldn’t compare this car to the Golf estate, though against the Focus ST it’s a worthy competitor. Drive them one against the other and you soon see that like most Renaultsport cars, this one is a bit more hardcore than its supposed rivals. OK, it doesn’t pack the 275hp punch of the GBP36,000 R275 Trophy-R Coupé but that would be a bit much for a C segment estate anyway.
As we know, there is a new model coming soon. We’ll get our first look at the fourth generation car at next month’s Frankfurt IAA. The five-door is codenamed BFD with the Sport Tourer having been developed under the KFB project code. There won’t be a three-door Coupé, nor will there be a follow-up to the Coupe-Cabriolet as these cars just weren’t popular enough to justify the costs of replacing them. Renault has instead added models such as the Captur and Kadjar to cash in on the crossover boom in the B and C segments, with a new, larger Koleos set to appear in 2016 to sit below the E-segment Espace in the brand’s overall worldwide SUV/crossover range.
The third generation estate isn’t disappearing any time soon: production of BFD, the hatchback, won’t start at Palencia until November. As for the Sport Tourer, the first series production cars are ten months away so we’re looking at another year until the UK receives the next estate. If KFB doesn’t show at Frankfurt, expect to see it as a world premiere in Geneva next March. Returning to the B32 series car, this has been manufactured at the Spanish plant since 2008, and there is SKD assembly at the AvtoFramos works in Moscow. Something unusual about the Sport Tourer is it having a longer wheelbase than the five-door, to the benefit of luggage and occupant space. The platform is Alliance P3 but this will be replaced by the CMF C/D architecture, which multiple Renault and Nissan models already use, the Qashqai being the largest volume one.