The new Mégane range is the biggest factor in Renault‘s continued sales rises across European markets. According to ACEA data, the brand is now ahead of Ford, making it the region’s number two make behind Volkswagen, and proving the wisdom of investments in new products rather than letting top sellers grow old.

Volkswagen was hoping that its I.D. concept might be the most publicised vehicle from the Paris motor show but as eye catching as it is, the fact that a production model is still four year away rather diluted any potential excitement about it. Instead, Renault’s metre-high Trezor concept with its red-tinted glazing turned out to be far more arresting statement of future design than the plug-in VW.

Unlike a lot of brands, Renault has a strong heritage of using its design studies to point the way to the looks of its next generation of production models. So it proved when the latest Mégane five-door was revealed at the 2015 Frankfurt IAA. The front end of this car in particular owes a lot to a series of concepts which had appeared during the early part of the 2010s. Almost a year on from production of the fourth generation five-door hatchback having started, the car still looks striking. Does edgy design sell? Yes, it would seem, but as has been the case with previous Méganes, how well the car will age remains to be seen. 

The five-door hatchback is 64mm longer (4,359mm) and 25mm lower (1,447mm) than the third-generation model, and has a 28mm longer wheelbase (2,669mm). We won’t see the Fluence replacement in the UK but this car, which has a new name – Mégane Grand Coupé – has just had its motor show debut in Paris alongside the Trezor.

The hatchback and estate are manufactured in Spain at the Palencia plant with Bursa (Turkey) being the production base for the sedan. Renault is hoping that by giving the sedan a lower roofline in the style of the Volkswagen CC, that it might be able to sell the Grand Coupé as a more desirable product than its vanilla competitors, thus avoiding discounting. The only problem with this idea is that the countries where the sedan will be available* all have either relatively low incomes or no tradition of customers being willing to pay premium prices for a C segment sedan from a non-premium brand. We shall see how the Grand Coupé gets on after a full year of sales at the end of 2017.

A four-door Mazda3 is one of the few saloons offered to buyers in the UK but Renault sees no demand here for the Grand Coupé, instead believing that a hatchback and a sedan are what people want in the Focus/Golf/Astra class.

As was the case with the generation three Mégane, the range is given some, shall we say, Va Va Voom, by the inclusion of a GT variant. Until a RenaultSport Mégane appears in 2017, the GT is the top-spec car and comes only as a five-door hatchback.

So what do you get for your GBP25,500? Powering the GT 205 is a 1,618cc turbocharged petrol engine. The power output is in the name, and torque is 280Nm @ 2,400rpm. This is the same engine as the one you’ll find under the bonnet of the Clio RenaultSport RS 200 and the outputs are identical.

An EDC (electronic dual clutch) transmission is standard and this has seven ratios. There are 18″ wheels with 225/40 R18 tyres (the test car had a big Bose subwoofer where a spare would normally be, and an inflation kit), and to assist with handling, something called UCL, which stands for Understeer Logic Control, which does do a good job of keeping the front end from running too wide at higher speeds.

The GT is fitted with 4Control, an electronic four-wheel steering system. Its work is subtle, the main task being to keep the car stable at high speeds. This it does by steering the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts at speeds above 50mph. Conversely, if you the RS button pressed in when the car is travelling below that rate, the back tyres are turned in the opposite direction, the idea being to improve driving dynamics. As four-wheel drive is not available, UCL and 4Control are seen as the next best thing, plus of course they don’t add the weight which a mechanically driven rear axle would.

It says a lot about how heavy most C segment cars are that a quoted kerb mass of 1,463kg seems reasonable for the Mégane GT. Certainly its mix of performance, economy and emissions is competitive compared to the big selling Golf GTI. Zero to 62mph takes 7.2 seconds, top speed is 143mph, and the Combined consumption is 47.1mpg, with CO2 stated as 134g/km. I saw 38mpg. The VED band is E and BIK for fiscal 2016/2017 is 23%.

The EDC works well in this car to such an extent that I didn’t really miss a manual gearbox as I usually do in hot hatchbacks which so often have dual clutch transmissions. Sometimes there is an anxiety-inducing pause when parking on a hill: in both R and D the car will respond to gravity so you have to be quick on the brakes to avoid a low speed shunt. The only way to prevent this is to train yourself to use both feet to ease in and out of sloping parking spaces. The electronic parking brake is more of a hindrance than a help in such circumstances as it’s fiddly to use and too slow to respond to what you need it to do.

An extraordinary thing about the GT 205 is the lack of any model badging. You’ll see the usual Renault elf sticker in the back window, the big diamond badge in the centre of the grille and the word RENAULT on the tailgate. But the word Mégane appears nowhere on the car’s exterior, and inside, only on the floor mats.

I struggled to get on with the R-Link 2 infotainment system. Why for example does it take three or four seconds for the radio station to change after you’ve pressed the screen or the remote mounted below the steering wheel? It’s also a case of endless pushing of the touchscreen’s controls and lots of things in non-intuitive places, all so that the dashboard can have a minimalist look. I had this car for a week and every day approached it with an open mind but each time it would annoy me with how slow or illogical it was. The real frustration was how great the interior was in all other ways. The seats and steering wheel are beautiful to look at, the electric blue trim really gives the whole inside of the car a premium feel and the plastics are much better than in the previous Mégane.

Maybe I would eventually get used to R Link 2, but something which urgently needs a rethink is the control for the high beam. This is the first car I have experienced where you must hold the stalk forward as it will not stay in that position. That’s not just annoying, it can be dangerous.

Despite the faults, I liked the GT 205. It’s good value for money and to my eyes, the looks are a big reason why the entire Mégane range is so popular. The SMMT’s numbers for September were not available at the time of writing, but Renault sales in the UK were up by 43% in August. The brand has even overtaken Škoda (50,837 Vs 50,745 and a year ago Renault’s total for the first eight months was 44,073 compared to Škoda’s 48,760). The Captur is a big factor but the Mégane is clearly a new big reason for the sales surge, with the recently added estate undoubtedly going to make the range even more popular.

Future derivatives

What Renault calls a ‘Hybrid Assist’ diesel will be added to the Mégane line-up early in 2017. It has a targeted NEDC cycle figure below 3 litres/100km (94.1mpg) and CO2 emissions of 76g/km. Around a year after these mild hybrid cars hit the market, the RenaultSport Mégane will arrive. It won’t have four-wheel drive but nonetheless, power and torque are set to rise by around 10 percent over the outgoing model. That’s likely to translate to 300+PS. As there won’t be a coupe bodystyle for the current shape Mégane (nor a cabriolet), the RS will be a five-door hatchback.

*According to Renault, the new Grand Coupé will be sold in the following countries: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.