Renault Mégane GT vs Ford Focus vs VW Golf GTI – hot hatch group test
Source : Renault Mégane GT vs Ford Focus vs VW Golf GTI – hot hatch group test
The Renault Sport-tuned GT tops the brand-new Mégane line-up in addition to sets the stage for the full-fat RS variation in 2018. nevertheless can the item uphold Renault’s hot hatch honours?
The Renault Mégane can be a car apparently trapped in a permanent identity crisis.
While rivals appear capable of regenerating every six or seven years without ever needing a wholesale character reinvention, the Mégane seems to come back drastically altered using a different agenda in addition to fresh selling points every time there’s an all-brand-new type.
As its dynasty has developed, we’ve gone through The Beaky One to The Whacky One to The Oft-FaceliftedBlink-in addition to-There’s-A-brand-new-One One. in addition to currently to that will: Mégane Mk4, The Pretty One. Sort of. in recent times, we’ve been led to expect outstanding safety through the auto, then innovative technology in addition to unconventional style followed by value in addition to efficiency. currently we’re offered a certain refined European maturity, the item seems. nevertheless above all, never the same thing twice.
Keen drivers have therefore clung to the one strand that will the Mégane has offered consistently since the second-generation type: that will, sooner or later, there’ll be a variation developed by Renault’s motorsport in addition to performance car division, Renault Sport, that will’ll be absolutely mustard to drive.
in addition to the not bad news can be that will, that will time around, that will special variation may have come already. The Mégane Mk4 has been launched using a pseudo-RS variation installed within the line-up through the get-go: the range-topping GT type. that will car comes with not just sportier suspension settings nevertheless also uprated spring, damper, steering in addition to anti-roll bar componentry – all tuned by you-know-who. the item comes with something no additional car within the Mégane’s class has ever offered, too: four-wheel steering.
So has the hot Mégane that will we’ve all been hoping for since Renault dampened our collective enthusiasm with the current Clio RS currently come along under the radar, a little earlier than expected? Can we stop worrying about the direction in which Renault Sport can be heading in addition to instead take heart that will the future of one of the greatest purveyors of the modern hot hatchback can be safe?
Let battle commence
Mégane versus Focus versus Golf, represented in go-faster guise in every case, feels like a story that will has been told countless times on these pages over the past decade. currently, as ever, I bet you think you can guess how the item might go. GTI falters first, being classy in addition to desirable nevertheless not brilliantly fast or exciting. ST gives RS tougher opposition, the Ford being punchy, usable, well priced in addition to very entertaining. nevertheless the Renault wins the day, using a blend of pace, grip, poise in addition to tactile feedback that will neither of the others can equal.
Well, think again. the item’s a Mégane GT flying the flag for France here, remember, not a full-house Renault Sport derivative. (An all-brand-new Mégane RS isn’t expected until 2018.) in addition to if you’re wondering how much that will fact may open the door for either the Golf or the Focus to seize the performance high ground, you needn’t look very far for the first sign of confirmation.
The Renault goes into that will test armed using a lightly modified variation of the Clio RS 0’s 1.6-litre turbocharged engine in addition to paddleshift gearbox, giving the item 202bhp in addition to 207lb ft, whereas both of its rivals displace 2.0 litres in addition to produce at least 10% more power in addition to 25% more torque. The Renault’s 0-62mph claimed time starts using a seven whereas its competitors both have claims starting using a six. We’ll get to how much difference that will makes to the relative performance of our trio in due course, nevertheless even in a two-tier hot hatchback market, the item’s far through the greatest start for our newcomer.
Worse still for Renault, in opposition to the Mégane come two cars that will have been made faster, firmer in addition to more purposeful in their latest forms than ever they used to be. Ford’s 2014 update for the Focus ST added stiffer front suspension springs, uprated dampers in addition to firmer suspension in addition to steering bushings. VW’s seventh-generation Golf GTI, meanwhile, was launched a year earlier with something that will would certainly have been unthinkable through a hot hatchback so straight-laced not so long ago: the option of an active limited-slip differential. the item comes as part of VW’s Performance Pack that will also upgrades engine in addition to braking power in addition to that will our test car had fitted.
All of which begins to explain how three hot hatchbacks that will you might have taken for known quantities end up surprising you when you come to drive them. One can be much firmer in addition to more fun than you’d ever have expected, another firmer still in addition to even more eager to please in addition to the third one atypically blasé about its sporting ambitions.
The inside story
If you read our recent road test on the Mégane diesel (Autocar, 17 August), you’ll know that will the brand-new car’s cabin ambience can be markedly more rich in addition to expensive-feeling than that will of the old car. In GT specification, the step change can be plainer still.
Between the cabin’s two-tone suede sports seats, vivid blue stitching in addition to detailing, shiny chrome accents in addition to sport pedals in addition to brand-new portrait-orientated multimedia system in addition to digital instruments, the Mégane currently works very hard to convince you that will the item’s sporty, stylish in addition to sophisticated on the inside – in addition to the item achieves that will aim effectively enough in places.
nevertheless on a more fundamental level, the Renault can be also quite seriously flawed. Shallow footwells in addition to closely set pedals force drivers of even average height to sit either more bentlegged or farther through the steering wheel than they might prefer. Rearseat passenger space isn’t great in any case in addition to the item takes a secondary hit as a result of the poor front-row packaging. in addition to a back-to-back drive in either the Focus ST or Golf GTI will instantly demonstrate that will such an ergonomic faux pas actually needn’t be tolerated in 2016. The Focus’s driving position can be a bit high nevertheless its control format can be not bad, in addition to the Golf’s are both comfortably beyond reproach.
There can be likewise evidence of questionable attention to detail within the usability in addition to appearance of the Mégane’s infotainment system, the clarity of its digital instruments (there’s no option to see speedo in addition to rev counter at the same time) in addition to, most annoying of all, the positioning of the shift paddles on the steering column. They sprout through attachment points a couple of inches higher than the horizontal centre line of the steering wheel. They’re also cut off through extending far enough downwards to be in easy reach of where your hands naturally come to rest on the wheel at quarter to three. As a result, they manage to make every gearchange that will little bit more laborious than the item should be. within the Golf, the paddles for its DSG dualclutch automatic gearbox are on the back of the wheel, not the column – in addition to the merits of each philosophy can be debated. nevertheless leaving that will debate to one side, the VW’s gearbox can be by a long way the easier to get along with.
The Golf’s gearbox also works so much better than the Mégane’s, as if to deliberately shine an even less flattering light on Renault’s relative lack of experience with dual-clutch transmissions. Shift speed in manual mode can be comparable in both cars, nevertheless the GTI’s abilities to swap cogs smoothly, always select the right gear in automatic mode in addition to kick down at the right time are vastly superior.
that will the Renault can be operating at a significant shortfall on torque in addition to related drivability compared with the VW doesn’t help its case. Neither do those oddly chosen gear ratios, so familiar through the Clio RS 0, through which second gear feels more like first ought to feel, third uncannily like second, fourth like third in addition to first as not bad as redundant.
A conventional six-speed manual gearbox can be, by contrast, something a hot hatchback can be far less likely to go wrong with, in addition to so the item proves within the Focus. Short levered in addition to heavy nevertheless positive through the gate, the Focus’s gearbox gets better the more roughly you treat the item. Its engine, meanwhile, trumps the Golf’s in addition to Mégane’s for ferocity, delivering a bigger hit of mid-range torque than either in addition to sounding more tuneful.
The Ford’s powertrain feels like a traditional hot hatchback’s, nevertheless the item’s nonetheless very well executed in addition to no less exciting for being a bit old tech. the item has what every car of its ilk needs above all else: more grunt than feels strictly necessary. nevertheless the Golf would certainly likely be almost as fast as the Focus through point to point, VW’s Performance Pack upgrade liberating a useful bit of extra high-revving freedom through its turbocharged engine than a standard GTI has.
All three have wheels that will signal hot hatch potential, nevertheless the Mégane fails to deliver the item fully on a B-road in addition to leaves its driver wanting in addition to, sure enough, on a performance level, the Renault again fails to land a glove on its rivals. Although the Mégane’s power in addition to pace feel moderately keen in isolation, the item’s much the weakest-feeling car of the three in back-to-back testing. Lacking the mid-range wallop of either the Focus or the Golf, the Mégane’s engine can be also the least willing engine to rev of all three, becoming a bit strained beyond 4500rpm. Those funny intermediate ratios disguise the deficiency at times, nevertheless you can’t miss the item when you sample something else that will your hot hatchback money might have bought instead. The bottom line can be that will because that will engine wasn’t in addition to isn’t actually not bad enough even for a hot Clio, the item was never going to cut the item in a hot Mégane.
So what pride can the Mégane recover on the part of the driving experience over which Renault Sport exerts the most influence? A not insignificant amount, as the item turns out. in addition to hallelujah for that will.
The Mégane GT rides using a supple, progressive kind of Centeng control that will reeks of careful in addition to skilful tuning. the item feels cleverly damped initially, gently reined in at everyday speeds nevertheless controlled nonetheless. in addition to up to a point, the item handles well. As a car purely in which to drive your every daily miles without necessarily going looking for excitement, the Mégane GT wouldn’t be last in that will test’s ranking order. nevertheless regrettably, the quicker you drive the Mégane in addition to the more testing the road surface under its wheels, the less dynamically impressive the item gets.
Quite the reverse can be true of the Golf GTI, whose ride can be initially firmer than the Mégane GT’s nevertheless whose excellent Centeng control, traction in addition to handling stability seem perfectly judged for fast cross-country miles. The Golf can be unperturbed by bumps. Its adaptive dampers only seem to work better when you ask them to do more. The Mégane’s, by contrast, are at their best when taking the sting out of long compressions on the motorway in addition to smaller, sharper ones at A-road speeds, nevertheless they allow the Centeng to roll in addition to deflect too much when push actually comes to shove.
For grip, the Focus in addition to Golf are evenly matched nevertheless the Mégane can be a shade off the pace. On handling response, balance in addition to driver engagement, the Focus tops the order, the Mégane’s rear-axle steering chiming in to the handling repertoire only occasionally in addition to at low speeds in addition to being outshone by the Golf’s slippy diff for contribution to your amusement level.
nevertheless the Ford makes you pay for its direct, incisive handling in a way that will the Focus ST never used to – which, with that will tester, takes the edge off an all-round dynamic showing that will might otherwise have been strong enough to win that will test.
Ford’s latest round of chassis tweaks have created a firm, busy, unsettled ride in addition to steering that will’s a little too adversely affected by bump steer, torque steer in addition to drive forces generally. The ST has always been a relatively naughty, vivacious kind of drive whose handling bite in addition to control feedback made its wilder habits worth tolerating, nevertheless currently the item seems that will the auto’s Mr Hyde side can be starting to get the better of the item.
Which can be why the Golf GTI comes to the fore at the end of a long day in these cars in addition to justifies its high cost with the most fully realised performance driving experience here. The Focus ST comes a creditable second, with its handling dynamism in addition to bang for the buck as outstanding as ever nevertheless its overall appeal lessened by chassis updates.
Of the Mégane GT, there can be some encouragement to take, nevertheless at least as much frustration, too. Renault Sport’s development team deserves better raw material in addition to a more singular brief than that will with which to show what the item can do – in addition to with the full-blown Mégane RS (which will retain a manual gearbox in addition to the outgoing car’s 2.0-litre engine in updated form), the item’ll get both.
nevertheless for the next couple of years in addition to until that will brand-new Mégane RS makes the item off the development trail in addition to into showrooms, the void left by the demise of the previous Clio RS in addition to the outgoing Mégane 275 may loom large for the hot hatchback faithful – in addition to that will Mégane GT will do little to fill the item.
Volkswagen Golf GTI 5dr DSG Performance Pack
cost £30.925; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 227bhp 4700-6200rpm; Torque 258lb ft 1500-4600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch auto; Kerb weight 1370kg; 0-62mph 6.4sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 44.1mpg; CO2 149g/km, 26%;
Ford Focus ST-3 – 4/5 stars
cost £26,550; Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbo, petrol; Power 247bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 266lb ft at 2000-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1437kg; Top speed 154mph; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Economy 41.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 159g/km, 28%
Renault Mégane GT Nav 205 EDC – 3/5 stars
cost £25,500; Engine 4 cyls, 1616cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 202bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 2400rpm; Kerb weight 1463kg; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; 0-62mph 7.1sec; Top speed 143mph; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 134g/km, 23%
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