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Published in Weekend Witness Motoring on Saturday January 7,2012
What’s that feeble old line about experiencing déjà vu all over again? We felt a wave of it as we settled in to the Renault Mégane 1,4 TCe GT-Line Hatch recently. The overall inside look was the same as on the Mégane Hatch we drove 18 months ago, except for darker metallic trim on dash and doors, but the Arkamys sound system is still there, as is the three-phase dual channel air conditioner. The leather bound seats looked and felt the same with one big difference; the recline-angle adjuster is easier to get at and is now a big round wheel that allows you to select exactly the right slope. Steering wheel, also leather, is as it was with minimal controls on the spokes, but quite a bundle of kit on the pod behind it.
What is new is that Renault has added GT-Line badging on the front head restraints and kick plates on the doorsills. The trip computer now includes real-time fuel consumption; something we complained was lacking on the car driven previously. The Carminat TomTom satnav now boasts live updates in real time, direct from the satellites, and an analogue speedometer replaces the plain car’s digital unit. A notable exception is that, while doors still autolock as you drive off, the same cannot be said as you close up and walk away. This appears to have been deleted.
Outside, front fog light pods have been redesigned and the grille facelifted with a bolder mesh design. Round the back, things are pretty much the same although the new car uses a body-coloured lower bumper and the diffuser looks different.
Unseen, is the specially developed ‘Sport’ chassis already fitted to the Mégane Coupé with ride height lowered by 12 mm, stiffer springs and dampers all round, along with a lower front roll centre height for more precise handling and a sportier driving experience. What you do see; is new 17” alloy wheels with lower-profiled tyres to replace the old 16-inchers, although the spare is still the standard 16” steel unit.
The body is the same, so the 372-litre boot remains as was - square, about 20 cm deep and loading from about mid-thigh height. The rear seatbacks collapse 40:60, but one thing not noticed last time is that the cushions can be lifted and flipped so the backs fold completely flat to increase load volume to a very useful 1162 litres. The SA standard tall passenger still rates headroom at nine, knee space at seven and foot room at eight. Getting in and out is a bit awkward for the fully-grown, with feet almost jammed under the front chairs to begin with and the doorways rather narrow.
The 96 kW, 190 Nm engine places in about the middle as 1400 cc turbopetrol machines go, so its claimed zero to 100 km/h time of 9,6 seconds and top speed around 200 km/h, is obviously quicker than some but not as perky as others. It’s still a very entertaining drive, although sixth gear is designed for economical cruising rather than high-speed roll-on ability. Through the winding country roads of our test route, it pointed and squirted like a good Renault should – as we said; it’s entertaining.
So you’re the one who read the intro and is looking for the ‘something unexpected’ punch line? OK, it’s this: Over the past year-and-a-half, the price has gone up by only R4900 but now you get a few more toys. Or you could stick with the old formula for the same new price as this one.
Price: R249 900
Engine: 1397 cc, four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbopetrol
Power: 96 kW at 5500 rpm
Torque: 190 Nm at 2250 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h (claimed): 9,6 seconds
Maximum speed: 200 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: about 9,3 l/100 km
Tank: 60 litres
Warranty: 5 years/150 000 km
Service plan: 5 years/100 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
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So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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