BONJOUR MON AMI: Renault has launched the fourth-generation Megane in South Africa. Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker
Mpumalanga - The Megane is an important car for Renault: set to butt heads with the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Peugeot 308 and the Opel Astra. That's a monumental task when the C-segment hatch market is just 6.8% according to Renault.
Seven years after the third-generation Megane was launched in South Africa, the fourth-generation has arrived and man does it come packed with tech, enough to rival the latest iPhone 7 launch.
The range comprises three derivatives; Megane Dynamique, Megane GT-Line manual and seven-speed dual EDC, and the flagship Megane GT which is only available with the firm's seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.
There are no plans to introduce a diesel derivative in the future.
The French firm offers a segment-first, four-wheel steering exclusively for its Megane GT, which according to the automaker, is capable of turning the rear wheels a maximum of 3.0° angle.
We put it to test on the skidpan at Red Star Raceway in Delmas. During the test (dodging traffic cones at the last minute) the car felt agile throughout. Curiously, when viewed in action it appears as if the wheel has taken a knock.
Walk around: Megane GT
A few runs through a slalom also highlighted the effectiveness of the system, whether the average Joe will see the 4Control chassis system as a USP remains to be seen.
READ: Fourth-gen Renault Megane arrives in SA: We have prices and specs
Standard is Renault's R-Link 2, a multimedia system incorporating satnav, bluetooth, audio, voice recognition and driving modes via a magnificent 22cm touch screen (GT and GT-Line). The entry-level Dynamique model makes do with with a 18cm screen.
The large screen is a boon when navigating to different menus. The prompts are coupled with the preciseness and fluidity of a Renaissance painter.
The next-generation Megane draws on the previous model's solid build quality and smooth ride. The Dynamique variant (R279 900) model uses a normally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine developing 84kW/156Nm. Those figures on par with the Astra's 1.6-litre engine.
There is a single gearbox, a five-speed manual, which may seem out dated in this segment.
The pick of the bunch for me though is the the 1.2-litre GT-Line, developing 97kW/205Nm. The engine suffers from predictable lag and the gearing is too long, which means you'll end up doing 120km/h in fourth gear.
Apart from those two blights, the GT-Line offers good mid-range grunt and a ton of standard spec (see below for comparisons).
Gallery: 2016 Renault Megane
We spent most of the time with the GT model on track, and used its launch control system and some of its 151kW/280Nm. The Red Star track has more turns than a politicians speech, and the dual-clutch GT perhaps was a bit underwhelmed on it.
The paddles in the GT are fixed to the steering column, which makes it uncomfortable to change gears when the steering wheel isn't straight. Straight-line urge felt good and it handles well.
The alcantara and leather seats provided adequate support. The price tag of R450 000, albeit for the top-of-the-range, might be a sticking point for some though. Overall it's a good package that deserves to succeed.
The three trim levels, three engines and generous standard spec count in the new Megane's favour. The 4Control system, Multisense (which allows the driver to adjust driver settings, engine sound and interior lighting), R-Link 2 push the new car into a new frontier for driver comfort and adaptability. You can even spec the Megane to park itself, using tech featured in its Kadjar SUV sibling.
The Clio 3 showed the world that Renault can build good cars and it's clear with the uptake in South Africa. The Megane, in my opinion, takes on the baton from the Clio and adds a little more pizzazz to the C-segment range.
Looking for a well-built, good-looking hatch back? You should take the new Megane for a test drive, it might surprise you.
Renault Megane Dynamique - R279 900
Renault Megane GT-Line manual - R339 900
Renault Megane GT-Line automatic - R354 900
Renault Megane GT - R449 900