Visually, at least, the Renaultsport Mégane GT ticks all of the right boxes for a hot hatch, although its performance levels are more lukewarm. It certainly leaves room for a full-on Renaultsport model at the top of the range.
In the Metal:
A number of styling cues make it easy to tell the Renaultsport Mégane GT apart from its more regular Renault Mégane siblings. Right under that big Renault emblem on the front is a smaller GT badge for a start, while a unique front bumper houses larger intakes with contrasting grey panels. The mirrors too are painted in a contrasting grey, which looks especially good against the Iron Blue paintwork.
Buyers of the GT also get the choice of 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels that have been specifically developed for this model. At the rear a sportier looking diffuser serves to further suggest the car's sporting credentials, although quite how much it impacts on the car's actual aerodynamics remains a moot point.
Inside, it is a more special affair with plenty of blue ambient lighting and colour stripes across the dashboard to remind you that this is no mere Mégane; it is the GT. The sports seats do cosset, but aren't as snug as those found in the Ford Focus ST for example. Our test car was equipped with the Alcantara fabric option, which is definitely the best choice, although it could be pricey. The seats do offer plenty of support and even over a longer drive remain for the most part quite comfortable.
The engineers in Renaultsport have paid attention to giving the driver a more engaging experience in the Mégane GT and this is clearly evident. Its steering consists of a GT-specific assisted rack and pinion setup that requires 40 per cent less turns lock-to-lock than the standard Mégane's steering. On turn in and through corners there is a more precise feeling and should you need to make a line adjustment mid-corner the feedback is there to help you place the car better.
The ride is firmer than the standard car's, but not to the degree that everyday commuting would become uncomfortable. It does get bespoke dampers, springs and anti-roll bars, but the fact that all new Méganes now have revised suspension, including the removal of any rubber between the sub-frame and body, results in a more precise ride. At higher speeds there isn't the degree of body roll that you might expect, and bearing in mind that the GT stops short of being Renaultsport's ultimate performance Mégane the result is a very satisfactory compromise.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the introduction of 4Control, an all-wheel steering system. With Sport mode engaged, the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the front wheels, up to 2.7 degrees, below 80km/h and 1 degree in the same direction at speeds above 80km/h. This gives a sharper turn in through corners that is noticeable at lower speeds, and makes the car feel that bit smaller.
With 205hp on offer from the petrol engine acceleration is brisk, but never frantic. Engage Sport mode and the engine tone is louder, but also a bit fake. There is an individual mode that allows users to setup the car for all the same Sport mode features but with the regular engine tone - thankfully.
The seven-speed EDC automatic transmission keeps shifts smooth in everyday scenarios, but using it manually via the paddle shifters still delivers quick changes. The long and metallic paddles are nicely tactile to use, but the fact that they are mounted to the column rather than the wheel can be a bit frustrating in some circumstances. The transmission also has a Multi-Change Down system, which speeds up sequential down shifting of gears. More enthusiastic drivers will appreciate the Launch Control feature, which requires little explanation. It is also quite easy to activate, unlike some that require a complicated process to initiate.
What you get for your Money:
Pricing for the Mégane GT has yet to be finalised for the Irish market as the car will not begin to appear in dealerships until mid-2016. Naturally it is expected to sit at the top of the Mégane range but should come in cheaper than the as-yet-to-be-confirmed Mégane RS.
The Renaultsport Mégane GT stops short of being an out-and-out performance hatch. It is soft enough on the road to work well on daily commutes yet has sufficient performance to put a smile on your face over a good winding road. Its good looks and stylish interior certainly add some bonus points.