NO swaggering spoiler, no bulbous bonnet air intake, no flared wheel arches — in fact no
NO swaggering spoiler, no bulbous bonnet air intake, no flared wheel arches — in fact no fuss at all.
Yet this week’s drive — the Renault Mégane Hatch GT 220, a car that generates a meaty 220 bhp — is a beast spawned by Formula 1.
There was a time when you could recognise the sporty cars from any carmaker’s stable simply by the fact they looked racy — they were inclined towards employing at least some of the accoutrements of boy racer garb.
Now I sense the approach is far subtler. Renault in its Renaultsport range, like other makers of sporty production hatchbacks, is inclining its smart, quick road cars towards the understated—yet—we—mean—business look.
One giveaway that the Mégane Hatch GT 220 has undisclosed power under its bonnet is the useful—looking wheels — 18—inch “Serdard” alloys — which appear strong and purposeful enough to hammer around the tightest bends.
Once behind the wheel, that old Renault “vroom” is there to be enjoyed and savoured — from its standing start performance of nought to 62mph in 7.6 seconds to an easily reachable maximum speed of 149mph.
Like so many of the “performance” production cars today, I find that the joy of driving them is not so much in toe—down, standing start acceleration — that may of course be down to my age — but more that ease of cruising on motorways and A—roads through a surge of power that is there when and if you need it.
Nothing is more disappointing for a driver in any car than when the power “fades” when you most need it. The Mégane Hatch GT 220 loves to go and responds accordingly.
Renaultsport has a history steeped in racing and Renault’s pedigree in hot hatches stretches back more than 35 years. In 1976, with the first classic German GTi still a year from launch, Renault came up with the sizzling Renault 5 Gordini.
Frenchman Amédée Gordini was a top racing car designer and tuning specialist who first became involved with Renault during the Fifties. This relationship laid the foundations for Renaultsport.
In 2000, the Clio Renaultsport 172 became the first hot hatch to wear the Renaultsport badge — its name reflecting the power output achieved from a 2.0 litre non—turbocharged engine.
Unveiled at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Mégane Renaultsport 225 was the first Mégane to benefit from Renaultsport technologies.
These days the aim is still to deliver Renaultsport power from racing Renaults to your everyday production vehicles. Rob White, technical director of Renaultsport F1, and his team create the Renault engines that have powered a quarter of all Formula 1 teams. These are winning engines that have helped create world champions 11 times.
For production cars, Renault is developing a new range of so—called Energy engines through its engineers’ knowledge gained from race—prepared power units.
A common goal in this racing/production vehicle set—up, Renault says, is to “reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 35 per cent; test engine strength under extreme conditions and take the everyday pleasure of driving a Renault to ever greater heights”.
Now all this racing background may in fact seem distant from the everyday driver. However, I believe that in the Mégane Hatch 220 you can see that this Renaultsport pedigree shines through to useful purpose.
I have always found Renault one of the most willing of carmakers to embrace new technology — actually, I think French carmakers in general excel at this — so the Mégane Hatch 220 is well kitted out.
There is R—Link where you can access your address book, playlists and internet applications using a touchscreen, intuitive voice commands or steering wheel controls.
With the hands—free keycard you simply carry the card with you for door opening and ignition without having to insert it into the reader. The doors also lock automatically as soon as you move away.
With its high—resolution camera, the Visio system detects lane markings and alerts you visually and audibly whenever you cross a continuous line or broken line without indicating.
The automatic headlights feature also adjusts between main and dipped beam, depending on conditions.
A rear parking camera helps with manoeuvres and complements the car’s audio and visual sensor aids. There is also a jack in the console and Bluetooth functionality for hands—free calls, and audio streaming. With the Plug & Music option, you can connect your player using the USB and audio jack, and command the whole system from the central controls.
Incidentally, if the Renaultsport bug bites and you do plump for one, there is a dedicated website at www.renaultsport.co.uk Â for owners and fans.
A number of track days are available in the UK and abroad. Owners also have the opportunity to visit the Renaultsport facility in Dieppe, France.
Renault Mégane Hatch GT 220
Test car price: £24,370
Additonal features on GT 220...
• 18—inch ‘Serdard’ alloys
• Renaultsport engineered chassis
• Sport front seats
• Renault keyless entry with push button start
• R—Link v2 multimedia system including 7—inch touchscreen (includes 3 months LIVE services subscription) Application store, Eco Driving Menu, with Western European Mapping
• Arkamys 3D Sound 4 X 35W radio CD with Bluetooth and USB connection
• Renaultsport styled steering wheel with leather and stitching detail
• Rear parking camera with front and rear parking sensors
• Front body coloured GT bumper
• Rear body coloured GT bumper with dark chrome Anti—whiplash front headrests