Tag: French

Renault Megane GT :The most confusing warm hatch I’ve driven

Renault Megane GT Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

After driving the new Megane GT for a week, I was left slightly baffled. I found myself asking fellow journo’s if it was just me, or is the car one of strangest fast hatchback out there? Let me explain. Renault for years been good at making quick and visceral hatchbacks that appeal to the senses. With the new Megane that has been recently launched, the recipe seems perfect. The current range topper for now is the GT version, as the hardcore RS has not yet arrived in South Africa. A power figure of 151kW and 280Nm for the GT is enough to pique the interest of any person who loves some exhilaration. The looks of the GT adds to this as the large grille, sporty styling and sharp lines make you believe that you’re going to be in for some fun.

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Step inside the car and you get even more amped, because you’re presented with some bucket seats and a stylish cabin with dark bits and chrome. A weird heart beat type of sound plays though the speakers as you enter, almost to tell you that this car means business. The fascia is modern and features a large touch screen system that allows you to operate media and even air-conditioning in the car. I still enjoy old school switches and nobs but if you’re tech savvy, operating everything via a touch-screen may come naturally. The GT features the 7-Speed EDC gearbox and is fitted with fixed gear paddles, the same as you would get in older Ferrari’s. Hmm. Start the car up and things get interesting. The car is very quiet, unnervingly so. I looked around for a “sport” button in the hopes of livening things up and voila, I found the RS button. This lets you choose different modes in the car via a system called MULTI-SENSE. Neutral, Eco,Comfort, Sport and Perso mode are available. In Sport mode, you would expect this to unleash some sort of animalistic side to this car, but all it does is sharpen things up as well as change the dials from blue to red.

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Acceleration in the GT is also surprising because the first half of the Revs are linear and then all of a sudden there’s an extra surge of torque. When all this happens, there is a strange whirring sound which is meant to be the engine noise and the gear changes are so quick, you realise often too late that you’re travelling at an illegal speed. Driving the car in Sport mode on a straight line is something I couldn’t figure out if I liked too much, because it’s not all that exciting. Earlier we spoke of how these cars appealed to the senses, yes my sense of sight was happy because it looks good, but my sense of hearing was hampered because the cars’ engine tone doesn’t sound glad to go fast. This messed with me. What about my sense of feeling? This is the GT’s redeeming factor, it handles very well.

The Megane GT features suspension technology called 4Control, which is a four-wheel steering system. At lower speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels to make cornering faster and nimbler. As you travel at higher speeds, the inside wheels corner the same direction as the front wheels, creating the feeling of a longer wheel base. This system ensures that the Megane GT handles like a beauty, which it does. The driving position of the car and the bucket seat quality is one of the best in the segment. The only thing I would get rid of are the fixed paddles, as it gets confusing to change up and down whilst cornering. And yes I know one shouldn’t be changing gears mid corner anyway, but I’m no racing driver and neither are most people who will buy this car.

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Personally, I enjoyed driving the Megane GT in the normal mode. As a quick daily commuter, you get more joy from it as a regular car than a hot hatch. If you divorce yourself from the hot hatch mentality the car sells you, you start to like it more. It’s firm but not back breaking, it has plenty torque for overtaking and it has enough space for you, your friends and shopping bags. The concept of a “sleeper” is always appealing, which is what I think Renault should’ve done with the GT. Take for instance the new Opel Astra 1.6T. On the outside it looks like a slightly fancier standard Astra, but underneath the hood there’s a quick engine that shocks you as you accelerate. With the Renault, you look at it and expect it to be a baby RS, but it’s not. It’s a quick Megane that handles well and looks very good. It’s not a snarling beast that you can hear from a distance like the older cars. We’ll have to wait for the new RS to fulfil those fantasies.

 

Citroen South Africa’s C4 Cactus: A proper hipster car

Citroen South Africa’s space aged plant.

If there’s one thing we can give Citroen, is that over the years they’ve been the one car maker that couldn’t give anything about what the average person considers as the norm. As a result, to say they have created bold designs would be an understatement. Think of all the cars that Citroen South Africa has brought here. For instance, remember the Citroen DS? Yes the car almost everyone’s grandfather owned. It looked like a large roach that had self-levelling suspension. Yet today, you look back at the design of the DS and the inner *hipster (see footnote) in you comes out, urging you to source one, restore it and drive it around with a large beard on your face.

Many will agree that Citroen’s designs have always been somewhat ahead of the times. Nothing has changed with one of their new cars, the C4 Cactus. Need we say more? With a name like Cactus for a car, one can’t expect anything less than a ridiculously interesting design, perhaps with protective Airbumps on the doors so no one scratches your Cactus in a parking lot. Oh wait, that’s exactly what Citroen did with this car. On first impressions, we looked at it and thought “yuck”, then after some time we realised that the only reason why we gagged was because we were in shock. After some more time we even started to think the C4 Cactus was oddly good looking. “Are we losing our minds?” we thought, as the character of the Cactus charmed us to the point where we couldn’t believe that a car named after a plant could induce such big grins behind the wheel.

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This is mainly due to the fact that upon entering a Citroen C4 Cactus, you feel like you’re in the future. The cabin is flat, wide and so very space age that they may as well throw in R2D2 to ride shot gun with you. Everything in the car is controlled by one screen. This includes the air-conditioning, the radio and the central locking too. And then there’s the driving experience, it feels very light behind the wheel, and not in a bad way. You almost feel like you’re gliding around, possibly the same feeling our grandfathers had in their DS’s. The model we had was the top of the range Shine Puretech with the 81 kW 1.2 litre turbocharged engine.

 

One would think that because the engine is quite small, the Cactus would be as fast as its namesake, but it’s the complete opposite. That little engine must’ve eaten all its vegetables because it packed a small punch enough to make us burst out in laughter at just how ridiculously quirky this car is. The Cactus is the best laugh R294 900 can buy you in this segment. How can you not smile when telling people you’re meeting up with to look out for a white Cactus approaching?

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As good as the Cactus is as an experience, and as good as it is to drive on a long road and in town, the only frustrations we have with it, was the fact that the steering wheel is not reach adjustable, and at high speed, the roof racks tend to get noisy. Besides that, the car is a very unique blast to drive. No wonder it’s a finalist for the 2016 SAGMJ Car of the year. Citroen South Africa must be very pleased about that. The fact that the small engine sips fuel is another aspect that really impresses. At the end of the day all these little things about this car come together to encompass what Citroen has always strived to be, which is to be different.

Who knows, perhaps a few decades from now our children will be looking for old Cactus’s/Cacti to restore so they too can embrace their inner hipster. Till then, if you want something otherworldly, spacious and scratch resistant, then the C4 Cactus may just be up your ally. For me information on the car, click here.

*Hipster: “Artistic” men and women who detest the “mainstream”. They’re generally identifiable through their vintage clothing, round wooden glasses and large Asterix and Obelix-like beards.

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