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£23,900 when new
What’s this, then? It’s the Renault Megane GT220 Sport Tourer. A long name for an even longer car, and another entrant into the pleasingly bustling hot hatch estate market. Wearing a GT rather than an RS badge, it’s not quite an Alsatian-friendly version of the Nürburgring-honed Trophy-R. But the GT220’s front wheels are driven by what’s essentially a detuned version of its fighty sibling’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, albeit around 50bhp lighter here, with 217bhp on tap. It’s far cheaper, too. This Sport Tourer kicks off at £24,245, just £15 more than a five-door GT220. Is it quick? The GT220’s 7.6-second 0-62mph time is nearly two seconds down on that Trophy-R, but then this is a car with far more equipment and three more seats on board. And its 149mph top speed ain’t bad at all. What’s important, though, is that it feels swift, its engine is muscular, easy-going and quite appealing in its soundtrack. Thumbs up too for its satisfying six-speed manual gearbox, the GT220’s only transmission option. If only the current RS Clio could run a similar combination. What else makes it hot? There are bigger front brake discs than the standard Megane, and unique Renaultsport-fettled suspension. Over rutted urban roads, there’s predictable firmness: welcome if you want to know where your money’s been spent, less so if you just want to shuffle through town without fuss. Out on more open, undulating roads, though, the fettling makes more sense. Here’s an estate car with uncanny agility and body control. The steering is light and rather free of feel, but that’s the case for most modern hot hatches. What matters is that the GT220 is intuitive and very easy to drive briskly. Where the Renault falls down against its sportier competition - the Ford Focus ST and SEAT Leon Cupra ST, in particular - is its lack of torque management on the front axle. It’s simply not as focused as those two, and there’s no limited-slip differential or torque vectoring to help you power out of a corner. You’ll find a very hardcore differential on Renaultsport’s full-strength Megane, and it’s merely evidence that the GT badge used here is for less committed products. If you have seats full of children and a boot full of pushchairs and/or pets, though, that will feel entirely fitting. Anything else family-friendly? There’s a whole caboodle of standard equipment. Climate control, a reversing camera, satnav, LED running lights and a posh stereo are all on the kit list, which goes someway to justify the Megane costing a smidge more than that friskier Focus ST, which is sparser in equipment. While this generation of Megane is knocking on a bit now - it was first introduced in 2008 - the interior feels nicely appointed and possesses a bit more character than that Leon Cupra. How successful the Megane’s latest facelift has been on the outside is a subjective decision you’ll have made yourself. So should I buy one? It’s a nice car, this, but it has tough competition in the shape of the cheaper Focus and more scintillating Seat. Skoda offers its identically powered, though much more capacious, Octavia vRS estate for a smidge under £25,000, too. Good as it is, the GT220 Tourer’s not a podium finisher in a small but strong class. Peruse a few online outlets, though, and there are new examples with £8000 lopped off. Suddenly its appeal spikes. Tempted?