1. Good things, smaller packages
Enthusiasts were sceptical when Renault announced the Megane’s 2.0-litre turbo four would be replaced by a 1.8-litre turbo but the numbers don’t lie. Power and torque are up, to 205kW and 390Nm, which is plenty when the front wheels are doing the driving. In automatic guise, the engine feels very strong when you find its sweet spot and it sounds great too. Claimed thirst is 7.5L/100km, impressive for a hot hatch, but you’ll get nowhere near that if you exploit the engine’s performance potential.
2. cheap, it’s not
The standard Megane RS280 starts at $45,990 plus on-roads in manual form but our test car was the more hardcore Cup version with dual-clutch auto and “tonic orange” paintwork, at $52,990 plus on-roads. That’s a lot of money when you compare it with Hyundai’s i30N, which costs roughly $12,000 less and has almost as much power, as well as adaptive suspension missing on the Renault. For the extra spend over the standard Megane RS you get a mechanical limited-slip diff, firmer sports suspension and stiffer anti-roll bars, bigger 19-inch wheels and better brakes.
3. It looks the part
The extra money also buys you a host of visual design cues to separate your car from garden variety models. Apart from the eye-catching paint job, there are the black alloys, black rear diffuser, mean-looking LED headlights and a restyled front grille. It looks sensational.
4. The cabin is racy
The interior design is pretty spot-on for a hot hatch. You sit in a heavily bolstered leather and Alcantara sports seat with the obligatory red stitching and an RS logo embossed in the headrest. The steering wheel is chunky, with silver paddle-shifters, red stitching and a stripe in the centre to remind you which way the wheels are pointing. Other sporty touches include aluminium pedals and carbon-fibre highlights on the dash and doors. There are a data logger and a telemetry screen for track days. Insert a USB and you can record, as well as lap times, a range of parameters including steering angles, braking performance, real-time power and torque outputs, acceleration, g-forces and tyre grip.
5. The proof of the pudding …
All that gear sounds good on paper but a hot hatch is more about the feel than the spec sheet. The Renault delivers: the dual-clutch auto doesn’t detract from the driver engagement in the RS. The shifts are quick and decisive, whether you’re using the paddles or leaving it to its own devices. It also sounds better than the manual version, cracking loudly on gear changes. The car builds momentum in a trademark turbo rush and feels as quick as the official claim of 5.8 secs for the 0-100km/h dash. Grip is remarkable and the Renault feels lively yet assured through the bends, helped by accurate feedback from the steering wheel. The ride in town is undoubtedly firm and jiggly but it’s not too crashy or jarring. Fans won’t be disappointed with the new model — if they can afford it.
Originally published as Cracking hot hatch’s one big flaw