Review and road test of the Renault Megane R.S.
RENAULT GETS RAPID
Renault's fastest Megane delivers thrills that are as big as ever. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review of the Renault Megane R.S.
Renault continues to retain its place amongst the hot hatchback elite with this revitalised Megane R.S. The headlines include a 4Control 4-wheel steering system, plus a powerful 1.8-litre engine putting out 300hp. There's a five-door bodystyle and you can get paddleshift auto transmission if you want it too. As before, there's a choice of a standard model with a 'Sport' chassis and a track-ready 'Trophy' variant with a stiffened 'Cup' chassis, options that present buyers with an interesting choice.
We British love our hot hatchbacks. While other European nations are left cold by the prospect of a compact family car that could make a Ferrari look silly on a race circuit and reach licence confiscation territory a matter of seconds after idling at the traffic lights, UK buyers go crazy for anything with the right mix of letters like G, T, R, V and S in its title. Renault has capitalised on this fascination better that almost any other manufacturer in recent years, its Dieppe factory churning out a whole series of Renaultsport models which have hopped across the Channel to beguile the UK's enthusiasts. This third generation Megane Renaultsport is the latest in that line.
Most class-leading hot hatches - Golfs, Focuses and so on - are great because they build on the established dynamic excellence imbued into the standard models upon which they are based. In contrast, for all its many virtues, an ordinary Renault Megane would, you'd think, never be a car likely to sire something sensational. Yet with this Megane R.S. the Dieppe division engineers claim to have managed to deliver just that. Have they worked their magic once more? Let's find out.
Under the bonnet, the 1.8-litre engine in the standard R.S. 300 model now, as that moniker suggests, develops 300hp, the same as in the top 'Trophy' version. It remains the world's most powerful 1.8-litre unit, offering 390Nm of torque. Through the corners, you'll feel the difference between these two derivatives if you're fortunate enough to try them back-to-back; the 'R.S. 300' has the standard 'Sport' chassis, while the top 'Trophy' variant features the more track-orientated 'Cup' chassis. In both cases, a standard '4CONTROL' four-wheel steering helps corner turn-in and aims to ensure stability at high speeds and agility at low speeds. At high speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction, limited to a one degree angle for the rear wheels. At low speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions up to a maximum angle of 2.7 degrees. The ride's surprisingly good too (for a hot hatch), thanks to all round hydraulic bump stops that also enable optimum control of tyre-ground contact. Customers must now have the Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) auto gearbox and if you're quick with its paddleshifters, 62mph from rest takes 5.7s en route to a 158mph maximum (163mph in the Trophy version).
What else? Well in regular use, the Sport chassis provides easy sporty driving, whilst the Cup chassis offers greater, more focused performance for track and fast road progress. If you favour the 'Cup' set-up, you're the kind of buyer who'll probably be interested in the 'S. Monitor Expert' system that allows drivers to film their track sessions and overlay telemetry data to create augmented reality videos that can later be analysed on a provided 'R.S. Replay' website.
Design and Build
Some previous Renaultsport products have looked rather Max Power, a boy racer image that customers with around £35,000 to spend would generally rather avoid. Hence a look that's classier than anything the French brand has yet provided to the hot hatch market. There's a single five-door bodystyle, though with enough styling changes over the ordinary Megane hatch to make it feel a very different product, both inside and out.
In your driveway, it'll certainly appear purposeful, especially in this revised form, which sets itself apart from the original version of this car with small changes to the front grille and rear light design, plus more eye-catching LED lighting signatures. As before, the front bumper incorporates a Formula 1-style blade, a wide air intake and a diamond-patterned front grille. At the side, extractor vents are located behind the front wheels. And at the back, there's an aggressive lip spoiler with body-colour vertical mountings designed to generate greater downforce. Plus there's a rear bumper incorporating a centrally-positioned exhaust pipe and a working diffuser designed to negate lift at higher speeds.
At the wheel, the driving position is brilliant, aided by the fact that you can position the seat nice and low. There are sports front seats with integrated head rests, as part of a predominantly charcoal grey cockpit with red top-stitching. Buyers get a choice of two upholsteries ('carbon fibre weave' or Alcantara) and bespoke aluminium trim for the pedals and gear lever.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £33,000 for the standard R.S. 300 model - which now has to be had with the EDC paddleshift auto gearbox. Think in terms of around £37,000 for the 'Trophy' version with its stiffer 'Cup' chassis (that's auto-only now too). ESP stability control comes as standard and can be completely disabled at the touch of a button should owners feel like exploring the car's limits of grip. The paddleshift EDC auto transmission includes a 'Launch Control' mode for optimised getaways.
Standard kit across the range includes the brand's 'R.S. Vision' lighting system and a 'Multi-Sense' driving modes set-up with 'Sport' and 'Race' settings that can be accessed by a shortcut 'R.S.' button. Also standard is the '4Control' 4-wheel steering system, a special 'PerfoHub independent steering axis front suspension system and a Torsen limited slip differential, all these things combining to improve cornering. Plus you get powerful 355mm front brake discs with Brembo calipers.
Other standard feature on the main R.S. 300 variant (which features the softer 'Sport' chassis) include 18-inch R.S. alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a handsfree Renault keycard, lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition and an active emergency braking system. 'Trophy' specification includes Bi-material brakes, 19-inch R.S. Trophy alloy wheels, an R.S. Nappa perforated leather steering wheel and gearknob gaiter, heated seats, the extra 'R.S. Monitor' telematics track features for the centre screen and the stiffer 'Cup' chassis. Renaultsport Alcantara upholstery with red stitching is standard at this level, while optional Recaro bucket seats are also available.
Cost of Ownership
This Megane R.S. is actually more efficient than you might expect. Let's look at the WLTP figures. The car can return 35.8mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and will emit 191g/km CO2 in 'R.S. 300' EDC auto form, which will make it reasonably affordable to run. For the Trophy EDC auto variant, the figures are 33.6mpg and 192g/km. BiK taxation is up at 37% in both cases. One aspect of purchase that should please you lies in the fact that you won't be fobbed off with the basic three year / 60,000 mile warranty that most rivals offer. All Meganes come with a much more complete four-year / 100,000-mile warranty that includes emergency breakdown recovery. There's also three years' worth of European cover as part of this package.
Renaultsport may be a division of the Renault group, but the cars it produces are so different - and so much more rewarding - than their standard counterparts that they could be from another maker entirely. Which is refreshing in an age where so many brands' idea of creating a hot hatch is to plumb-in a bigger engine, bolt-on a bodykit and jack-up the price.
Bottom line with this improved Megane R.S. is that for the price of an ordinary hot hatch, you get a super shopping rocket, unafraid of the fastest GTi's out there, even if they do cost up to £8,000 more. Plus all of those cars are essentially compromises between track-ready handling and roadgoing usability: with its 'Sport' and 'Cup' chassis options, this R.S. doesn't have to be. Either way, it's brilliant fun - and that's what a car like this really should be all about.
Renault Megane R.S. review by Jonathan Crouch