UK Drive: Renault’s new Megane R.S. brings added agility to the hot-hatch segment
What is it?
The arrival of any new performance Renault is an exciting thing, but here’s a new car from the French manufacturer to really get the pulses of petrolheads racing – the Megane R.S. A reimagined version of an iconic hot-hatch, this latest R.S. packs a new turbocharged engine as well as a range of mechanical touches designed to make it as exciting to drive as possible. It has some capable rivals to go up against though, which is why we’ve headed out to our favourite routes to see what this new Megane R.S. can really do.
There’s a lot to talk about with the new Megane R.S. There’s that new engine – though we’ll look at this in more depth further on – along with a four-wheel-steering system designed to give the car better agility and stability both on road and track. Our test car also comes with the Cup Chassis pack – this incorporates a limited slip differential, stiffer springs and dampers along with an anti-roll bar – as well as some all-important red brake calipers.
The interior has been lifted with a variety of sporty touches, and there some new in-car tech in here too – though we’ll come to that later.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Megane R.S. uses a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine which here produces 276bhp and 390Nm of torque. It shares this powerplant with the Alpine A110 sports car, in fact, and it’s a flexible unit indeed thanks to a decent amount of low-down punch. It’s driven through either a dual-clutch automatic gearbox or, in our test car’s case, a six-speed manual.
It’ll crack 60mph in 5.6 seconds, and continue onwards to a top speed of 158mph. As a result of the turbocharging, the R.S. can return relatively good economy figures too – Renault claims 39.2mpg on the combined cycle, while emissions are reasonable at 163g/km CO2. It’s a good balance between genuine performance and economy, which is just what you want from a useable daily hot hatch.
What’s it like to drive?
The first thing you notice about the way the Megane R.S. drives comes as a result of the inclusion of that four-wheel-steering. When you’re attacking a bend, there’s a sensation that the car is tightening in on itself.
It’s unnerving to begin with, but once you’re used to it it gives you the confidence to come into bends quicker than you may have initially thought. It also gives the car a lot of agility in day-to-day driving too, such as when exiting a roundabout or even just turning out of tighter junctions. Whereas in Sport mode this is limited to usage up to around 30mph, in Race mode this is raised to around 60mph.
The only real issue lies with the Cup chassis. It’s brilliant, minimising body roll while giving the Megane an overall feeling of alertness, but the by-product is a general unsettled feeling – the car has a tendency to be dragged by ruts in the road, and you seem to be fighting the steering at times to make it go in a straight line.
How does it look?
We think the Megane R.S. looks excellent, particularly in the ‘Volcanic Orange’ of our test car. The widened rear track looks particularly purposeful, while the variety of inlets and vents really do help to five the car a lot of presence. Our test car also came with intricate 19-inch ‘Interlagos’ alloy wheels, which complement the extended arches well.
It’s an excellent compromise between understated looks and the over-the-top styling that we’ve come to expect from hot hatches – Honda Civic Type R, we’re looking at you.
What’s it like inside?
The Megane’s cabin benefits from a smattering of what we’d call ‘sporty’ touches; there’s the obligatory bolstered bucket seats, alongside an Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel which is refreshingly circular when compared to the popular flattened-off style. Is it lacking in that ‘wow’ factor that we’d hope for from a hot hatch? Perhaps. But everything is well positioned, and the general seat position is spot-on, with plenty in the way of adjustment.
There’s even 384 litres of boot space to play with, which is more than you’ll find in the Volkswagen Golf. This can be extended to 1,247 litres by folding down the rear seats, too.
What’s the spec like?
As standard, the R.S. gets a good degree of standard equipment. There’s Renault’s latest R-LINK2 infotainment system, which is accessed via a seven-inch touchscreen that dominates the centre of the cabin. The four-wheel-steer system is included as standard, as is a regular sport chassis.
However, our car featured a variety of optional extras. The Cup Chassis Pack, for instance, costs £1,500, while that out-there paintwork commanded £1,300. A larger 8.7-inch centre touchscreen comes with a £300 premium, while the upgraded Bose sound system – which is excellent – requires a further £800. All in, our test car came to £34,345, a considerable hike over the £27,495 base price. Keener drivers will no doubt see the addition of the Cup Pack as a must-have, and we’d have to agree too.
The Renault Megane R.S. is an exceptionally accomplished hot hatch, and one that feels perfectly suited to the UK’s country roads. Though the new four-wheel-steer system takes a little getting used to, it enables the Megane to deliver a truly sharp driving experience. The car’s negative is its need to be driven towards the upper reaches in order to get the best from it – at lower speeds it feels just a little too firm. However, commit to the car and it’ll reward you time and time again.