Renault has been selling quick versions of the humble Mégane for more than a decade now, and been doing spectacularly well at it. The current generation, based on the outgoing three-door Coupé, is due to end production in the summer.
Before it does, the manufacturer is offering the car either in well-equipped 275 Nav format or as the 275 Cup-S – an equipment-lite throwback to days when fast Renaults were cheap to buy as well as brilliant to drive. We tried the Cup-S, which is priced from £23,935.
What's the 2016 Mégane RS 275 Cup-S like to drive?
For now, it’s difficult to pass definitive judgement on the Cup-S in its most affordable format, because our test car's spec resembled the proverbial Christmas tree; it had everything added to it, including adjustable track-focused dampers and optional 19in wheels and tyres, not to mention a titanium exhaust that alone adds £2500 to the bottom line.
Nevertheless, there’s little doubt about the car’s underlying ability. As its name suggests, the 275 Cup-S adds the final 10bhp that was previously the preserve of the special edition Trophy models, meaning it gets 271bhp at the front wheels.
In a car weighing less than 1400kg, that translates into brilliant pace, and the chassis – including a traction-enhancing mechanical limited-slip front differential – is primed to take full advantage of this.
Doubtless some will think it immodestly firm (and vocal, with the bespoke exhaust), but the Cup-S is pitched solidly at enthusiasts, accepting of the usual sacrifice for a car that corners with such tangible verve and balance.
Some rivals may be capable of classier, more comfortable progress – and even superior straight-line speed – but few are as compulsively rewarding to drive as the Mégane RS.
What's the 2016 Megane RS 275 Cup-S like inside?
There’s no getting away from it: inside, the Cup-S feels like a car at the end of its life cycle. That isn’t to say it’s poorly made or unappealing to look at, but think of it as a 1990s PC desktop in an Apple Mac world.
The infotainment screen – and its fiddly interface – must bear the brunt of that, although even this is an optional extra; in the standard car, there won’t be much of a display to look at, or a DAB tuner or sat-nav.
Predictably, the Nav 275 – starting at £25,935 – does reinstate the niceties, but in the bare-cupboard Cup-S, you’ll have to make do with basic air-con, cruise control and good old FM/AM stereo. The handsome Recaro seats are extra, too.
It’s not difficult, then, to see where Renault Sport has made cuts to keep the Mégane cheap; the question is whether you can live with it next to its classier competition.
Should I buy one?
Snap one up, because this may be the best Renault Sport model for quite some time, but go in with your eyes wide open. While clearly not the most sophisticated, most rounded or the most economical option, the outgoing Renault Sport Mégane is a superb driver’s car, and the fact that it can now be had for around £3500 less than a Volkswagen Golf GTI only reiterates the Cup-S’s compelling value for money.
Suggesting you couldn’t go faster for less was an old Renault Sport adage; until they stop making the current Mégane in July, we’re pleased to report that it rings true again.
What Car? says...
Renault Mégane RS 275 Cup-S
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
Price from £23,935
Torque 266lb ft
Top speed 158mph
Fuel economy 37.7mpg