Renault Megane RS 265 Cup
List price when new £24,840
Price today £13,000
Available from 2010-2016
It’s the doyen of motoring journalists and petrolheads alike – but does the quick Megane stack up as a used buy?
Vauxhall Astra VXR
List price when new £26,995
Price today £13,000
Available from 2012-2015
Vauxhall’s slinky three-door Astra GTC gets some serious firepower in the form of this 276bhp VXR version.
Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Hot hatches have always offered the best of both worlds: everyday practicality, combined with sizzling performance and the sort of handling to get you excited about the drive home from work in the evening.
In recent years, though, hot hatches have become even more tempting. As technology has improved, power outputs have risen, with the result that modern hot hatches kick out the sorts of power figures that were once only within the purview of supercars. That’s only made them even more tempting.
Happily, many of these new ‘hyper hatches’ are now getting to the age at which their values are dropping to the point where they start to look like seriously tempting second-hand buys. That means they offer all that delicious performance and power at a price many of us can realistically afford.
The Vauxhall Astra VXR is one such machine. As with all Astras, the VXR’s hefty depreciation turns it into a real bargain on the second-hand market. And with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine pumping out 276bhp, it’s one of the most powerful hot hatches you can buy for this sort of cash.
The Renault Megane RS 265 Cup also gets its power from a 2.0-litre turbo engine, although it’s slightly down on power compared with the Vauxhall, at 261bhp. However, the Megane has a reputation for offering one of the finest chassis in the business; will that be enough to overhaul the Vauxhall’s value proposition?
What are they like to drive?
The Astra may have more power, but it’s actually the Megane that has the edge when you accelerate through the gears, because it has a smoother power delivery and is 155kg lighter.
This low weight also pays dividends in corners, helping the Megane to feel agile and composed. In fact, it’s a riot to drive, with sharp steering that babbles information back to your palms and a traction-enhancing limited-slip differential that ensures the engine can fire you out of bends.
The Astra has even quicker steering and it’s equipped with the same sort of diff as the Megane. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as controlled; the front wheels want to follow every contour in the road and the steering wheel squirms in your hands under hard acceleration as the front tyres fight to turn torque into forward motion.
The fact that the steering is rather vague doesn’t help, and while you can give it a meatier feel by pressing the VXR button on the dash, this also makes it that much harder to drag the car back onto your intended line.
The Astra's unruly handling is all the more disappointing when you realise how good it is in other areas. It comes with adjustable suspension, which, as long as you leave it in the softest setting, is able to soak up bumps that the Megane's passive set-up can’t. The Astra is also slightly better at shutting out wind and road noise.
Both cars sound dramatic when you drive them hard, although you could never mistake one for the other. In the Astra, you hear a loud whoosh when the turbo spools up, while the Megane's exhaust pops and crackles angrily on the overrun.
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