What's the used Renault Megane R.S. hatchback like?
The idea of turning a fairly humble hatchback into a fire-breathing performance car of pseudo-racing intent is not a new one, but few have started off with a base as attractive as the Renault Megane.
The first version to receive the tarting-up treatment was actually the second-generation car, a model famous, like some of the Kardashians, for its large derriere. This car is the third generation car, launched in 2010 and available as a handsome five-door hatch or an even prettier three-door coupe-cum-hatch, upon which the RS (for “Renault Sport”) version is based.
From launch, you could have had the Megane RS 250, powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 247bhp. It was partnered by a cheaper and more focused Cup version, which was lower, lighter, stiffer and had the advantage of a limited-slip differential, to aid the handling. If you wanted just the chassis of this car on the standard version, perhaps confusingly called the Sport version, you could have it. The competition in this hot hatch class being what it was, it wasn’t long before a more powerful model appeared, and in 2011 you could buy a 265 Trophy version, with 261bhp under its bonnet. This model was so hot it broke the lap record for front-wheel-drive cars on the mighty Nurburgring circuit.
In 2012 it was time for a facelift, and the RS got a more rounded, svelte look and new daytime LED strip lights too. From this point on all engine options were upped to the 265 version. However, in 2014, that power was increased yet again, and the 265 became the 275, the better to see off the Leon Cupras and Golf GTIs and Civic Type Rs in what had become a mighty power race among the hot hatches. With 271bhp now available, and the Cup chassis as a standard fit, it looked utterly convincing, although those who weren’t completely convinced could opt for a limited-edition 275 Trophy R version that was even lighter still and had a bespoke suspension with much use of racing componentry tweaked even further.
On the road, there was no doubting the prowess of any of these cars. Even the original 250 version is a hoot to drive, with a 0 to 62mph time of a mere 6.1 seconds. Power is best accessed by revving the engine to within an inch of its life, as the turbo unit can be peaky and is not for the faint-footed. Do it though and you’ll be rewarded with speed and aural pleasure, for this is a hugely pleasing and enjoyable car that will also reward a keen driver and put a huge smile on their face even on minor roads and at much lower speeds. Grip is plentiful, and the steering is meaty but well-weighted enough to not only show its sporting intent but also offer reasonable communication. It only feels its age in not being as quick to answer the helm as younger and more modern hot hatches are, but the handling is generally as good as you could want, as it’s both rapid and enlightening. The ride is firm, and on some of the sportier versions almost uncomfortably so, but as the flipside of such thrilling driving responses it seems a small price to pay.
Inside, there are figure-hugging sports seats up front, as you might expect, and a driving position that puts you firmly where the action is. There is just enough sporting trim inside to make you aware of the RS’s purpose, with red stitching and subtle badging and a chunky steering wheel adding to the expectation. The overall quality might not be anything to write home about, but the feel is definitely one of solidity. There’s even room in the back for a couple of fairly lanky passengers, though they might not want to be back there for long. The boot’s a good size, but rather like the standard Megane coupe’s it’s beaten for overall size and usefulness by its rivals from Honda (with the Civic Type R) and Skoda (with the Octavia vRS).
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