Renault Megane RS 265 review
The latest Renault Megane RS 265 is still as good as ever to drive, but can it beat the SEAT Leon Cupra?
The Renault Mégane RS has consistently been the benchmark for focused handling in the hot hatchback market over the past few years. Sharp responses mean it should be on any hot hatch buyer’s shortlist, even though the standard Mégane’s star has faded.
The current Renaultsport Mégane has been facelifted in line with the regular model, with a new nose and tweaked interior. As part of the update, the stripped-out Cup model has been dropped, so you only have the standard £26,930 car to choose from – although you can purchase the Cup suspension package for an extra £1,350.
However, if you're after something a little more extreme there's now the Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy. It comes with an extra 10bhp, the Cup chassis and a titanium Akrapovic exhaust as standard, plus the option of Ohlins damper and semi-slick Michelin tyres. An even more extreme Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R model (the current holder of the Nurburgring front-wheel drive lap record at 7 minutes 54 seconds) is also available. Weighing 101kg less than the Trophy it replaces the back seats with a roll cage, adds fixed racing seats and has the option of a much smaller lithium-ion battery.
Our choice: Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy
For starters, it benefits from body-coloured plastic wheelarch extensions and deeper sills and bumpers.
Up front, the Mégane’s new face resembles the Renault Clio supermini, although the RS model’s lower grille treatment remains unchanged. The Renaultsport Mégane gets 18-inch alloys in black or silver, while a choice of three 19-inch wheel designs is also available as a £1,000 option - these include red pinstripe, silver stripes or diamond cut rims.
Overall, the Renault Mégane RS looks sporty, but its raised rear gives it a hunched appearance, and some of the detailing is a little fussy. Inside, Renault has given the Renaultsport Mégane the most basic of updates found on the interior of the the standard car. This focuses on the dashtop display, which features a larger screen for the infotainment system.
Elsewhere, the centre console is unchanged, while the RS adds racy red seatbelts, figure-hugging optional Recaro sports seats and red detailing on the dashboard and gearlever. Everything in the Renaultsport Mégane seems fairly well put together, but there are lots of hard plastics, and the layout is starting to feel dated when compared to rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and the SEAT Leon.
Go for the 275 Trophy or 275 Trophy-R model and you get unique decals on the outside and a numbered plaque on the door sills. Inside, the Trophy gets figure hugging leather and Alcantara Recaros, while the Trophy-R gets deep fixed racing buckets seats.
The sporty looks of the Renault Mégane RS are backed up intense driving experience. Fire up the 2.0-litre turbo engine and there’s a purposeful thrum from the exhaust - blip the throttle, and the needle sweeps around the rev counter. The six-speed gearbox that Renault fits to the Renaultsport Mégane needs a bit of a firm hand, but it never baulks, and overall it was nearly as fast as the ultra-quick SEAT Leon Cupra.
The Renaultsport Mégane gets plenty of mid-range power for overtaking, but its stiff Cup chassis that comes as an extra in excess of £1,000 plus extremely firm suspension set-up dominate the driving experience. You can feel every bump and undulation in the road through the seat, while the sharp steering is communicative, with lots of feedback through the wheel.
It's unlikely you'll be able to feel the extra 10bhp you get in the 275 Trophy model, but order the optional Ohlins dampers (£2,000) and the wheels flow beautifuuly with the road surface while body control is simultaneously improved. It's an expensive box to tick, but worth it if you plan to take the car on track. The Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres provide endless grip and help you to adjust the car's line mid-corner with little lifts of the throttle, while the Akrapovic exhaust give the engine a much throtier note.
The Trophy-R is the most extreme hatchback currently on sale, and the lack of weight makes it feel noticeably nimbler. It's expensive though, at £36,430, and only 30 examples will ever be sold in the UK.
The Renault Mégane is a well established car and has been around for a while. It bucks the perception that Renault reliability is an issue for buyers and the RS model is no exception. Indeed, it came 20th in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, and ranked 42nd out of 100 for reliability.
The only issues you might have are likely to be with electronics, although software updates should help to rectify any problems. Renault’s four-year warranty and breakdown assistance is offered on the hot Mégane, so that should give you added peace of mind.
As this car has been around for some time, it hasn’t been tested under Euro NCAP’s new, stricter conditions – although it did earn a five-star rating in the safety body’s old-style tests. There are six airbags, plus the RS model features big Brembo brakes that will provide consistent stopping power, even when slowing from high speed.
Like the standard Mégane, the RS car's boot opening is high and narrow with a 344-litre loading capacity.
The Renaultsport Mégane gets split-folding rear seats as standard, but even when they're folded, the 991-litre boot is still far from the class best. Its back seat space is adequate, and the optional Recaro front seats don’t cut into legroom too badly. However, rear passengers will still feel cramped with tinted windows and small rear glass.
Up front, the figure-hugging seats found in the Mégane RS are firm but not uncomfortable. However, the cabin doesn’t have as many storage cubbies as the found in some of its rivals, plus the door bins and glovebox are smaller, and the centre console space is taken up by the joystick that controls the infotainment system.
The Mégane RS gets split-folding rear seats as standard, but the 991-litre maximum still trails the class leaders. Back seat space is adequate, and the optional Recaro front seats don’t cut into legroom too badly. However, Back seat passengers will still feel cramped with tinted windows and small rear glass.
At almost £30,000 the Renault Mégane RS is only £15 cheaper than the manual version of the SEAT Leon Cupra. The French car doesn't get an automatic gearbox option and while it gets TomTom sat-nav and stop-start technology, the latter doesn't cut in as often as any of its rivals from the Volkswagen group. Combine this with its thirsty 2.0-litre engine and that’s why the Renaultsport Mégane achieves a claimed 34.0mpg on a combined cycle.
The Renaultsport Mégane's CO2 levels of of 174g/km are also good, but it'll cost more in company car bills than some of its rivals.