Renault Megane RS 265 review
The latest Renault Megane RS 265 gets a powerful 261bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine to rival the Ford Focus ST
Few cars can match the Renault Megane RS 265 for driving thrills. Stiff suspension, big wheels with grippy tyres and a powerful 261bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine mated to a crisp six-speed manual gearbox combine to create a three-door hot hatch that has the ability to beat rivals such as the Ford Focus ST and Vauxhall Astra VXR on a twisty back road. There are two versions to choose from. The standard car is focused enough, but the cheaper Cup model gets even stiffer suspension, a limited-slip diff and is stripped of luxuries to deliver an even sharper drive. However, if you take things easy, the unrelentingly stiff Renaultsport Megane will soon become tiresome, while the three-door body means it's not quite as practical as the Focus ST.
Our choice: Renault Megane RS 265 Cup
You can't mistake the Renault Megane RS 265 for lesser models in the range. The hot hatch gets a bodykit with wider wheelarches, a rear spoiler and a centre-exit exhaust, while up front is a gaping grille under the bumper with an F1-inspired spoiler and LED running lights. Finishing off the look are 18-inch wheels that can be upgraded to 19 inches, while you can add racy graphics to the bodywork, too. Inside, the dashboard is lifted straight from the standard Megane, although the Renaultsport model swaps the digital displays for an analogue speedo and rev counter. Recaro sports seats are fitted as standard, while the steering wheel gets yellow stitching to mark the dead-ahead position, plus yellow seat belts. A Red Bull Racing limited edition model was available, featuring a twilight blue paint job with contrasting platinum accents – just like the RB8 Red Bull Formula 1 car.
Head for a twisty B-Road, and not many cars will be able to keep up with a well-driven Renault Megane RS. Fast, accurate steering that's alive with feedback inspires confidence, while the punchy 2.0-litre turbocharged engine has a broad spread of power. Plus, with 360Nm of torque available, overtaking is a breeze. A snappy gearshift makes the most of the engine's performance, while responsive Brembo brakes bring the Megane to halt quickly and consistently. The downside of this stunning performance is the fact that the unrelentingly stiff ride can become extremely tiring - but then this isn't a car that's designed for pounding up and down the motorway.
The Megane RS uses the same platform as the Megane hatchback, a car which earned a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. It gets the same airbag count, while the electronic stability control has been reprogrammed to account for the Renaultsport model's sharper handling. While French car makers have an historic reputation for building unreliable cars, recent surveys have found standards are improving. The Renaultsport Megane's reliability should be good, as it has been around for a while now, and any known faults and bugs should have been ironed out.
Hot hatchbacks offer the performance of a sports car in a practical, and usually cheaper body. However, the Renault Megane RS will be more expensive to run than the standard car. Renault recently added stop-start to the thirsty 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, and it returns 34.4mpg on the combined cycle. Emissions of 174g/km are competitive, but you can expect insurance costs will be high. Interestingly, the Megane RS is covered by Renault's competitive 4+ package of four years' warranty, servicing, roadside assistance and finance that's available across the entire Renault range.
In some ways, the Renaultsport Megane 265 is a practical performance car, and there's plenty of room for driver and passenger up front. However, the three-door layout means access to the back seats is tricky, while the wide Recaro sports seats eat into rear legroom. Narrow back windows mean the back seats feel claustrophobic, and over-the-shoulder visibility is restricted for the driver, too. The boot has a narrow opening, while a high load lip also limits versatility. If you want a hot hatch that has a nod to practicality, we'd recommend the Ford Focus ST instead.