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Renaultsport Megane 250 Cup

Does latest model uphold brand’s illustrious hot hatch heritage?

The new Renaultsport Mégane has a lot to live up to. The French firmhas a long history of producing legendary hot hatchbacks, from therapid 5 GT Turbo to the track-inspired R26.R.

However, theMégane appears to have all the raw ingredients to be a success. Underthe bonnet is a punchy 2.0-litre turbo, giving 247bhp, while theentry-level Cup model tested here gets stiffer suspension and alimited-slip differential.

Plus, the car looks every inch ahot hatch contender. The standard Mégane Coupé was a stylish startingpoint, but Renault’s designers have given it a muscular makeover. Theyhave added a menacing black finish for the nose, chunky flaredwheelarch extensions and a large centre exit exhaust. Cup versions getblack 18-inch alloys as standard, plus our car featured optional LEDdaytime running lights. These stylish additions are integrated with thefront spoiler, and we think they’re well worth the £150 extra outlay.

Climbbehind the wheel and the sporty theme continues. The thick-rimmedsteering wheel, gearlever and door trims all feature bright yellowstitching, while the same colour is used for the rev counter. Plus, foran extra £850 you can specify body-hugging Recaro sports seats.

Therest of the cabin is standard Mégane Coupé, which means fit and finishare reasonable, even if quality isn’t on a par with the SEAT. Despitethe Mégane’s less versatile three-door layout, there’s little betweenour two contenders in terms of space inside, and the 344-litre boot isa decent size and shape. However, most hot hatch buyers are concernedmore about driving thrills than versatility – and the Renault doesn’tdisappoint.

Turn into a corner and it responds instantly, whilethe well weighted steering provides accuracy and immediacy in equalmeasure. There are huge reserves of grip, and the clever frontdifferential delivers impressive traction out of corners.

Atlow speeds the ride is firm, but as the pace increases the stiff set-upprovides incredible body control. In fact, on twisty roads, few modelsare as enjoyable or deliver such strong real-world pace. The Mégane’sstraight-line performance also impresses. The smooth turbo gives0-60mph in 6.2 seconds – nearly half-a-second faster than the Leon.

Rapidprogress is aided by a slick gearchange and a buzzer to warn you toshift ratios before hitting the rev limit. Better still, the Brembobrakes deliver eye-popping stopping power. Even in greasy conditions atthe test track, the Mégane took only 47.7 metres to come to a halt from70mph.

At £21,995, it costs £1,545 more than the better-equippedCupra. And with no five-door option, the Cup isn’t as practical – butfor driving fun, the Renault has few equals in the crowded hot hatchmarket.

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In detail - Renault Mégane 250 Cup
* Price: £21,995
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 247bhp
* 0-60mph: 6.2 seconds
* 30-70mph: 5.3 seconds
* Economy: 29.2mpg
* CO2: 195g/km
* Why? Latest Renaultsport promises razor-sharp driving dynamics and blistering pace.

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