Renaultsport Megane 250 Cup

Renault's hot Megane has been our class favourite for a while now - but can it keep its crown when faced with more powerful rivals from Mazda and SEAT?

Few mainstream firms can match Renault for hot hatch heritage. Ever since bosses bolted a turbocharger to the 5 Gordini supermini in the late Seventies, the French company has enjoyed a strong reputation for bringing high-performance thrills to the masses.

The latest offering is the Renaultsport Mégane 250. It was unveiled last year and has already made an impact, chalking up victories against the SEAT Leon Cupra and the Ford Focus RS and VW Scirocco R. However, this is set to be the car’s toughest test yet.

Not only is the Mégane’s 247bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine the least powerful here, it’s also the only model with a family-unfriendly three-door body. This less practical layout does give the Renault the most eye-catching looks, though. With a coupé-like profile and aggressive bodykit, the Mégane never fails to turn heads.

Our Cup variant is given an extra dose of style with its black alloys, while the distinctive LED daytime running lights in the front bumper are a £200 option. Swing open one of the long front doors, and you’re greeted by a cabin littered with sporty cues.

There’s yellow stitching on the steering wheel, gearlever and handbrake, while the pedals are finished in aluminium. The figure-hugging Recaro seats in our test car provide excellent support, but cost an extra £950.

You’ll also have to dip into your pocket for dual-zone climate control, tyre pressure monitoring and an aux-in music connection – these are all included on both rivals. At least strong build quality and decent materials are standard.

The three-door Mégane trails the Mazda and SEAT for practicality. But while access to the rear is tricky, there’s decent head and legroom once you’re in. Opening the tailgate reveals a 344-litre boot – the largest here – but the high lip makes it difficult to load heavy items.

Despite having the lowest power output, the Renault put on a strong show at the test track, where it blasted from 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds – two-tenths of a second faster than the Cupra R.

In reality, the 250 Cup feels even quicker than that figure suggests, and the engine pulls strongly from low revs all the way to the red line. Adding to the drama is a racy soundtrack and quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission.

But it’s the Mégane’s agility that really stands out. The Cup version adds stiffer springs and dampers, a limited-slip differential and uprated Brembo brakes. As a result, it slices through corners with superb precision and poise. And while the ride is extremely firm, it never crashes over bumps and remains reasonably comfortable over longer distances.

The question is whether the Mégane’s engaging dynamics are enough to offset its lack of versatility and poorer kit count.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Why? Few cars in any sector can match the flagship Mégane for driving thrills – but has it finally met its match here?

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