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Renaultsport Megane 250

Rakish hatchback promises driving thrills and practicality, too. But does it deliver?

Calling a three-door version of your family hatch a coupé requires a fair bit of artistic licence, but the Mégane doesn’t demand a huge stretch of imagination. With its tapered rear end and sloping roofline, the Renault justifies its sporty billing. The hot hatch version also wears an aggressive bodykit, but even in the lurid yellow paintwork of our test car, it doesn’t pack the same visual punch as the RCZ. 

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What it does provide, however, is a purposeful package with detailing which has been inspired by Formula One aerodynamics. Mind you, our model’s attractive LED daytime running lights are 

a £255 optional extra.

The sporty design cues continue inside, with figure-hugging Recaro seats (£1,225) and standard aluminium pedals. Yellow stitching on the wheel, gearlever and handbrake, plus carbon-effect trim on the dash also distinguish the Renaultsport cabin from lesser examples.

Don’t be fooled, though, as the Mégane 250 isn’t a stripped-out racer. Dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and keyless start all come fitted as standard. The optional Recaros are supportive, too, although they become uncomfortable on long journeys; this is a shame, because the driving position is hard to fault.

Proper rear seats and a decent 344-litre load space ensure the Renault has the measure of the RCZ when it comes to practicality. But can it match its rival for driving thrills? Having already taken the scalps of cars such as the SEAT Leon Cupra R and Ford Focus RS, there’s no doubt the Mégane has plenty of ability, especially in Cup chassis trim.

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This upgrade costs £1,230, and adds stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, plus a limited-slip differential and upgraded brakes. These enhancements deliver superb cornering: taut body control, incredible front-end grip and sharp steering mean the Mégane inspires real confidence. It doesn’t have the delicate precision of the RCZ – the steering requires more effort, for a start – but the brutal way it turns into bends, grips and accelerates, is intoxicating. 

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The Renault is also more responsive and adjustable on the limit, while the 2.0-litre engine out-muscles its rival with 247bhp. Traction is excellent, and even in the wet conditions of our test, the Mégane sprinted to 0-60mph in only 6.8 seconds.

Surprisingly, despite a 65Nm torque advantage, the Renault proved to be a fraction slower than the RCZ in our 50-70mph tests. However, the positive throttle response and surge of power that arrives from 4,000rpm mean the car never feels anything other than fast under hard acceleration. The trade-off comes from the firm suspension set-up. 

The Mégane’s 18-inch alloy wheels don’t crash over imperfections as much as the larger rims fitted to the Peugeot, but the stiff dampers mean the ride can become tiring after a while. This is particularly true at low speeds, where the slightly notchy gearshift and firm responses mean the Renault isn’t very relaxing to drive.

Find the right road, and the Renaultsport Mégane 250 is one of the fastest and most capable point-to-point performance cars money can buy. But is that enough to win here?

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Chart position: 2
WHY: Few hot hatches can rival the Mégane for driver thrills, but has it met its match in the sleek RCZ?

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