Renaultsport Megane 265
Our current favourite hot hatch gets a power boost to keep it at the top of its game
The Renaultsport Megane 265 is unrivalled for the money. It’s sharper and quicker than a VW Golf GTI, and it has street cred in spades. It’s the enthusiast’s choice, as it’s rewarding to drive, makes the most of its power thanks to the sports diff, has brilliant handling and is backed up by excellent brakes. Renault's excellent 4+ warranty package and the practicality of the Megane body shape make it the perfect hot hatch that's equally at home on the track or popping to the shops.
The Renaultsport Megane has been updated with more power. The new Megane 265 has, as its name implies, 265PS, 0r 263bhp, which is the same as last year’s limited edition 265 Trophy. The Megane 250 was our favourite hot hatch, so the updated model has quite a reputation to live up to.
Visually, the new RS has been given a subtle makeover. There are new wheels and an optional red sticker set for the bodywork, while the interior adds red seatbelts, red stitching on the gearlever, handbrake and steering wheel, plus the familiar rally-style stitching on the wheel marking straight ahead.
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As before, there are two models are available: the Renaultsport 265 and 265 Cup, but whichever model you go for, the driving position is excellent. The regular model has excellent electrically-adjustable leather seats, while the Cup version has supportive Recaros and 19-inch alloy wheels that really come into their own on the track, yet are still comfortable enough for driving around town.
The 2.0-litre turbo's extra power comes courtesy of a remap, and as well as now producing 265bhp, torque has risen to 360Nm, an increase of 20Nm over the Megane 250. Both versions offer driving thrills in spades.
The engine sounds great, with a grunty burble when pushed and a delightful pop on the overrun, even when you’re merely cruising. Throttle response is instant, and the polished metal pedals well-weighted and responsive. The six-speed gearbox has perfectly spaced gears to make the most of the torque available, and the shift is slick.
If you're attacking corners, there’s a choice of modes for the electronic stability control. In Sport mode, there’s less wheelspin and more of a tendency to understeer - you have to drive smoothly to make the most of the performance on offer. Turn the ESP off, though, and there’s plenty of wheelspin, but the excellent sports diff means there's still traction out of corners, while under braking the tail moves around a bit more.
Regardless of settings, there’s excellent turn-in from the electric steering, although like the rest of the Megane range it could do with more feedback, while the superb Brembo brakes only add to the confidence the RS offers.
Renault sold 442 Renaultsport Meganes last year, and although that number may fall in 2012, it’s niche appeal means it's expected to make up a larger percentage of sales of the three-door Megane.
The Renaultsport Megane 265 goes on sale 1 April from £24,825, a £710 increase over the 250.