Renault Megane R.S. review
The Renault Megane R.S. is one of the fastest front-wheel-drive hot hatches around, but it requires some serious attention if you want to get the best out of it on a twisty country road.
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The Renault Megane R.S. is a seriously quick hot hatch which, like the Hyundai i30N, the VW Golf GTI and the Honda Civic Type R, comes with front, instead of four-wheel drive.
Unlike the Honda, though, the Renault Megane R.S doesn’t look like a collection of boy-racer cliches haphazardly fixed to a hum-drum hatchback. Sure, it’s wider and lower than the standard Megane, but compared with the Batmobile-inspired Civic, the R.S.’ fake plastic grilles, central exhaust pipe and big wheels are almost subtle. Almost.
Things do get a little bit lairy inside, where you’ll find uber-supportive sports seats, red details on the steering wheel and dashboard and even optional carbon-fibre effect fabric inserts on the dashboard and doors. They’re an acquired taste, but help make the Megane R.S.’ interior feel undeniably sporty.
There’s the same slightly fiddly portrait infotainment screen and digital driver’s display as you get in the standard Megane, only here you’ll find a few tasty R.S. graphics and a less appetising engine revving sound which plays through the speakers when you unlock and open the door.
The rest of the Renault Megane R.S.’ interior is less gimmicky. There’s space for four adults to get comfortable inside, or two adults in the front and three kids in the back. It’s easy to fit a child seat because every model has front and back doors as standard, and the boot’s just as roomy as the standard Megane’s so there’s space for some suitcases, the weekly shop or a large baby buggy.
There aren’t many ways to personalise your Renault Megane R.S., but you can pick between the standard 280hp version in standard or Cup trim, and a 300hp model with the upgraded Trophy chassis.
The most hard-core Trophy versions of the Renault Megane R.S. may be the fastest, but they’re also the most difficult to live with thanks to their super-firm suspension.
This slightly confusing arrangement boils down to a choice of three cars. There’s an entry-level 280hp car with softer, less focussed suspension, a more hard-core 280hp model with upgraded suspension and a grip-boosting differential and a rip-roaring 300hp range-topper with the beefiest brakes, biggest wheels and stiffest suspension.
All models come with a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine and the option of a six-speed manual or an automatic gearbox. The automatic ‘box is responsive but a little jerky at slow speeds, while the manual is more engaging, but a bit notchy – especially when you’re barrelling along a country road.
Another thing that feels odd at first is the Renault Megan R.S.’ four-wheel steering feature. This helps make it as agile as a mosquito after a double espresso – especially in the sportiest Race driving mode – but also makes the steering feel flighty and the car prone to wandering at motorway speeds.
Around town, the firm suspension transmits an unpleasant thud through your seat with every passing pothole and you’ll hear a distinct roar from the wide tyres at motorway speeds. This all contributes to making the Renault Megane R.S. quite tiring to drive for long periods.
If you’re hoping this firm setup results in racing-car handling on an empty backroad, you might be a little disappointed. Sure, the Renault Megane R.S. is one of the most nimble hot-hatches around, but its aggressively quick steering and fidgety suspension don’t inspire a great deal of confidence – especially on uneven or unfamiliar roads. Even the hard-as-nails Civic Type R in its most focussed R+ mode is more at home leaping from one bend to another than the perennially unsettled R.S.
If you plan to take your next hot hatch on regular track days, then the Renault Megane R.S. is well worth a look – especially in its most focussed Cup and Trophy configurations. But, if you plan to take it to work as well as the race track, you’ll be better off with the Civic Type R.