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First impressions Looking past a lairy bright yellow or lurid orange paintjob is often difficult to do, especially when it’s wrapped around a car with 276bhp and a Renaultsport badge on the back, but once you do it’s difficult to be massively excited by the new Megane RS’s looks. Taking a glance at its competitors – the,, even the silly powerful – the styling is positively muted by comparison, almost sensible. There are a few clues that it’s packing something special under the skin: a big grille, pressure/drag-reducing vents on its flanks, massive wheels, an airflow friendly splitter under the rear, and a centrally mounted exhaust to name a few. Inside there aren’t many clues to the car’s potential, either. 2018 Rm 250 Service Manual. A few Renaultsport logos and some carbonfibre-esque trim bits, and those chunky sports seats are all the clues you’re going to get.
So if you’re in the market for a hot hatch that, like an Autobot, can hide in plain sight, you’re onto a winner with the Megane. The reason for its muted looks (bright paintwork aside) is simple: Renaultsport and Renault worked together early in the Megane’s development to ensure that the car would be good not only as a day-to-day family hatch, but also as a proper hot hatch. The result, as we can see, is a car that goes about the business of being a hot hatch with more grace than a Civic Type R Inside there’s plenty of space, more than you’d expect from a hatchback really. Yes, hatches are getting bigger and bigger all the time, but the Megane feels massive up front and in the back. However, storage for ‘stuff’ is a little limited. While two USB ports mean you can have two phones on the go at once, if you’re packing a phablet you’ll struggle to pop it anywhere comfortably. The door bins can take a bottle of water and little else, too.
But hey, your passenger has plenty of footwell to use, so it’s not the end of the world. It would have been easy for Renault to fit hardcore, track-ready seats, but the chairs in our Sport model were supportive in the corners and, most importantly, didn't leave us with a numb bum after a day's driving. The infotainment system is responsive and easy to use, although the aesthetic isn’t as slick as something you’d find in a car with a German name. One thing the RS gets over the more basic Meganes is the ‘RS’ monitor.
The RS monitor gives you a host of information that stats geeks/excited passengers will love – power curves, torque curves, steering angle, lap times, and so much more are available for all to see. There’s even a new mode for this generation of RS that allows drivers to record laps with their phones/action cameras and upload them to social media or an owners’ site to show off. Wonderful in theory, but also a good indicator of who you shouldn’t invite over for dinner. How does it drive?
There are two flavours of Megane RS: the road-friendly Sport and hardcore Cup. We spent the vast majority of our time in the Sport variant hunting out some of Southern Spain’s more entertaining roads. The Sport car gets the same 276bhp and 288lb ft 1.8-litre, turbocharged engine as the Cup car, but its suspension is softer for more daily use, and it doesn’t get the Cup’s Torsen limited-slip differential. Renaultsport is aware that its customers might not want to have the full-beans RS experience on their commute to work, and the Sport means you can have 99 percent of the fun when you want to, but aren’t committed to a hard ride when you need to nip out for a pint of milk.
Each car gets adaptive driving modes – Comfort, Normal, Sport, the RS exclusive ‘Race’, and Perso (to set the car up to your preferences) – and they’re easy to switch between via the car’s large infotainment screen. In its softest setting the RS can still be uncomfortable over rough asphalt.
It’s certainly liveable, and nowhere near as choppy and bumpy as the likes of the or, but it can catch you unawares. That said, if you’re looking at buying a hot hatch you shouldn’t expect a Rolls-Royce ride. Both the Sport and Cup cars are available with a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Each will do the 0-62mph run in 5.8 seconds, while the manual car will do 158mph, the auto will clip 155mph. Our roadgoing ‘Sport’ car was fitted with the automatic ‘box, and if this was five years ago that would fill us with horror. Today, thankfully, there’s no need to be alarmed. It’s slick, quick, and responsive as you like.
The only downside is that the shift paddles are mounted to the steering column not the wheel, and they’re not quite far enough out for easy reach – a mid-corner gear blip could be a challenge. The auto 'box has a cool party piece though; pull the ‘down’ paddle as you’re going into a corner and, rather than dropping one cog, it’ll select the gear that’ll give you the best torque for a fast corner exit. The car sets itself up differently depending on which mode you’re in. Comfort will keep things smooth, Sport ups the noise, and Race makes it aggressive and turns the traction control off. The transformation between each mode is huge, and while purists will keep it in Race all the time, we found that Sport is the best balance for road work. The Megane RS does without AWD and hyperhatch power, instead keeping the front wheels driven and, in today’s climate at least, a modest power figure.
Renault has set plenty of FWD records in the past, so why not stick to what it’s good? However, it has decided to give the rear wheels something to do by introducing '4Control' four-wheel steering – a first for this class of car. Below 37mph (62mph in Race mode) the rear wheels give you a few degrees of steer in the opposite direction to the fronts, above those speeds they point in the same direction as the fronts for a tighter line. The results on the move are utterly astounding. Switchbacks and tight bends are dealt with easily and directly – almost with the forceful cornering dexterity of an AWD hot hatch but with none of the weight penalty that goes with it.