I knew I was going to like this car a lot. I just didn’t expect to like it this much. I’ll be honest, I’ve been a RenaultSport skeptic for a while. I’ve heard people rave on about how everything from Dieppe was basically just cut price Porsche GT cars in hatchback form but never really bought it. How could a French hatchback drive as good as Porsche? Then I drove the Alpine A110 last year and utterly fell in love with it. To this day I can’t stop thinking about how great that car was to drive. When people ask me what’s the best new car I’ve driven I always point them in the direction of the A110.
Since then I’ve been trying to get my hands on the latest iteration of the Megane RS Trophy which has the same engine and dual-clutch gearbox as the Alpine. Basically in my mind I imagined this to be the A110 with a couple more seats and rear doors. As this was my first proper go in a RenaultSport product I had high hopes given their recent track record (literally) and how everyone around me has said the French know how to hot hatch.
Annoyingly New Zealand doesn’t get the Trophy version of the Megane RS. Instead you’re stuck with the ‘standard’ version of the Megane RS which has to make do with 205kW and 390NM of torque. Prices start from $59,990 for the 6-speed manual (I need to try this asap) and $62,990 for the EDC dual-clutch transmission version. I’d go for the optional Cup Pack which adds the stiffer Cup chassis, Torsen LSD, Brembo brakes, and custom springs and shock absorbers.
The Trophy adds an extra 16kW and 30NM on top of the Cup Chassis for a total of 221kW and 400Nm. You also get some red trim on the wheels (I’ll leave that up to you to decide if that’s a good addition or not) and some of the best seats on the market. They’re Recaros so of course they’re going to be great. However, there is a considerable price bump. As tested this Trophy with the dual-clutch transmission would go for the equivalent of $70,000 if it was sold in New Zealand. That’s quite a big ask for a Renault hatchback.
I’ll take no arguments here, the new Megane RS is the best looking hot hatch on sale right now especially in this vibrant RenaultSport signature Liquid Yellow paint. It’s the perfect blend of a subtle discreet hatchback with exotic sporty looks. The puffed up flared wheel arches, the aggressive body kit with those cool chequered flag look fog lights, the larger wheels, the central exhaust, and the rear diffuser all hint at a more special hatch than your run of the mill Megane. At the same time, it doesn’t shout about it.
There’s no unnecessary styling bits, no protruding wings and canards, and it doesn’t look like it’s jumped straight out of a comic book. Unlike others, I have no issue with the Civic Type R’s design but I can understand why others might not. The Megane RS is the perfect middle ground of the somewhat yawn-inducing Golf GTI and the over-the-top looks of the Civic Type R. If the yellow and orange are too bright, Renault will sell you a Megane RS in white, silver, grey, or black too.
First thing you’ll notice is the 7-inch central touchscreen on this test car. Unlike other markets that get the larger 12.1 inch portrait display, Japanese market cars only get the smaller landscape screen. I’m not quite sure what the reasoning is behind this but I’m not complaining because that means Japanese-spec cars get a physical volume button. I don’t need an excessively large screen, I would much prefer my audio and climate controls to be physical buttons. Is this a sign I’m getting too old?
Apart from that and the aforementioned Recaro front seats, the interior on the Trophy is identical to that on other Megane RS. Curiously, the door cards are finished in some weird soft faux-carbon look material. It’s quite odd but I don’t hate it. It’s just another one of those quirky French things I suppose. The rest of the interior is somewhat more conventional. That smaller screen doesn’t come with a built-in satnav but instead relies on Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for that (YES), there’s also a reversing camera, and that’s also where you can select various drive modes and configure them to your preference.
The materials and build quality are on par with rivals in this price range. I especially like the generous use of alcantara, even the rear seat bench is full alcantara. The steering wheel materials are also spot on with perforated leather on the parts you hold on to the most and alcantara on the top and bottom of the wheel. The wheel itself isn’t stupidly thick either, something the Germans seem obsessed with doing lately.
While it’s a five seater, you and your adult passengers will be most comfortable if there’s only four of you inside the Megane RS. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, I managed to do a 4-hour motorway drive on them with no complaints. The Megane’s driving position is spot on. I was able to position the seat and wheel to my ideal spot almost immediately. The rear seats were comfortable enough, though if you decide to take your seat passengers for some spirited driving the lack of grab handles on the door means they’ll be flying around a fair bit.
Space wise, the Megane RS works as a hot hatch. There’s ample head and leg room at the rear while luggage space is about average for the class. It’s not massive but it’s a usable enough size for your weekly shop or weekend getaway. There’s also decent storage scattered around the cabin too, though rather annoyingly the cup holders at the front were somewhat shallow which means bottles tended to fly off.
Speaking of the front cupholders, for some bizarre reason they’re on the driver’s side so if you’ve got tall bottles there you knock them every time you put the car into drive. It also obstructs the view of the electronic parking brake for the dual-clutch versions as that and the cruise control button are on the passenger side. What’s even more baffling is the switch for the cruise control is on the centre console but everything else related to the cruise control is on the steering wheel.
Like the Alpine, the Megane RS also uses Renault’s ancient audio controls hidden behind the steering wheel, which means the column mounted paddles can’t be as big as I’d want them to be. There were my biggest annoyances with Megane. They’re not deal breakers by any means but just something to ponder.
Anyway, it’s a French car so these little oddities are to be expected. What also is to be expected is a great driving experience and I’m happy to report the Megane RS deliveries on this too. This car covers ground with an addictive sense of fun and fizz. Sure, it’s not as blisteringly brisk in a straight line as the Civic Type R nor is the ride as supple but there’s a sense of occasion and involvement I think is somewhat lacking in the Honda. You have to work more to get the most out of this car and it rewards you for your effort.
There’s actual feel coming through the steering wheel, you know exactly what the front wheels are doing at any given time. That’s remarkable for an electric assisted system. Misbehave a little bit and the car will let you know with a whiff of understeer and it’ll give you time to correct. This is a car that communicates with you as a driver, it’s engaging and eggs you on to go faster within your limits. It’s so stable and controllable, giving you full confidence to push it as far as you’re willing to go. The stiff chassis does mean the Megane RS has a ride that’s on the firmer side of things but that translates to a car that’s planted and goes around corners as flat as a skateboard.
The Megane RS is all about handling and for this generation the headline item is the ‘4Control’ four-wheel steer system. At low speeds the rear wheels turn the opposite direction to the front wheels to give a virtual shorter wheelbase making u-turns and low speed manoeuvres easy as pie, while at high speeds above 60 km/h the rear wheels turn the same direction as the front wheels for greater stability. I have to admit, it took a while to get used to the rear-wheel steer as you don’t need to apply as much steering angle to go into corners. Once you get used to though, my God, this thing is a proper weapon around corners. It just grips and grips like no front-wheel drive car should. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as these days the market is full of 200kW+ front-wheel drive hot hatches with trick diffs.
Then there’s the power. The 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is an absolute unit. Pumping out 211kW and 420Nm is quite an achievement for an engine this small. That’s about 121kW/litre – more than enough to have fun with. I reckon this weight, power, and grip are just spot on to have fun with in the real world. With its relative low weight of 1,450kg, it stays true to its predecessor’s low-weight ethos. Equipped with the dual-clutch gearbox, 0-100 km/h is done in 5.7 seconds and it’ll go on to a top speed of 260 km/h. While I didn’t quite get it to those speeds I was surprised by the Megane’s high speed, erm I mean motorway speed, stability.
It’s not about speed though. This car is so much fun and is properly involving to drive. You have to think about what you’re doing when driving this. I took the Megane to a brilliant mountain road near Mount Fuji and I had to be conscious of every steering angle, throttle input, and braking. There’s the gearbox too. It has the same dual-clutch gearbox as the Alpine A110 I love so much. It’s not the best dual-clutch unit out there but the gearing is short enough for you to be able to keep changing gears frequently. It makes you feel engaged (pardon the pun). I will say, for spirited driving keep it in manual mode as in auto it likes to hold gears far too long for my liking. At low and cursing speeds it’s fine though, there’s none of the awkward lurching or jerkiness that some DCTs have.
This is a car that needs a driver to be driven, other cars even other hot hatches in this segment feel like they’re so computerised and capable that the human part of the equation isn’t necessary. People complain this new Megane RS has gotten softer, or it’s lost the hardcore edge of the its predecessors but judged on its own it’s a brilliant hot hatch. I can understand why purists might complain about Renault’s decision to make this appeal to a wider audience, thus compromising its edginess but in all honesty this was plenty edgy for me. Compared to the rest of the field, the Megane RS still pretty hardcore. Especially in Trophy trim.
I can’t imagine what the limited edition Nurburgring beating Trophy-R version will be like.
|Brand/Model||Engine||Power/Torque, kW/NM||Fuel, L/100km||Acceleration, 0-100 kph||Price – High to Low|
|Mini Clubman JCW ALL4||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||225/450||7.7||4.9||$67,990|
|Renault Megane RS Trophy EDC||1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||221/420||7.7||5.7||$62,990|
|Honda Civic Type R||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||228/400||8.8||5.8||$59,990|
|Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||169/350||6.6||6.4||$59,990|
|Ford Focus ST||2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||206/420||8.6||5.7||$59,990|
|Subaru WRX STI||2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||221/401||10.4||5.5||$59,990|
|Hyundai i30N||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||202/353||8.0||6.1||$54,990|
The Pros and Cons
|• Steering feel and handling still top in the class |
• Exotic looks
• Incredible turning circle
• Perfect mix of power and grip
• Those Recaro seats are magic
|• Some ergonomic anomalies |
• Ride is on the firm side
• Rivals more practical and less expensive
|Tested Price||$70,000+ (est)|
|Engine||1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine|
|Transmission||6-speed dual-clutch transmission|
|0 – 100 kph, seconds||5.7|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||1,450|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||4356 x 1875 x 1428 mm|
|Cargo Capacity, litres||434|
|Fuel Tank, litres||50|
|Fuel Efficiency||Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.7L / 100km|
Real World Test – Combined – 10.9L / 100km
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Stars|
|Warranty||3 year, unlimited km|