You don’t need a crazy supercar or enormous engine under the bonnet to get the blood pumping. A real hot-hatch can offer similar thrills and frankly is often a far more enjoyable yet still seat of your pants experience. The new Renault Megane R.S. recently found its way into the EFTM Garage, Chris Bowen put the little Frenchman to the test.
What is it?
Renault Sport has a long line of predecessors that certainly attract lovers of go-fast hatchbacks. The Megane R.S. sits above the smaller Clio R.S. and has been doing the rounds since 2004. It offers robust performance that’s deliverable both on the road and track. Powered by a new 1.8-litre turbo engine and available in two chassis types, Sport and Cup, this is certainly a machine with serious intent. As with any decent hot-hatch there’s a manual version although for this review we settled for the automatic. Renault offer a product that is full of little quirks, some that are ergonomic others on the technology and engineering front. So, can it hold its head high in a very competitive field? Let’s find out.
Behind the Wheel
Jumping into a Renault Megane R.S. for the first time presents a number of curiosities. Like, um how do I control the sound system or even cruise control? It’s not until you take a few deep breaths and have a good look around that some of the basic operations become more apparent. Once I found out and worked out that the flat and wide stalk that’s hidden behind the steering wheel runs the audio system I started to calm down.
But then my next dilemma was how on earth do I adjust the cruise control, instead of setting the speed limiter. Ahh, that’s another button that is anywhere but, on the wheel, as I finally spot it on the console between the seats. Renault, it’s been awhile!
But once going all is forgotten, I’m straight away toggling with the R.S. modes. Sport or Track, doesn’t matter I need to find that first corner and get hard on the throttle out of it. Phew, it’s all good the 4CONTROL four-wheel steering system sees me whip around a hairpin like a boss. The little turbo slingshots me out the other side with just the kind of gusto I’m looking for. Straight away I’m a fan the agility and stability are clearly all there. So, it’s well done so far. We took the R.S. to Bathurst for the 12-hour race, so had a great opportunity to find out how capable within reason the Renault was. Let me give our dictator Trevor Long a say.
It has a true hot-hatch feel to it, the race seats feel great – even on a three-hour drive, and in manual or auto mode there’s a really nice sense of control to the shifts, except perhaps at low speed in sports mode where it did seem to search for gears a touch. Through the twisty bits and stretches of the Bells Line of Road was nothing but fun even with an 80km/h limit.
Yeah it goes like the clappers, I don’t think it’s an all-rounder like the Hyundai i30 N instead being far more focused on performance, which may not suit everyone.
The engine is brand new and smaller than the previous 2.0-litre version. A four-cylinder 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine generates 205kW and 390Nm. For boasting rights, that’s the most powerful 1.8-litre engine around. There’s some turbo-lag with the full 390Nm not arriving until 2,400rpm. Our test car was equipped with an EDC dual-clutch gearbox found in other Renault vehicles, but beefed up to cope with the extra grunt. Renault have what is called a MULTI-SENSE system that dictates how the car drives based on your mood. There’s Comfort, Normal, Sport and Race modes. Going from one extreme to the other is very noticeable, from almost pillowy to granite in terms of ride or dull to razor sharp throttle and transmission behaviour.
I think most would find it pretty hard to bag the Megane R.S. looks. The front-end is all very dramatic and angry with large air intakes, honeycomb grille and nice colour contrasts. There’s the instantly identifiable single exhaust outlet and lots of F1 inspired air extractors and diffusers. Brembo brake cailipers hidden behind the 19’’ rims help pull the hatch up in heartbeat. Plus, on the Sport chassis model an electronically-controlled torque distribution system aids aggressive cornering above and beyond even the most skilled driver.
Via the R.S Monitor you can capture vast amounts of telemetry such as acceleration, braking, steering wheel angle along with temperatures and various pressure read outs. I absolutely love the chequered style LED lights in the front bumper. They complement the Full-LED headlights, acting as suplementry fog and high beam lights.
The infotainment screen is an 8.7 portrait mode setup that features standard satellite navigation, reversing camera and dual-zone air-conditioning. The only glaring drama I have with it is the way it displays Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It places each display in the dead centre of the screen, leaving the top and bottom halves blank. It just looks wrong and frankly odd.
All the required safety technology is there including AEB, blind spot warning and even adaptive cruise control. The key is unusal, being credit card in size and a tad annoying to carry around.
Why Would You Buy One?
Because you want to stand out from the German crowd, and you can’t come at a Hyundai i30 N. Plus who doesn’t love that Liquid Yellow and the new Tonic Orange!
The as tested automatic version has an RRP of $47,490. The Cup Chassis option adds $1,490 for Brembo red brake calipers, 19” black alloys, a mechanical LSD and upgrade brake pads. There’s also an option for R.S Alcantara leather for $1,190, 10 speaker BOSE surround sound system and $1,990 Panoramic Sunroof. Fuel economy is rated at 7.5L/100km, but good luck staying under 10L. Disappointingly the warranty has been cut on R.S. models from five-years to just three-years.
The Renault is certainly a well-honed fun machine. I’m not overly satisfied by the quality of the interior, but love the looks, performance and eventually even some of the quirkier traits. It stands alongside some very tough competitors however, plus many may well have an instant distrust due the the warranty cut. But overall, it’s a pretty darn good machine. It’s a 7.5 out of 10 from me.