Just look at it
There’s an unwritten rule that sporty cars look faster in bright colours. Or is that they just look better? I don’t remember, but whatever the reason the brand-new Renault Megane RS is a staunch advocate of that rule.
In ‘Liquid Yellow’ it looks menacing. Before I’d even jumped in, it was scoring points on styling. The Megane RS, as you’d expect, looks more like a race car than the more sensible trim lines.
Sitting on huge Bridgestone tyres, under swooping wheel arches, it also looks much wider and closer to the road. And with the optional 19in Interlagos black alloys, looks even more serious.
Even the standard Megane is a smart-looking car, but the Renault Sport edition looks excellent. The yellow on black of the paint and alloys is a solid combination, and pops that bit more with the red Brembo brake callipers that come with the ‘Cup’ spec.
This is what you’re here for
As nice as it is to look at, that’s not the reason you’ve made it this far into the review. At the end of the day it’s a performance car, so we want to know how it feels. Let’s get inside.
You get the impression you’re sitting in a cockpit, rather than a cabin, with all the instruments and furnishings geared towards something a bit more exciting than taxiing your mother-in-law to Gala Bingo.
The optional Alcantara suede seats are hugging – nearly to the point of spooning – but comfy. They do take up a fair bit of space, but there’s no doubt they’re needed. More on that in a bit.
The suede carries over to the steering wheel, too, sitting at the top and bottom of the flat-base wheel.
Press start to go
The Megane RS I drove had the additional Cup chassis, with limited-slip differential – that alters power output to either side of the front-wheel-drive, allowing the outside wheel to get more traction when thrown headfirst into a corner.
More useful on the track than it is on the high street, I wasn’t able to try out the slip diff, but one feature I could test was Renault Sport’s 4Control.
Up to 37mph – or 62mph in Race mode – the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front, to give a tighter turning circle on the move.
You can feel it, too. The Megane was eager to throw its nose into each turn, and you can be confident that the rear end will follow. And at higher speeds the rear axle slightly angles in the same direction as the steering wheels, giving more stability and control.
This is where the deep seats come in handy. It doesn’t take long to get to grips with the fact the Megane, well, grips.
At first you might not be expecting such eager handling and be pulled towards the passenger seat on a corner, but the sports seats will keep you right where you want to be.
When you’ve got used to the handling, you might be ready to notch the drive mode up to Sport, or even Race. The light strips in the door panels turn red and the digital dial switches to a full-size rev counter with the mph count in the middle.
Now untamed, you’re more than aware of the 280 horses under the hood, and the central exhaust in the rear. If there’s one word to describe the noise, it’s capable.
The Megane RS really is an impressive machine
Almost egging you on to give it a bit more, the throttle response is instant and more than willing. As I climbed the revs, I expected a lack in the turbo’s boost, but it didn’t come – the acceleration is solid.
In the sportier drive modes, you also get a sharp double bleep to prompt a gear change, that you’ll manage with ease thanks to the shallow clutch and short-shifting motion of the stick.
The brakes are equally strong, as well. Testing the optional aluminium and cast-iron bi-material brakes, they seemed to manage quick deceleration with no difficulty.
Performance and practicality?
In Comfort mode, the RS’ 1.8-litre turbocharged engine is hushed, and notably so. It lets you know that Renault Sport’s newest product can be more civilised, when it wants to be.
But if you’re wanting a performance car that can also be driven comfortably on any road, it’s the Megane RS Sport that you’re probably looking at, rather than the optional Cup chassis that offers little in terms of softening the ride.
In addition to the limited-slip diff that you don’t get on the Sport spec, the Cup also comes with stiffer springs and shock absorbers that give quite a rigid ride. The standard suspension is likely a lot more appealing to those who don’t want a racetrack setup every time they hit the start button.
It needs to be said, though, that the Cup chassis isn’t made any less impressive by its firm ride. And considering you can go for the option and still not break the £30k mark, is genuinely astounding. The latest RS could’ve lived in the shadow of the older models, but has done just the opposite.
The new Renault Megane RS offers ridiculous performance at an all-too-tempting price tag, and if that’s what you’re wanting, it’s a car you really need to try.
The standard Megane is also available on the Lookers Renault Motability Scheme.