From £23,730
A lot of car for the money - but 'progress' has dented the fun factor

Our Verdict

Renault Megane Renaultsport
The Renaultsport 265 is the hot version of Renault's Focus-rivalling hatchback

Can the Renault Mégane 265 uphold the Renaultsport reputation?

19 October 2009

What is it?

You are looking at the all-new hot version of the all-new Renault Megane, tweaked by Renaultsport to produce 247bhp, 251lb ft and 0-62mph in 6.1sec. Plus, of course, the kind of handling precision to make mincemeat out of the average British B-road.

There are two subtly different versions, both of which are front-wheel-drive and share the same updated version of the venerable 2.0-litre turbocharged, four that has appeared in all previous hot Meganes.

The cheaper Cup model costs £21,995 and comes with less equipment but a lower riding, more aggressive chassis set up than the more lavishly equipped Sport (£22,995). You can, however, specify the Cup chassis with Sport equipment levels, and that’s the version we drove yesterday on the car’s international launch in southern Spain.

Renaltsport, as ever, has thrown the entire toolbox at the Megane 250 to make it as sharp as possible on the road, without denting the car’s basic refinement irrevocably, or so it claims.

The Cup chassis is some 15 per cent stiffer than that of the Sport, but both share the same strut (front), torsion beam (rear) suspension design, including Renault’s own version of a torque steer-reducing strut that pivots slightly under load, much like Ford’s RevoKnuckle system fitted to the Focus RS. It’s made from aluminum this time, thereby reducing unsprung weight where it matters most.

There is also a new multi-stage ESP system that allows a driver to select between three different driving modes. You can switch the system off completely, have it fully engaged or select a mid-way program that allows a small amount of slip before intervening and reducing the flow of torque to the front wheels.

In Sport guise the Megane 250 comes with 18in wheels and Dunlop SP Sport rubber, while the Cup version uses more aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, also 18in. And then there’s an optional 19in wheel that comes with a set of liquorice profile Continentals attached to the rims.

Inside, a number of upgrades distinguish the 250 above and beyond its more humble brethren. In either guise it has a pair suitably hip-hugging seats up front, and unlike the previous generation R26R it also has proper rear seats.

The steering wheel is unique to the 250 and has been designed not just to feel better in the hands but also generate less inertia in use. The rev counter is a not so delicate shade of yellow, which helps lift the otherwise high quality feeling but fairly plain looking interior.

What’s it like?

Anyone expecting the raw and decidedly racy thrills of the previous geberation R26 models is going to be somewhat surprised by what they find with the new Megane 250. Even in Cup form it’s a much more refined, grown up car than its predecessors. It feels and sounds like a more expensive kind of hot hatch, and although it accelerates with even more vim than the R26 on paper, in reality it doesn’t feel quite as quick as the old timer. Or as dramatic.

Mostly this is a welcome realisation. Torque steer has been all but eradicated this time round, and even with the three stage ESP system switched off there is rarely any wheelspin once you are out of first gear. And the body control is deeply impressive, across a whole range of surfaces. It’s now the sort of hot hatch that imbues confidence in its driver, rather than one that asks occasionally awkward questions of them.

It rides much better than the R26, too, and that’s a big step in the right direction, one that elevates the 250 clear of opposition such as the Astra VXR and Mazda 3 MPS.

Yet despite its obvious and various improvements, there is just a mild sense of disappointment on discovering that some of edge that so distinguished its predecessor has gone; has been deliberately – and understandably – removed from the formula. Renaultsport claims that the steering of the 250 is better than ever thanks to various modifications, both to the steering system itself and the front suspension. But in practice, although the steering feels more cultured, it also feels less incisive, less delicious.

And the same thing applies to handling in general. On most roads the 250RS feels more planted, grippier, safer and is very probably faster across the ground than its predecessor. But it’s also not as much of a riot to drive. Hussling this car is something that no longer seems appropriate, and that does seem something of a shame.

On the other hand, as a 365 day a year prospect the 250 comes across as a much higher quality product than its predecessor. It feels expensive, well made, well bred. And it’s more economical and cleaner to boot.

Should I buy one?

See hi-res Renaultsport Megane 250 pictures

It looks dramatic, it drives in a far more mature way than its predecessor, the level of specification is near unbeatable at the money, and it’s quick enough to make a Focus RS driver think very hard indeed across country. So yes, for £22k the Megane 250 RS seems like a lot of car for the money.

But if you are expecting the same giggle factor that was at the centre of the R26, you may be somewhat disappointed. Not that this means the 250 is anything other than a very good hot hatch. Such is the shape of progress nowadays, even at Renaultsport, so it would seem.

Join the debate

Comments
58

19 October 2009

Well Renault obviously used the Astra VXR as inspiration for the exterior styling of this car - especially at the rear.

GM (or should that be Magma) may have grounds for a copyright breach lawsuit...

19 October 2009

[quote Quattro369]Hussling this car is something that no longer seems appropriate[/quote]

- try hustling it instead then.

BTW, WTF is hussling? And is against the law in public?

20 October 2009

So going on the tested (Sport + cup) price being the same as the Sport price, the Cup kit is a no cost option?

I think there will still be an R version with 2 seats. That for me will be the ultimate model and perhaps have in it the rawness autocar would like.


20 October 2009

I'll be surprised if it's not faster than any other front-drive car on a twisty road. Yes, Focus RS included.

20 October 2009

Very very disappointed sounds NOWHERE near as fun to drive as the R26.

Electric steering and rubber mounts all around really only ruin the driving.

This pretty much signals Renault's new direction towards clinical Japanese (NISSAN_) like cars- JDM type r's excepted. Too too bad. JL

20 October 2009

[quote rogerthecabinboy]

BTW, WTF is hussling? And is against the law in public?

[/quote]Another example of appalling spelling. 'Hussling' is not even in the Microsoft (UK) dictionary so not even the poor old spell checker is going to pick that one up! Proof read please!

20 October 2009

[quote JackB]I'll be surprised if it's not faster than any other front-drive car on a twisty road. Yes, Focus RS included.[/quote]

You could be right. I think that it's (obviously) good ride will contribute to it's fast point to point times on anything other than super smooth roads.

Oh and I LOVE it in white!

20 October 2009

What a weird review. What did Autocar expect? Of course the interior is a much better place to be than the old Megane. And of course the ride is much more comfortable than the old car, that is what automakers do, they also read reviews from carmagazines, and what did they always complain about? The poor ride and the low quality of the interior. And now the car isn´t any fun anymore? Give me a break! What a bunch of bull.

20 October 2009

i totally agree with u VelSatis23, took the words out of my mouth, they've improved on the car in every area, mainly the poor ride and interior, the car is now also more luxurious, more powerful and economical, has a host of new technological features ( e.g. suspension and so on , so what more could they have done with this car? make it more hard core, satisfying to drive and then uncomfortable on the road? most drivers want comfort, safe handling, strong performance and lots of standard/ luxury equipment, that is what u get with this megane, its much like the new GTI, which i think is brilliant, these are road cars not track cars, if u want a track car buy a R26R or a focus RS, or just order this with the CUP chassis instead, u not gna drive like u do on a track on normal roads so the handling of these two cars ive mentioned should be more than capable enough for most of us, the new megane RS and GTI offer everything one could want in a hot hatch in my opinion!!! only disapointing thing is that this asnt yet come out with a DSG type gearbox, since renault has been involved and doing well in F1 now for long enough now i would expect this option, surely they will soon.

20 October 2009

I agree this is not a new R26.R, just the hot version of the new Megane.
I'd expect Renault to release increasingly hardcore iterations of this model, until we reach the R version.

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