Can the Renault Mégane 265 uphold the Renaultsport reputation, or has the hot hatchback segment evolved to the point it no longer delivers?

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Renaultsport has a celebrated record of tuning the humble Mégane. The 265, facelifted a final time in 2014 before its eventual replacement, is among the finest examples of its highly regarded output.

The basic recipe, solidified when the 250 earned the (now defunct) Trophy's extra grunt as standard, remains unchanged.

The Renaultsport Megane is both phenomenally capable and phenomenally rewarding

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine develops 261bhp, and is now available as the Megane 265 alone - the fabled Cup model, previously a cheaper ticket, is now gone, although its more combative chassis settings are still offered courtesy of a £1350 tick.

Although a fine car without the added outlay, we'd recommend making that extra pen stroke. Cup cars continue to get a GKN torque-biasing differential (maximum torque-difference ratio 2.3 to one) as well as the firmer suspension with 35 per cent stiffer front springs, 38 percent stiffer rear ones and an overall 15 per cent rise in roll stiffness. There are red calipers for the Brembo brakes, too.

Cosmetically, there is no difference; although from 2014, the model is distinguished by the revised front end rolled out across the Mégane range - including new headlights, grille and an enlarged Renault badge.

Inside you get supportive bucket seats, lots of sporty trimmings and kit that includes dual-zone climate control. Renault's rather clunky R-Link infotainment system includes sat-nav as standard now, and the latest Renaultsport Monitor pack - the brand's software conduit for a mountain of telemetry data - is equipped with enough graphical muscle to keep you amused in the pit lane (or on the driveway) for quite some time. Out on the road or track however, no electronic assistance is required to keep you interested.

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Some cars get a bit unruly with the traction control disengaged, suggesting the systems have a bit of a sticking-plaster role. Not so the 265. Press the hidden-away RS button once and the default 247bhp turns into 261bhp, simultaneously loosening the ESP strictures.

Keep it pressed and all traction and stability aids are extinguished and the 265's true character can show through. Like all the best hot hatches, pedalling it furiously feels like a natural, progressive step; the Mégane is about as friendly as a front-drive car capable of almost 160mph can be, tucking in beautifully as you come off the brakes and turn, drifting all-of-a-piece if the entry speed was too ambitious, nailing the torque to the road as you spear towards the exit and the diff does its stuff.

It's the sort of car that helps you out, waits for you to act, works with you without imposing an agenda. And it's mighty rapid: there's just enough compliance in the Cup chassis - even on optional 19-inch wheels - to keep the tyres in constant contact with gnarled British roads, and enough lateral grip from its beefy footprint to fully expedite the engine's dramatic final 1000rpm.

Arguably the steering could do with being a mite quicker, and despite retaining non-steering front struts with separate hub carriers on an outboard axis, there is still a discernible smidge of torque tug to work through.

But you'll hardly find time to complain. Few cars, including those far distant from the Mégane's asking price, equal its conviction that hard and flat-out fast are the only way to driving enlightenment.

Confined to a road, fewer still compel you to find - and exploit - their outer limits with such a faultlessly friendly disposition.

As rollocking entertainment goes, the Cup-fettled 265 remains the hot hatch to buy. Even if Renault does call it a coupé.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Renault Megane RenaultSport 2010-2016 First drives