A lot of car for the money - but 'progress' has dented the fun factor

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.

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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.

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680z 20 June 2010

Re: Renaultsport Megane 250

I have to say that I agree, that the press should be more careful what they write some of our children read these pages.....

I came here looking for info about the performance of the RS Megane I had a bit of a burn up with yesterday, he could not get away through the gears up till some very silly speeds but I was impressed nonetheless, I wonder what it would be worth in a few years time......hmmmm......by the way I was in a Audi tt 2.0fsi.

jelly7961 28 October 2009

Re: Renaultsport Megane 250

tonym911 wrote:
Put your stones down or get out of the glass house.

I can't believe I put those apostrophes where I did! That will learn me to proof-read before I hit the 'Post' button.
Colonel Snappy 22 October 2009

Re: Renaultsport Megane 250

slipslop wrote:

Why must car makers today make their cars look so much like vans?

From the photos, attempting to look out of the rear or side-rear windows is an all but pointless exercise.

The Renault is not alone in this fault. Many other cars now are similarly hindered. They are designed so you can't see out, then must have electrical aids added so you know where you are placing the car! Why? It is ludicrous and unnecessary.

Look back to the BMW 2002 tii - a sporting car with excellent visibility. Let's have some more cars like that...

Spot on. Drove a new Scirocco the other day, and changing lanes was tricky to say the least, with no over-the-shoulder visibility, and door mirrors that were an elegant shape but didn't give a huge field of view.