What is it?
The Megane Renaultsport 250 Cup is the latest hot Megane, and this our first chance to try one on UK roads.
At the international launch we drove the more expensive Sport model, but equipped with the optional Cup chassis, here though we are sampling the more basic Cup version, which is £1000 cheaper than the Sport and includes the stiffer chassis, wider tyres and mechanical limited slip differential as standard.
Inside the Cup misses a few pieces of equipment that are standard on the Sport, but still gets air-conditioning, rear parking sensors and a decent stereo.
What’s it like?
Quite different from RenaultSport products that have gone before. More grown-up and less of a hooligan. At first this is more than a little disappointing, because although it’s obvious the Megane RS is not short of ability, you wonder whether it’s going to be entertaining enough. It certainly doesn’t have the immediacy of the Ford Focus RS, the Megane’s engine less punchy from low revs, and the handling less playful.
But with miles and familiarity it’s difficult not to fall for the Megane’s charms. You simply have to get your head around what Renaultsport have tried to achieve with the car, which is to produce a hot-hatch that focuses on control and speed rather than amusement. It will not be for everyone – but for those that get a kick out of driving a car that is accurate and precise the Megane has a lot to offer.
It doesn’t feel like the sort of hot hatch made for traffic light grand-prix, instead more at home being driven neatly and efficiently (and quickly) over a challenging road.
And it won’t matter how bumpy that road is, because although the Cup chassis is firm, firm enough that even small imperfections have the body moving, faced with sharp edges or big bumps the Megane displays surprising suppleness coupled with excellent body control.
For a quick blast on the road the Focus is still probably the better car, but on track the Megane is not only the faster car (despite its power deficit, in a straight line above 60mph there’s not much in it) but also the more entertaining. It produces more grip, feels less nose heavy and will last longer before needing new tyres and brakes.
Should I buy one?
The Megane RS is not perfect: the steering could be better, as could the gearchange, the engine note is too ordinary and for everyday practicality the rear visibility terrible, but it does do a lot right.
In many ways it is the most focussed hot-hatch on sale today, not necessarily the fastest, but in handling terms probably the most competent, and yet it is also surprisingly easy to live with and upmarket. Best of all it comes with one of the cheapest price tags in the sector. So yes you should.