What is it?
The Renaultsport Megane 250 was a very impressive hot hatch that just missed the greatness achieved by the Renaultsport Clio 200. Last year though, Renault launched a Trophy special edition, with an extra 15bhp plus a set of chassis tweaks that helped further hone it. The firm then took it to the Nürburgring, and broke the lap record for the fastest front-drive hot hatch around the benchmark track. These changes have been standardised on the rest of the range for 2012: enter the Renaultsport Megane 265. Offered in raw Cup or comfy regular guise, the hot Renault is a more mature alternative to the ragged-edge Clio, and is now closer than ever to topping the class-leading VW Golf GTI for overall honours.
No two ways about it, the Renaultsport Megane is a more grown up affair than brutally focused previous generation cars. It actually does a very good job of providing both refinement and dramatic involvement, something that’s been perfected further in 265 guise. Indeed, you actually get the best of both worlds: default power is the previous 250bhp, with 265bhp being accessed via the new Renaultsport Dynamic Management system. Press the ESC button to engage it: this also makes the exhaust louder. It’s channelled to the tarmac cleanly through a proper mechanical limited-slip differential.
The standard car is firmly sprung but rides supremely well. The Cup edition is even more firmly spring but even more involving. It’s a tricky task, being the best of both worlds, and the Golf GTI does ultimately judge it marginally better, but the Megane is still undeniably impressive nonetheless.
On the inside
The high-quality Megane cockpit is enhanced in Renaultsport 265 guise with some focused additions, questionable yellow trim and, in the Cup, a sublime set of hard-backed sports seats. It’s quite grown up and a little on the refined side, but there’s still a layer of engagement to be had. Subtle sporting intent, rather than a full-on sports effect.
There’s one big problem with the Renaultsport Megane 265: it’s an expensive car. Even the more basic (and rawer, better-driving) Cup weights in at nearly £25,000, with the regular car reflecting its higher equipment level with a steeper list price. The hot Megane isn’t the most economical of cars either, meaning it’s still a heart-over-head decision - but with one exception: the 2012 Megane range now gets a four-year warranty, the best of any similarly potent hot hatch. That’s got to give you confidence if you’re the hard-driving type...