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The Top Gear car review:Renault Megane RS
For:Looks fantastic and is more multi-faceted than Meganes of old
Against:That means it's less fun. And notably so
What is it?
It’s the latest iteration of one of the most iconic hot hatchbacks in the business. Yep, the Megane RS may not have decades of history like a Golf GTI, nor the motorsport lineage of a Ford RS, but since the late 2000s the fast Megane has been the absolute handling benchmark for hot hatches at any price point.
Thus the new one has rather a lot to live up to, but it doesn’t take too long prodding and poking around it to realise it’s different to the cars that came before. It has five doors for the first time (and five doors only), not to mention a huge infotainment screen, ambient lighting and the option of an automatic gearbox. It appears Renault Sport is growing up.
Given how many Golf GTIs that VW shifts, you can’t really blame the Megane’s makers for chasing a more mature corner of the market with much bigger sales potential, even if it comes at the expense of the ‘cut-price 911 GT3’ vibe the old RS simply oozed.
There’s still some serious hardware beneath the skin to prick up the ears of enthusiasts, though; you’ve a choice of 280 Sport, 280 Cup or 300 Trophy versions, the latter two getting stiffer suspension and a limited-slip differential on the driven front axle. All three get a four-wheel-steering system called 4Control, to increase agility in slower corners and stability in quicker corners.
All three use a 1.8-litre turbo engine, too, producing 276bhp in the Sport and Cup, and 296bhp in the Trophy. A six-speed manual gearbox remains standard – something of a U-turn after the outgoing Clio RS went automatic only – with a paddleshifting auto a stocky £1,700 option on all models.
Indeed, the options list is a little precarious. Kicking off at around £27,000, the Megane RS at its base is basically the cheapest full-size hot hatch on sale. Only an entry-level Hyundai i30N costs less, and that’s the 247bhp version (with the i30N you really want topping £29k). Problem is, many things standard on the Megane’s rivals are optional here, and if you manage to spec one for less than £30,000, we doff our cap to you.
Still, we’d argue it looks worth the money. Is there a hatchback on sale with better stance or more presence? It looks utterly fantastic and with a selection of yellows, oranges and reds among its paint palette, allows you to have a bold hot hatch without the overt aggression of, ooh, a Honda Civic Type R.
For some, that might be the only vindication they need to click ‘confirm’ on the Renault Sport configurator. But you? You’re more discerning than that, so click on to see what the Megane does well. Or not so well…