Renault Megane RS Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Renault Megane RS

£ 27,385 - £ 36,635
710
Published: 28 Oct 2021
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

The top of the range Trophy is the one you want, right? Erm, nope. Aim to try before you buy, but our preference lies with the less frenetic, more easy-riding standard car. It’s just as quick, but the ride will be more tolerable (or less punishing) every day. Make no mistake, the damping of the Trophy is extremely impressive when you’re properly going for it – but when the car needs to just be a school run taxi, not a special-stage weapon, a bit more compliance would make it a friendlier tool. Keener drivers will miss the differential at the front of the regular Megane RS, though, as the front wheels clumsily fritter power away on a dank day. There's a happy balance possible but Renault doesn't offer it.

The rear-steer remains an acquired taste. There’s no doubt the Megane is a cinch to park (though the diff of the more extreme Trophy does make it judder on full lock). But it sometimes feels as though the person in charge of typing in the computer code got a bit mixed up and forgot to add the bit where the rear wheels turn in the same direction to the fronts at higher speeds to aid stability. The Megane RS is always edgy, always fighty, always ready to pivot and attack the corner. It doesn’t really do ‘flow with the road’, though it’s fabulously alert if you take it to a track.

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It sounds fun...

Be warned, if you get cocky and make the car slide, steering into that misjudgement while the rear wheels are merrily doing their own thing can make the whole event pretty haphazard. On a bendy road, bumpy or slippery road – let alone all three combined – you’re kept rather busy. And if that’s the sort of excitement you’re after, this is an engaging, in-yer-face hot hatch you’ll fall deeply in love with. If that sounds a bit fraught, may we suggest a Ford Focus ST and Classic FM on the stereo.

The engine does its best to make some entertaining noises, with a hoarse turbo whoosh under throttle and gratuitous fireworks on the overrun. Silly, but that’s what this sort of car’s all about, and why Renault sells lots of them painted bright yellow or orange. There’s noticeable turbo lag, and the now-standard twin-clutch gearbox isn’t up there with the best of them, sometimes juddering when asked for multiple downshifts and hamstrung by paddles made too short to avoid fouling the chunky volume control on the steering column.

Once you’re concentrating and tuned in to how the Megane wants to be driven, some of the old magic is still there. The brakes are superb and the Trophy's mechanical diff is hungry for corners and generates huge traction; there’s so much front-end grip you’ll be checking underneath for those guides hidden under Scalextric cars. If you sleep in fireproof racing pyjamas and frequent internet forums chatting gearshift strategy, this may be the hot hatch you want. But be warned, it’s a bit of a handful.

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Highlights from the range

the fastest

Renault Megane R.S. 1.8 300 5dr
  • 0-625.7s
  • CO2
  • BHP300
  • MPG
  • Price£ 30,035

the cheapest

Renault Megane R.S. 1.8 280 5dr
  • 0-625.8s
  • CO2181.0g/km
  • BHP280
  • MPG35.8
  • Price£ 27,385

the greenest

Renault Megane R.S. 1.8 280 5dr Auto
  • 0-625.8s
  • CO2171.0g/km
  • BHP280
  • MPG34
  • Price£ 28,985
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