The Megane R.S. has been one of the leaders in the hot-hatch segment for some time now, and here is the latest generation. With its predecessors regarded as some of the finest-handling hatches of all time, the new Megane R.S. has a lot to live up to, but Renault hopes that a range of new technologies and chassis enhancements will make this version the best yet. However, there are now more competitors than ever for it to take on, making the Megane R.S.’s job even trickier.
Underneath the Megane’s muscular styling, a lot has changed. There’s now four-wheel steering, a powerful turbocharged engine under the bonnet and – enthusiasts rejoice – the choice of either a dual-clutch automatic or six-speed manual gearbox.
Renault says that this latest R.S. features more influence from its motorsport experience than any before it. Engineers from the firm’s F1 team even helped those developing the Megane’s engine, ensuring that it was as responsive as possible – despite being turbocharged.
The exterior, chassis and brakes have also all been beefed up. In all, it’s designed to be the most involving Megane R.S. yet. There’s the choice of either Sport or Cup chassis too, with the former more road-ready and the latter aimed at those who want to use their Megane on track.
The new Megane R.S. is powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine – the same as the one you’ll find in the Alpine A110 sports car. Here, it produces 278bhp and 390Nm, which allows the hot hatch to hit 60mph in 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 155mph.
As we mentioned, two transmissions are available – a dual-clutch automatic or a six-speed manual. However, the biggest change comes elsewhere. The new Megane now features all-wheel steering – a first for the hot-hatch segment. At speeds upwards of 37mph, both the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction, affording the car better high-speed stability. At low speed, they move in opposite directions, and this means the car can turn more sharply than with a conventional set-up.
Ride & Handling
A hot hatch needs to be sharp, nimble and, most of all, fun to drive. In most respects, the Megane R.S. ticks these boxes. The 1.8-litre engine feels punchy at low speeds yet has a willingness to be revved out too. It sounds characterful enough in Race mode, too — although in regular modes it’s pretty muted. The handling is sharp, with perhaps a little too much artificial weight added in racier modes, but the four-wheel steering does make the car particularly agile in the bends – and it’ll happily begin to rotate on a lifted throttle, but it never becomes scary or difficult to drive.
There are some niggles, however – the gearshift paddles are mounted just slightly too high on the steering wheel, while the brake pedal lacks a degree of bite under the first inches of travel.
Interior & Equipment
Those looking for a flamboyant, over-the-top interior may have to look elsewhere. For the most part, the Megane R.S is a pleasant place to be – the sports seats are hugely comfortable with plenty of support and adjustment, while the seating position itself is spot-on. The materials throughout are decent enough, with only a few low-rent plastics on the dashboard and around the infotainment system spoiling the overall effect.
A hot hatch needs to be usable on a daily basis, after all, so it’s handy that the Megane R.S. features both decent rear-seat legroom and an impressively large boot. It means that those who plan on using their hot hatch every day – as they should be – won’t get caught short in terms of practicality.
The Megane R.S. benefits from quite a lot of standard equipment. Central to the cabin’s design is the large 8.7-inch infotainment screen, which houses satellite navigation and media functions. One of the cleverest functions it features is the RS Monitor. This allows drivers to connect a dash cam or smartphone to the system and film their laps on track. Then, the car’s on-board telemetry data can overlay details such as speed and G-reading on to the footage, which can then be uploaded to the internet.
The screen itself looks good, but unfortunately small icons make it a little hard to navigate – and are particularly annoying when you’re trying to do something as simple as input a destination into the navigation.
Pricing hasn’t been confirmed for the Megane R.S as of yet, but it’s expected to retail for around £30,000. This throws it right into the mix of the Honda Civic Type R, Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R.
Fuel economy comes in at a combined 40.4mpg — an impressive figure for a high-performance hatchback.
The Megane R.S. is a little bit of a mixed bag. The engine, chassis and ride are all impressive. The 1.8-litre unit is responsive and pulls hard throughout the rev range, while the Sport chassis is well judged enough for the road. However, a few niggles such as the infotainment system and oddly placed gearshift paddles do bring things down. That said, the Megane R.S. is still a huge amount of fun to drive – and that’s one of the key things you need with any hot hatch.