This third generation of Megane is an eminently handsome hatchback, but the Renaultsport version looks like it has stopped off at a pit garage, with an F1-style front blade and rear diffuser in gloss black, a roof spoiler, centrally-mounted exhaust, side sill extensions and 18-inch alloys. It is also one of the few hot hatches that is only available as a three-door, giving it an added visual impact few rivals can match. You get 18-inch wheels as standard, but can spruce the exterior up with Renault ID paint, and larger alloys, according to your taste. It’s certainly less aggressive and outwardly forbidding than a Ford Focus RS or Mercedes-AMG A45, but arriving anywhere in the Megane RS will display a similar level of discernment to committed hot hatch fans.
The driving position is near-perfect, with a great range of movement
The car comes with branded sport seats with red stitching as standard, although the optional pair of Recaro buckets are a much bolder statement and look and feel great. You can embolden the cabin further with optional Alcantara finishes to the steering wheel, gear gaiter and handbrake, which help take your eyes away from a cabin that’s beginning to show its age. While the optional R-Link infotainment system works effectively, the switchgear feels cheap and is fiddly to operate, and there are swathes of grey plastic which looks flimsy and will mark easily over time. Fortunately, the driving position is near-perfect, with a great range of movement in the chair and steering wheel, plus some well aligned pedals.
The Megane 275 is only available in a three-door bodystyle. Accessing those rear three chairs therefore requires some dexterity, and any adults who sit here regularly will likely complain of a lack of headroom and a feeling of claustrophobia. The boot offers 377-litres of space and features a space saver spare wheel, but the boot lip is high and the aperture isn’t wide enough to accommodate larger suitcases. Further, the cabin illumination at night is poor, and there is a solitary cup holder upfront, poorly located between the six-speed manual gearbox and the engine start button. The glove box is also tiny and therefore near useless, so you may find yourself struggling to fit loose items in the cabin on longer journeys.
Ride and handling
So far, we’ve only driven the latest Renaultsport Megane in Cup-S form, which features a suite of performance-enhancing additions – such as the stiffer Cup suspension and a limited-slip differential – as standard. The set-up is firm but rarely punishing, and it helps deliver an unerring composure on Britain’s B-roads. Combined with that diff, which helps the front end turn in incredibly keenly, the car feels lithe, light and so entertaining that every drive becomes an event. Speccing a set of optional Öhlins Road & Track dampers may sound extravagant, particularly as it also forces you onto the bigger 19-inch alloys, but the results are nothing short of sensational. Even at high speed, the car flows beautifully down the road, with every steering input transmitted with unrivalled clarity. It’s almost like you’re watching everything unfold in 4K. On less scintillating drives and scruffier roads you will feel a little less comfortable than you would in some of these cars rivals, though.
Although other hot hatch rivals are now busting through the 300bhp barrier and far beyond, but the Megane still proves you don’t need to be chasing power records to create a superb hot hatch. The turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine develops 271bhp and with Sport Mode selected, unleashes 265lb ft of torque between 3000-5000rpm. 0-62mph takes 6.0 seconds flat, eliciting induction noise and exhaust expletives as it goes. The six-speed manual gearbox is positive and direct with a short, precise shift action, the front-wheel drive traction is excellent and the inherent stability, mid-corner balance and mechanical grip allows you to carry an incredible amount of speed through the corners compared with heavier, more powerful four-wheel drive machinery. Other hot hatches may be faster in a straight line, but you’ll be having too much fun in the corners to care.
It’s many thousands cheaper than most comparable rivals
On paper, the Cup-S trim represents superb value for money. Not only is it another regular Megane cheaper than rivals like the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3, it’s even many thousands cheaper than most comparable rivals. That said, keep in mind the level of standard equipment is relatively poor, so you’ll end up spending more to make your Renault Sport more habitable, or, you’ll have to go for the better-stocked-but-more-expensive Nav version. Thankfully, an average fuel economy of 37.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 174g/km are about par for the course, and it should be a fraction cheaper than most of its more powerful rivals to insure.
The car comes with four years’ European roadside assistance and a four-year, 100,000-mile warranty with service intervals spaced every 18,000 miles. The turbocharged 2.0-litre unit is well proven with no common faults reported from the turbo, although the forced induction system prefers to burn pricier 98 RON petrol. The limited-slip differential fitted is tough enough to endure track days, but the nose is very vulnerable to stone chipping.
Renault usually blows most other brands out of the water when it comes to safety, but that’s not the case with this car. Remember, this generation of Megane first went on sale all the way back in 2008, way before much of today’s more sophisticated active safety systems became available. So, you miss out on quite a few modern safety measures, and as such, this car only has a three-star rating from Euro NCAP.
No prizes for guessing what upgrading to the Nav model earns you
The entry-level Cup-S provides air-con, cruise control, Bluetooth, remote locking and electric front windows, but precious little else. No prizes for guessing one thing that upgrading to the Nav model earns you, but you also get automatic lights and wipers on top, along with climate control, the R-Link infotainment interface and a reversing camera. There are a number of options to choose from that are worth a look too, especially the ones that directly enhance the performance, including the Öhlins dampers, larger wheels with sticker tyres, and so on. The optional Akrapovic exhaust also sounds brilliant, but its also crazily expensive.
The Renaultsport Megane 275 is showing its age in some areas, but not on the road. It’s unquestionably the finest handling front-wheel drive car we have tested in recent years and is as adept on the track as it is on a British B-road. In this latest Cup-S guise It’s also fantastic value for money. A hot hatch legend that is as good today as its ever been.