Broader ap­peal rides in on softer Sport chas­sis

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ALEX INWOOD

Sticks it to the man­ual as a bet­ter daily

THE prob­lem with cre­at­ing an ab­so­lute ball-tearer of a hot hatch is that when the time comes to re­place it, you also cre­ate cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions. Wel­come to Re­nault’s chal­lenge.

The pre­vi­ous Megane RS was a riot; a three-door, man­ual-only screamer (espe­cially in hard­core Tro­phy R guise) that trounced all-rounder ri­vals in terms of ul­ti­mate driver ap­peal and chas­sis tac­til­ity.

Ra­zor sharp, ana­logue thrills have be­come the Megane RS’S schtick, which is what makes this par­tic­u­lar ver­sion so in­ter­est­ing. This is the de­fault Megane RS; the en­try-level ‘Sport’ ver­sion that for­goes the ad­di­tional ‘go-fast’ bits of the Cup chas­sis we tested last is­sue (there’s no LSD, and the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are softer) and ush­ers in the op­tion of a six-speed dual-clutch auto (a Megane RS first). How­ever, don’t dis­miss the Sport Megane RS as the weak­ling of the range.

On scarred, knot­ted tar­mac it ac­quits it­self well, the ad­di­tional 10mm of ride height lend­ing a breath of pli­ancy miss­ing in Cup cars. But there’s no es­cap­ing that this re­mains a taut propo­si­tion.

There’s a sense of in­tent to the way it reads the road sur­face and trans­mits bumps and ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties into the cabin, though the damp­ing is bril­liant. Con­trolled and dis­ci­plined, it never feels overly stiff or pun­ish­ing, though torque steer and cam­ber chas­ing is oc­ca­sion­ally ap­par­ent.

The six-speed dual-clutch up­holds its end of the bar­gain too. Smooth, in­tel­li­gent and un­ob­tru­sive in city driv­ing, it’s also quick and de­ci­sive when you’re on it, pro­vid­ing you se­lect the right drive mode. Com­fort is a fun-sap­per; the ’box con­stantly look­ing for the high­est cog pos­si­ble, while the throt­tle and pow­er­train feel as though they’ve swal­lowed an en­tire bot­tle of Stil­nox. Neu­tral is the sweet spot for ev­ery­day driv­ing, but di­alling in Sport or Race (the lat­ter dis­ables ESC) adds a no­tice­able, and wel­come, dose of ag­gres­sion.

Full throt­tle up­shifts are ham­mered home with an ad­dic­tive braaap, the steer­ing is heftier and the 205kw/390nm 1.8-litre four pot is more as­sertive.

Sport ver­sions miss out on the Cup’s Torsen LSD, in­stead re­ly­ing on elec­tron­ics to shuf­fle the torque about, but for road driv­ing, it’s no great loss. Out of tight hair­pins the front axle just grips and goes.

Sure, it lacks the ul­ti­mate ca­pa­bil­ity and in­volve­ment of the Cup chas­sis (which is just $1490 ex­tra), but the Sport auto gives the Megane RS broader ap­peal than man­ual-only ri­vals such as the Civic Type R and i30 N. Lit­tle won­der Re­nault Oz pre­dicts 60 per­cent of buy­ers will opt for the two-ped­aler.

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