ROAD AND TRACK: RE­NAULT’S NEW ME­GANE R.S. HOT HATCH HAN­DLES IT ALL

The new Me­gane R.S. is a car that has elicited a lot of ex­pec­ta­tion - but does it live up to the hype? Jack Evans gives it a whirl.

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - News - BY JACK EVANS

WHAT IS IT?

The Me­gane R.S. has been one of the most crucial hot hatches in the seg­ment for some time now, and here we find our­selves in 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, thanks to a range of new tech­nolo­gies and chas­sis en­hance­ments, this ver­sion will be 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.

WHAT’S NEW?

There’s quite a lot go­ing on un­der­neath the Me­gane’s mus­cu­lar styling. We’ve now got four-wheel steer­ing, a pow­er­ful tur­bocharged en­gine and – en­thu­si­asts re­joice – the choice of ei­ther a dual-clutch au­to­matic or six-speed man­ual gear­box.

Re­nault says this model fea­tures more in­flu­ence from its learn­ing in mo­tor­sport than ever be­fore.

En­gi­neers from the firm’s F1 team even helped with de­vel­op­ing the Me­gane’s en­gine, en­sur­ing it was as re­spon­sive as pos­si­ble – de­spite be­ing tur­bocharged.

The ex­te­rior has also been beefed up, as have the chas­sis and brakes. 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.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET?

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 en­ables the Me­gane to hit 60mph in 5.6 sec­onds be­fore top­ping out at 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 of up to 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.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

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, though only when switched into all-out ‘Race’ driv­ing mode – 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.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

De­spite be­ing based on a rather run-of-the-mill hatch­back, the R.S. man­ages to look im­pres­sive in the metal.

The arches have been fleshed out at both the front and rear, while small touches, such as air vents just be­hind the front wheels and a large hexag­o­nal ex­haust sur­round, help dif­fer­en­ti­ate the R.S. from the reg­u­lar Me­gane.

Cer­tainly, there were few peo­ple we passed while on our south­ern Spain test route who didn’t stop to stare – and that’s ex­actly the ef­fect that hot hatches should have.

The R.S. moniker has al­ways been an in­di­ca­tion of truly sporty cars, and en­thu­si­asts in­stantly recog­nise the level of tun­ing and me­chan­i­cal en­hance­ment that it rep­re­sents – a fea­ture that can’t quickly be at­tained but has to be earned over time.

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE?

Those look­ing for a flamboyant, over-the-top in­te­rior may have to look in other di­rec­tions than the Re­nault Me­gane R.S.

For the most part, it’s 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 in­ex­pen­sive plas­tics on the dash­board and around the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

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.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?

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 in-board tele­met­rics 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.

VER­DICT

De­spite a few nig­gles, this is an im­pres­sive car. The en­gine, chas­sis and ride are all very good. The 1.8-litre unit is re­spon­sive and pulls hard through­out the rev range, while the Sport chas­sis is just well judged enough for the road.

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.