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Cockburn Gazette - - DRIVEWAY -

WHEN I was young and skinny and had hair, 100kW of power was the Ph­woar! num­ber in hot hatch ter­ri­tory.

At the time, the an­ces­tor of all front-wheel drive hot hatches, VW’s Golf GTi, pro­duced just 78kW from a 1.8-litre four.

Then, in 1991, Toy­ota launched the Corolla SX Seca Lift­back, with a 98kW 1.6-litre en­gine, and Nis­san re­leased the Pul­sar SSS, with a 105kW 2.0-litre.

To­day, 200kW is the bench­mark. The Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30N and to­day’s drive, Re­nault’s Me­gane RS 280, all pro­duce 200kW-plus.

The RS costs $44,990 with a six-speed man­ual, as tested, or $47,490 with a sixspeed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion.

As stan­dard, it in­cludes Nappa leather-clad steer­ing wheel and gear lever shroud, Brembo brakes, 19inch al­loys, sur­round park­ing sen­sors, large por­trait­style in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen, Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto, stand-alone voice con­trol (for au­dio and phone), nav­i­ga­tion, au­to­matic park­ing and cloth up­hol­stery.

Our car adds the Cup Chas­sis op­tion pack, at $1490, with low­ered, stiff­ened sus­pen­sion, gloss black 19-inch al­loys, Torsen me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip diff, red brake calipers and alu­minium/cast iron discs, which save 1.8kg at each wheel. Un­less you’re go­ing to do track days, the Cup chas­sis op­tion is prob­a­bly overkill.

The heav­ily bol­stered, tight-fit­ting, pseudo race shell driver’s seat is prop­erly sup­port­ive at RS cor­ner­ing ve­loc­i­ties. You’re seated close to the floor, with plenty of travel and steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment.

The 2018 RS also has much im­proved rear leg and head­room and com­fort for adults com­pared with its three-door pre­de­ces­sor.

Its cen­tral dig­i­tal in­stru­ment dis­play is con­fig­urable ac­cord­ing to your se­lected drive mode. We’re in a French car, so a va­ri­ety of se­duc­tive mood light­ing op­tions is pro­vided, a jar­ring con­trast with cheap plas­tics in a pretty im­pov­er­ished cabin.

The big ticket stuff is stan­dard: au­tonomous emer­gency braking, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, lane de­par­ture warn­ing and adap­tive cruise.

The 1.8-litre turbo (205kW/390Nm) is asleep at low revs, wakes up at about 2000rpm, then fires you up the road with a mighty rush and a deep, though muted, syn­the­sised sound­track. For the 0-100km/h trip, the Me­gane claims 5.8 sec­onds.

Four-wheel steer­ing and the Torsen diff help the Re­nault dive into tight cor­ners with im­me­di­ate, ra­bid en­thu­si­asm then, un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, dis­play min­i­mal un­der­steer and rea­son­able grip.

Ver­dict: The faster it goes, the bet­ter the Re­nault gets, and if track day thrills are a pri­or­ity then it’s this or Honda’s manic Civic Type R.

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