Go to Emergency.
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.