Re­nault’s per­for­mance hatch works best when driven hard­est

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - BILL McKIN­NON

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.

Both weighed about one tonne, so they were ba­si­cally over­pow­ered tin cans. But fun to drive? Hi­lar­i­ous, mate.

To­day, 200kW is the bench­mark. Again, the Golf GTi is slightly un­der­nour­ished with 180kW, but that’s ir­rel­e­vant when it’s so im­mac­u­lately sorted.

The Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30N and to­day’s drive, Re­nault’s Me­gane RS 280, all pro­duce 200kW-plus, with the Honda the most pow­er­ful at 228kW.

They also weigh about half a tonne more than their early 1990s coun­ter­parts, be­cause, un­like those cars, your chances of walk­ing away from a crash are bet­ter than 5 per cent.

VALUE

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

As stan­dard, it in­cludes Nappa leather-clad steer­ing wheel and gear lever shroud, Brembo brakes, 19-inch al­loys, sur­round park­ing sen­sors, large por­trait-style 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 lim­it­ed­slip diff, red brake calipers and alu­minium/cast iron discs, which save 1.8kg at each wheel.

COM­FORT

Un­less you’re go­ing to do track days, the Cup chas­sis op­tion is prob­a­bly overkill. The sus­pen­sion is 10 per cent stiffer than stan­dard (which I haven’t tried) and the ride, though hard rather than harsh, is te­dious around town.

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, es­pe­cially com­pared with the Golf. An on-screen RS Mon­i­tor fea­tures all sorts of boy-racer dis­trac­tions, in­clud­ing a stop­watch, but if you have time to ad­mire your spec­tac­u­lar num­bers, you’re a lot slower than you think you are.

SAFETY

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

DRIV­ING

As with pre­vi­ous hot rod Re­naults, the Me­gane RS makes fewer con­ces­sions to nor­mal road use

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