Re­nault Mé­ga­ne RS - c­lo­se to being ‘the one’

George Herald - Auto Dealer - - News - MARK JO­NES

I am seeing crois­sants being hur­led a­gainst walls all o­ver the show as the Re­nault pe­op­le re­ad this he­ad­li­ne and then re­ad w­hat I am a­bout to say. As hard as it is, and trust me, I re­al­ly wan­ted to ig­no­re it, but the sim­ple fact is that e­very hot ha­tch laun­ched in­to South A­fri­ca is im­me­di­a­te­ly com­pa­red to the VW Golf GTI.

I mig­ht ha­ve been a­ble to use a techni­cal ex­cu­se or two to a­void the trap that e­very ot­her hot ha­tch ma­nu­fac­tu­rer ha­tes just as much if the Mé­ga­ne RS test car that was de­li­ver­ed to us was the Cup spec ver­si­on.

That car is ma­nu­al on­ly and has a Tor­sen me­cha­ni­cal li­mi­ted slip diff fit­ted up front for ex­tra grip. VW, as far as I know, don’t e­ven bring the new GTI to SA with a ma­nu­al ge­ar­box and their car on­ly has an e­lec­tro­nic li­mi­ted, slip diff fit­ted.

The R549 900 Lux ver­si­on of the Mé­ga­ne RS I had on test, al­so on­ly of­fers a dou­ble clutch au­to­ma­tic ge­ar­box and doe­sn’t co­me with a li­mi­ted slip diff at all. So, no mat­ter how you try and a­void it, this car falls di­rect­ly in the fi­ring li­ne of the R558 000 GTI and mo­re har­d­co­re ver­si­ons - li­ke the al­re­a­dy men­ti­o­ned Cup. I am su­re the soon-to-fol­low Nur­bur­gring ty­pe-fast Trop­hy ver­si­on would com­pa­re mo­re to a Club­sport ty­pe GTI or Ci­vic Ty­pe R. The­re are ot­her hot ha­tch op­ti­ons out the­re, too. Ford of­fers their ex­cel­lent va­lue-for-mo­ney 184kW/360Nm, ma­nu­al trans­mis­si­on-on­ly ST for a me­re R457 300.

Sad­ly, O­pel has slip­ped rig­ht off the per­for­man­ce ra­dar and now on­ly of­fers a lu­ke­warm R458 000 Astra 1,6T S­port that pro­du­ces 147kW and 280Nm with a ma­nu­al trans­mis­si­on.

So the ben­ch­mark re­mains the GTI. In terms of sa­les, the VW GTI can do no wrong, but I must look at t­hings from a few ot­her an­gles w­hen brin­ging you a ro­ad test.

First, I re­al­ly li­ke the sty­ling of the Mé­ga­ne RS, es­pe­ci­al­ly w­hen fit­ted with the op­ti­o­nal 19” w­heels. It’s dif­fe­rent e­nough to no­ti­ce but not as o­ver-the-top as the o­pi­ni­on-di­vi­ding Ty­pe R.

Jump in­si­de and you are im­me­di­a­te­ly ma­de a­wa­re that this is a hot ha­tch. Not just be­cau­se of all the ra­cy RS sty­ling cu­es, but al­so be­cau­se the in­fo­tai­n­ment sy­s­tems ro­ars at you as you hun­ker do­wn in­to the s­ports se­ats.

You got­ta lo­ve that F­rench flair. The most im­por­tant stuff in­si­de the Mé­ga­ne RS for a pe­trol­he­ad, would be the com­ple­te­ly re­vi­sed RS Mo­ni­tor. It of­fers a mo­re u­ser-friend­ly la­yout and ex­ten­ded functi­o­na­li­ty.

Fit­ted as stan­dard, the mo­ni­tor gat­hers and sum­ma­ri­ses in­for­ma­ti­on from 40 or so sen­sors a­round the car. It is the­re­fo­re pos­si­ble to dis­play a wi­de ran­ge of vehi­cle set­tings in re­al ti­me on the R-Link 2 tou­ch screen ta­blet - from acce­le­ra­ti­on, bra­king, s­teer­ing w­heel an­gle, sy­stem, tem­pe­ra­tu­res and pres­su­res, to o­pe­ra­ti­on of the 4Con­t­rol sy­stem.

This sy­stem is a wor­ld first in the hot ha­tch seg­ment and ac­cor­ding to Re­nault, their chas­sis and sus­pen­si­on sy­stem ex­perts ha­ve ex­ten­si­ve­ly re­vi­sed the set­tings of the 4Con­t­rol sy­stem.

In a straig­ht li­ne, u­sing launch con­t­rol in both s­port and ra­ce mo­de, the w­heel spin off the li­ne is cra­zy, but the Mé­ga­ne RS gets to 100km three­tent­hs quic­ker than the GTI, at 6,27 sec, and stays a­he­ad at the quar­ter mi­le with a ti­me of 14,54 se­conds ver­sus 14,70 se­conds.

From the­re the har­der re­vving GTI starts to co­me back one tenth of a se­cond at a ti­me and at 1km they are se­pa­ra­ted by a me­re on­e­hund­redth of a se­cond and 2,5km in fa­vour of the GTI. The Mé­ga­ne RS stops just short of 250km and the Golf GTI just o­ver 250km.

So, it is a clo­se­ly foug­ht af­fair from the word go, e­ven be­fo­re VW fans start a­bout the GTI’s 169kW ver­sus the RS’s 205kW.

For me the Re­nault Mé­ga­ne RS co­mes with a bet­ter stan­dard list of sa­fe­ty and luxu­ry i­tems and it is al­most as fast in a straig­ht li­ne and pro­ba­bly as quick a­round a track if you know w­hat you are doing. So, for me it could be al­most the one I would choo­se, for that so­mething dif­fe­rent, but the lack of a slip diff up front le­a­ves me fee­ling you ha­ve to work too hard to get the be­st out of the car.

As with Re­nault’s en­ti­re pro­duct ran­ge, the Re­nault Mé­ga­ne RS Lux co­mes stan­dard with a fi­ve y­e­ar or 150 000km me­cha­ni­cal war­ran­ty and a fi­ve y­e­ar or 90 000km ser­vi­ce plan.

Mark Jo­nes is The Ci­ti­zen’s car test dri­ve e­di­tor and has a re­pu­ta­ti­on of being fast on track in a BMW - or a­ny­thing el­se.

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