Renault Mégane RS - close to being ‘the one’
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.