Racy Renault leads charge of the hot hatches
I’M not prone to paranoia but a few days driving this ’ere Renault Megan R.S. 280 got me wondering if something might be amiss.
Even my wife noticed it. “Why’s everyone staring at us?” she remarked after a random stranger stopped in the middle of a zebra crossing to cop a better look at our car.
At first I put it down to the £1,300, lurid Volcanic orange paintwork. Then I got home and started doing a bit of research.
The subject of WLTP – an acronym for the new EU6 real-world fuel and emissions testing – reared its ugly head.
It’s not a Renault specific problem. It’s not a Megane R.S. specific problem. Every manufacturer under the sun is being hit hard by this time consuming new legislation and it’s hitting performance models harder than most because every manufacturer has to have its whole range achieve an average CO2 level of 130g/km if they want to avoid hefty EU fines.
So while the new R.S. 280 gets down to an impressive 163g/km (155 on 18in wheels) – a big improvement over the previous model – it’s still muddying the overall corporate CO2 waters.
The upshot of this – unless you bought one and registered it before September 1 this year – is that you can’t have one now, even if you want one.
Renault UK says Megane R.S. order books reopen next month and deliveries should start in February or March next year.
So the reason everyone has been staring wasn’t because I’d left my flies down or buttoned my shirt up skew whiff, it was just that my Megane R.S. 280 is as rare as a unicorn in Runcorn.
If you do want one, and I suggest that yes, you do, you’re just going to have to sit tight.
Like any previous hot Megane, this latest version is up there with the class best. It feels light and responsive, it’s explosively fast and, unlike some of its more benign opposition, it’s capable of busting some pretty spectacular endswapping moves when you turn all the electronic assistance off in race mode and drive it like you TWOCd it.
Headline figures of 280PS and a peak torque figure of 390Nm at just 2,400rpm tell you quite a lot of the story – the twittering and chirruping turbo wastegate and tyre smoking wheelspin add extra zest to the explosive experience. It’s all a bit wasted on the road.
All you notice on most commutes is how firm the Cup-spec chassis settings are and how aggressive the throttle response is in anything but comfort settings. Oh, and how distracting the control-everything central touch screen is.
No, with its limited slip-diff, aggressive Brembo braking system, 35-profile 19in Bridgestone Potenzas and shortthrow gear lever it is the perfect track day car.
And with the luxury of rear doors and a large-ish boot, it’s also a pretty convincing family car when needs must, too. Having recently driven the Type R Honda Civic and Seat Cupra R, I’d take the Megane over those two.
The Civic is amazing to drive but I couldn’t put up with its mental exterior styling, and the Cupra’s plasticky interior isn’t a patch on the Megane’s tactile Alcantara trimmed cockpit.
I reckon WLTP might be the writing on the wall for hot hatches over the next few years.
This might be the beginning of the final hurrah, a parting shot, a last goodbye, the last of a line.
Whatever their future, there is certainly no denying the hot hatch market is currently at fever pitch.
Good luck with your order and delivery slot.
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■ZEST: Incredibly fast R.S. 280 is the perfect car for a track day