12 July 2019

Renault Megane RS Car Review

Sadly we missed the launch of Renault’s Megane RS at Hampton Downs Motorsport Track – a circuit being the appropriate place to put a hot hatch through its paces.


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Renault Megane RS 2019
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Renault Megane RS 2019
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Renault Megane RS 2019
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Renault Megane RS 2019
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Renault Megane RS 2019
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Renault Megane RS 2019

But even without knowing the launch venue, this eyeball-searing paint is an unmissable cue that there’s something special about this car.

For that golden orange hue – which almost comes to life in the sun – heralds a hottie that’ll double as your daily driver.

Those familiar with this French hooligan will do a double-take, for its hard-core predecessor was a three-door manual with a tight focus. But the new car has five doors, a six-speed double-clutch auto and in theory a broader appeal.

To find out how well that works, we spent a few days of city and bendy hill driving at the wheel.

Under the bonnet there’s a 1.8-litre four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo which packs a mighty punch, yet proves smooth and flexible when appropriate. To make the most of its range, it pays to explore the wide array of functions you can adjust via the massive, 8.7-inch central touch screen.

Tap on ‘Vehicle’, and the menu brings up tyre pressure, air quality (apparently it’s cleaner inside than out), the self-parking menu to choose parallel, bay or angled parking, on-board computer, driving assistance – so you can switch functions like Distance Warning, Blind Spot Alert and Lane Departure warning off, or on.

Then there’s Multi-sense, and all the hot-hatch happy stuff. You can monitor things like the action of the four-wheel steering, clutch temperature and throttle angle in real time. You can select Comfort, Neutral, Sport, Race or Personal – the latter letting you alter the focus of the dynamic drive system, ESC, powertrain, throttle pedal, climate control action and engine sound design. There are even four choices of instrument display to match.

Comfort was just that, and we tended to default to ‘Normal’ with Sport as a quick-hit option (there’s a single button beneath the screen for a short-cut).

The suspension component of the adjustments operates on the Ohlins shock absorbers with hydraulic compression stops and electronically controlled torque distribution. Compression stops almost give you double suspenders for the price one, for as the shocks approach their limit of travel a secondary piston damps the wheel, to dissipate energy away from it. So instead of that rebound and swing you’d get if you hit the stops, the tyres stay in contact with the ground. It helps that the track is wider, too.

The set-up is excellent on real-world roads. Ride is compliant, indeed it hardly feels sporting in Comfort, and only in the harder modes are you vaguely aware of a compromise between handling and ride.

But its those modes which best showcase this agile, lively car with impressive cornering skills in a package that it’s hard to unsettle. We tried to catch it out on some notoriously rippled and slumped swervery, and the RS was sure-footed at all times, especially impressive in winter conditions. It helps that there’s four-wheel steer, no doubt an integral part of why this car feels so confident and yet so playful, despite the fact it’s front drive, not rear.

With that engine on song and with such reliably good Brembo brakes it’s fabulous fun, even – or perhaps especially – on the sort of bendy road which rarely lets you touch the open road speed limit. What’s it like on a track? No idea, but then few buyers will stick to a circuit, while most also need an everyday car.

And this Renault delivers there, too. Sure, some cars have a slightly more spacious feel out back, but this Megane’s four doors make all four seats genuinely useful, the boot is sufficiently roomy, and there’s a decent array of safety, comfort and convenience features. They include active cruise control, Blind Spot and Lane Departure warning – both subtle, Android Bluetooth hands-free, Auto and Apple Carplay, auto wipers and headlights, plus more.

In addition this car looks fantastic, with its front air intake and F1-style blade, its wing-mounted air extractors, rear air diffusers and central exhaust, its wrap-around sport seats with the touches of red, and even the red strip at the top of the steering wheel.

Fuel consumption? Renault claims 7.5l/100km, but we doubt the testing regimen assumed a vigorous approach at all times. If you buy one, sometimes you’ll just be cruising. If you test one, the temptation is to keep a car like this percolating. No surprises, then, that we averaged 9.6l/100m, a whisker over the urban thirst claim.

Very few options are available. You can choose the manual version and lose the launch control but save three grand, choose this Orange Tonic metallic or Sirius Yellow metallic to add $1200 to the purchase price, or tick the factory options boxes on order for Alcantara upholstery ($1490), an electric panoramic sunroof ($1990), a Bose sound system ($1500) and, for those buying the manual transmission version and wanting something harder core, a Cup pack with the Brembo brake calipers in red, dual compound brakes, a Cup chassis and Torsen Limited Slip Diff ($1800), or the addition to the Cup pack of black-painted 19-inch alloy wheels in place of the standard 19s, at no extra cost. Overseas brochures even show an RS dash mount for a GoPro could be available…

Renault may be onto a winner with this five-door Megane RS. It certainly holds its own against the competition. It’s quick, it’s fun, and yet it’s comfy too – a handsome hatch with a feral side available at the tap of a button.

At a glance

Models

Renault Megane RS

Engine

1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo

Price

$62,990

ANCAP safety rating

Not yet ANCAP rated

Power and Torque

205kW at 6000rpm, 390Nm at 2400rpm

Transmission

Six-speed dual-clutch auto

Fuel economy

7.5l/100km

Towing capacity

Not rated for towing

2WD/4WD/AWD

2WD front

Seating capacity

5

Luggage capacity/payload

434 litres (all seats in use) 1247 litres (row two folded)

Safety systems

  • Reversing camera with front/rear parking sensors
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Blind Spot Warning
  • Hands-free parking
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring
  • Bluetooth hands-free phone
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Auto headlights
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