"The Renaultsport Megane 265 strikes a great balance between very focused driving dynamics and day-to-day comfort."
The Renaultsport Megane is designed to take on the likes of the Volkswagen GTI, SEAT Leon Cupra R and Ford Focus GT hot hatchbacks. And it certainly does just that. Its predecessor, the Megane R26.R, was a stripped-out hatchback that sported sharp handling, but was extremely uncomfortable to drive on the road, excessively juddering anyone inside all over the place. However, the latest model manages to equal the previous car's performance while also being comfortable to drive on a daily basis – which is exactly what a hot hatchback should do. The standard 265 model is built with that in mind, while the cheaper Cup model is more track-focused, so has extra parts that improve cornering ability, but which are swapped for several “luxury” items. Confusingly, you can add the Cup parts to the standard car as an option if you so please.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
This is not a cheap car to run. It may not have the sky-high fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of a full-blooded sports car, but if you try to use it for your everyday driving, you’ll quickly need to set up a tab at your nearest petrol station because you’ll be spending a lot of cash there. Any turbocharged performance engine is going to need a lot of fuel, and this one's no exception. Plus, the Renaultsport Megane has soft tyres that tend to wear out quickly, so you may have to replace the tyres more often if you drive it at all aggressively - and if you plan on taking the car on to a track more than once or twice a year, you will definitely need to buy an extra set of brake pads as well.
Interior & comfort
While the previous Renaultsport Megane was stripped out to the extreme, the current model's interior is nicely screwed together and adds some welcome excitement to the standard Megane's insides. You get sporty bucket seats that hold you tightly in place, plus there's lots of pleasing detailing on the dials, seatbelts and stitching, while parts of the leather trim are coloured in yellow. Each of the three different models available offer different levels of comfort and performance – we’d suggest going for the standard Renaultsport model for most drivers, because the Cup version can become quite uncomfortable on bumpy and rough roads.
Practicality & boot space
One of the main reasons for buying a hot hatchback is to get a sports car's performance in a practical hatchback family car. However, if you're intending to use the Megane as your only form of transport, it simply isn’t as practical as the standard version. For a start, it's only available as a coupe, so getting in and out of the back is really limited. It's also a lot more expensive to run – even with stop-start technology added to improve its fuel economy, the Renaultsport still only returns 37.7mpg and emits 174g/km, so it lands in road tax bracket H. Plus, insurance costs will be high. You do get a decent-sized boot that offers 377 litres of space with the rear seats in place. It expands to a good-sized 1,129 litres with the back seats folded down flat, but a high load lip does makes lifting heavy items in and out that little bit trickier than it should be. The front racing seats eat into rear passenger space in the back – making things worse for rear passengers, who will already be having to endure the car's stiff suspension.
Reliability & safety
Renault is having a small resurgence in its reputation for reliability at the moment. Climbing six places up the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers rankings shows some real improvement – even if all that really does is take it from the bottom of the list to 21st position. Obviously that leaves a lot of room for improvement, but it's worth noting that the Megane itself bucked the trend of decline year-on-year for any car in the poll, by jumping 11 places up the top 100 cars rankings to come 20th. So, even though Renault's cars have had their problems in the past, particularly with electrical niggles, long-term tests and owners’ experiences with the Renaultsport Megane reveal no such issues. Also, you get a well-made interior that feels like it will stand up to most wear-and-tear, whereas previous Renaults have felt like they would fall apart at the slightest provocation. It's also a safe car, with the Megane securing the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, coming with same level of safety equipment as the standard Megane but with the electronic stability control tweaked to take into account the performance model's increased speed and sharper handling. However, drivers planning to use the Renaultsport on track days should tread carefully, because if you drive it hard, the Megane will quickly gobble up consumable parts like tyres, brake pads and clutches, which will impact on the overall reliability of the car.
Engines, drive & performance
The Renaultsport Megane certainly looks the part – based on the swoopy Megane Coupe, the RS adds flared wheel arches, sporty side skirts and front spoilers that transform the exterior dimensions into a much more intimidating-looking car - especially if you go for one of the bright colour schemes on offer. Its larger alloy wheels and oversized central exhaust pipe give a suggestion of the performance on offer under the bonnet, too. The engine is a turbocharged 2.0-litre that produces 265bhp and can accelerate the Megane from 0-62mph in only 6.0 seconds. It's also got terrific grip through the corners, while also offering excellent agility, all offset by powerful brakes to keep matters under control. It all adds up to a car that easily one of the fastest point-to-point cars money can buy. To really feel its true potential, take it to a nice winding B-road and enjoy.
Price, value for money & options
Driving enthusiasts rightly hold the Renaultsport Megane in particularly high esteem – which is good, because it's not cheap to buy! However, it is competitively priced when you look at the level of performance it offers. Factor in its combination of head-turning exterior looks and exclusivity, and it is quite a compelling package. It's also relatively well equipped, too, although stripped-out Cup versions don't get air conditioning or sat-nav as standard. Renault's have iffy resale values in the used car market, but the Renaultsport's reputation and desirability should balance that out somewhat.