Renault Megane RS hatchback review
"The Renault Megane RS is as sharp and responsive as a hot hatch fan could want, yet hasn't lost sight of comfort"
- Agile handling
- Rapid acceleration
- Comfortable ride
- Patchy interior
- Little steering feel
- Unremarkable economy
The first Renault Megane RS was launched in 2004, and as one of the fastest, most exciting and driver-focused hatchbacks ever sold, well maintained examples are still sought-after today. This is good news for Renault, but puts the French company in a slightly awkward position – every new Megane RS needs to be at least as good as the original.
So, not only must the latest Megane RS stand up to comparison against the Honda Civic Type R, Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, it also needs to engage with drivers just like the original did, despite being weighed down by today's must-have technology. And, to make matters harder, Hyundai has just triumphantly entered the hot-hatchback fray with the high-achieving I30 N.
A Renaultsport version of the latest Megane was a long time coming, launching three years after the standard Megane hatchback and Sport Tourer estate. A facelifted Megane RS arrived in early 2021, getting a minor styling update that added redesigned front and rear lights and a new front grille. Every Megane RS now packs a 296bhp, 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a six-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The manual gearbox and 276bhp version of the engine have both been discontinued.
Two versions of the Megane RS are available: the RS 300 and the RS 300 Trophy. A limited-edition hardcore RS Trophy-R model was also produced but only 30 were allocated for sale in the UK.
It certainly looks the part, too. Given a head start by the sporty styling that even entry-level Meganes boast, the RS gains flared wheelarches that stretch over a set of 19-inch alloy wheels that look purposeful and suggestive rather than aggressively 'in-your-face'. We reckon it strikes a good balance between the subtle aggression of the Golf GTI and the garish excess of the Civic Type-R.
The latest Megane RS is a far more sophisticated machine than its predecessor, too. A six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is now the only choice, unlike rivals such as the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI that have a manual option. A four-wheel steering system is also standard. Called 4CONTROL, it's intended to increase the Megane's agility at low speeds, while also improving stability when driving quickly. This sounds good, but this gadgetry contributes to a car that weighs a little more than the Civic Type R and Golf GTI.
Don't worry, though. The Megane Renaultsport still drives superbly. The RS 300 model has a setup that's somehow soft and forgiving yet firm and agile all at the same time. Cornering is immediate and precise and grip is strong – yet not so tenacious as to prevent you from being carefully mischievous. That four-wheel-steering system really does lend the RS an extra dimension of maneuverability – the only disappointment being a lack of feel through the steering wheel.
Renault refers to it as the ‘Sport’ chassis. It gets hydraulic bump stops for it's suspension dampers, with revised springing and damping. It does without the limited-slip differential, but you do get the Brembo performance brakes.
If you fancy a sharper chassis there's also a RS 300 Trophy version. This is aimed at track day enthusiasts, and gets upgraded Brembo bi-metallic brakes, unique 19-inch ‘Jerez’ three-tone alloy wheels, a firmer Cup chassis setup with bespoke suspension, and a Torsen limited-slip differential to aid traction.
Whichever version you choose, both cars manage 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, and only really deliver their full potential when you draw close to the national speed limit. This is a bit of shame, particularly when the Honda Civic Type R offers big fun even at low speeds.
Elsewhere, the RS shares the virtues of other Meganes, with a spacious, well equipped interior and sufficient boot space for family use – although fuel economy is unlikely to break 35mpg.
Safety has traditionally been a Renault strong suit and the RS shares the Megane's five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating. Not every owner is delighted by their Renault, though – the brand finished 15th out of 30 brands surveyed in our 2020 Driver Power satisfaction survey. However, even when everything's going well, it's likely that few will have quite as much fun as the driver of a Megane RS.