The cabin presentation has also been refreshed with a sporty layout that’s both comfortable and functional, if still having a few of Renault’s trademark oddly placed switches. Renault’s Smart key is also a touch clumsy. It is not a difficult car to drive, but making the most of all the information, technology and race-bred features takes time.
Sports-style front seats provide the comfort and support expected in this type of car, and getting in and out is not as awkward as some. While rear doors make entry and exit easier for passengers, rear leg room is tight and foot space minimal.
The new RS builds on the renowned ability of its predecessors to deliver exciting performance and superb road-holding dynamics. The technically sophisticated 1.8-litre direct-injection turbo petrol engine is more powerful than the 2.0-litre turbo engine it replaces. With 208kW at 6000rpm, Renault claims this is the most powerful 1.8-litre engine on the market, but it is the maximum torque of 390Nm available from 2400rpm right through to 4800rpm that delivers excellent driveability and exhilarating punch.
While a six-speed manual gearbox is available, our test car was equipped with Renault’s six-speed EDC dual-clutch automatic, and for many buyers it will be a good choice. The internal workings have been strengthened to cope with the high engine output and retain the car’s sporting feel. Renault’s Multi-Sense system gives a choice of five driving modes, including Race mode and launch control. Switching between modes provide a distinct difference in feel − from smooth, progressive changes in Comfort, to sharp, snappy shifts in Race mode. Large, well-placed steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles allow more driver involvement and add to the fun factor.
That said, fuel consumption is going to be directly proportional to the adrenaline rush. Official ADR fuel consumption for the EDC (automatic) version is a relatively low 7.5L/100km, while in real-world driving around the suburbs and country roads our test car averaged 10.2 L/100km.
The Megane RS has always been a superb-handling car but previously the trade-off was a bone-shakingly firm ride. Further development for this model − including the new chassis, a 4Control four-wheel steering system and hydraulic compression stops in the shock absorbers − raises the bar on what was already considered one of the best-handling cars in its class, while at the same time delivering more civilised ride quality.
There is a reassuring surefootedness in the road holding and cornering grip, while sharp steering gives it an agile, go-kart-like feel. The ride is noticeably firm, although not as uncomfortable or harsh as some rivals. Rounding out the package, high-performance brakes provide the necessary stopping power, while a comprehensive suite of advanced safety features complement a well-chosen level of standard equipment, lighting and technology.
The Megane RS is attractively priced, starting at $44,990 plus on-road costs for the manual, while $47,490 (plus on-road costs) gets you into the EDC version. A Cup Pack option beefs up the race-style credentials with a stiffer chassis, a Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential, red Brembo brake callipers and bi-material brakes. This adds another$1490 and is available only for the manual version.
Renault’s RS models are sold under the Renault Sport banner and only get a three-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, whereas the standard Megane hatch and wagon models have a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty.