Kicking off this years motoring reviews with something spicy with a French flair to it, late last year I got to spend time with Renault's feisty hot hatch, the Megane RS, my only complaint about it, is that the time I had with it went by too fast...in more than one way. The hot hatch has always been a firm favourite with the boy racers locally and abroad but in terms of market share locally, there was always that one which stood miles ahead of any in terms of sales and with good reason. the Golf GTI has written itself into SA folklore when it comes to this segment of the market and with the more powerful Golf R available, the VW brand is stronger than ever. So how does Renault's competition match up to the Golf? Can it unsettle the VW fanboys and more importantly, earn some street cred on the local car scene?
The Megane has always been a relatively stylish car which have always been amplified in the RS models but the new blood line in the Renault design is spectacular to say the least, they've taken the term "French flair" and upped it a few notches. The RS benefits from the great looks of the standard Megane but beefed up to make the looks match the performance that is under the hood. Flared wheel arches, a wide booty, air intakes and sculptured extractors make the the RS look intimidating and are functional, as they optimise airflow through the wheel arches. The front splitter reminiscent of an F1 cars front wing pays homage to their F1 heritage and the checkered flag styled fog lights add more dimension to an already stylish front, the 3D honeycomb pattern grill mesh has been reinterpreted by Renault Sport and looks ace. The Megane RS comes fitted with massive 19" Interlagos rims with low profile tyres and visible Brembo brake discs with coloured calipers. In my opinion, this is the hottest looking hot hatch in the market, the Sirius yellow which I had it is the perfect colour for it as well even though many would opt for the Tonic Orange.
Lets cut to the chase, this is the thing that everyone wants to know, whats the engine like. Well to put it mildly, its brutal. Renault have done wonders with this 1.8L Turbo engine, as it derives 205kw and 390Nm of torque, much of this has been inspired by their F1 technology and it shows. As much as the engine is a beaut, the overall package that Renault have put together is stunning and how everything works in harmony is what a driver dreams of having in a car. I had the LUX variant of the RS which came with the EDC 6 speed Automatic Double Clutch gearbox, while purist might prefer the stick shift, I really didn't mind the auto, depending on the mode, the gear changes were on point and not drawn out. The RS comes with a limited slip diff fitted in the Cup (manual) version and has 4CONTROL on both, what is four control you might ask? Well in laymen terms, its rear steering, its the first time I've driven a car with it and all I can say is wow, with the beautiful notes the exhaust spits out when driving, I've never taken corners and bends more confidently in my life! And they've even fitting an RS Monitor data display to show you when the rear wheels are turning, along with many other applications loaded, such as tracking lap times, real time telemetry display of your driving and other features too.
Lets be honest here, no one is going to buy this car for comfort, the interior continues with the sport theme as it has a mixture of good quality plastic, carbon grey and accents of red. The LED mood lighting is impressive and similar to those of higher end German sedans, which change colour depending on the driving mode. The Alcantara sports seats are designed for maximum support with a snug fit and was pretty comfy, even for a big guy like me. The cockpit is very driver focused and the large display screen was easy enough to use. I did experience a lag with it every now and then but the driving dynamics of this car, its easily forgiven. The RS comes with dual zone climate control aircon so you can keep cool while tearing around the corners. The rear passengers have a decent amount of room and even have Alcantara bucket type seats. The overall ride quality is a bit hard and bumpy but with the hydraulic compression stops, the shocks absorbs the bad bumps better.
I go write an entire page about the technology used in the engine as I'm still left surprised by it's performance but lets touch on the other elements that help make this car so advanced in tech. 4CONTROL is mind bender when you first hear about it. The tech contributes to incisive steering and optimised road holding, making your cornering more precise, at lower speeds the system turns the rear wheel steering on which turn the wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels, when you flick the car into Race model, all four wheels turn in the same direction in speeds over 60kph. The Renault RS app is the perfect instrument to see how the car is performing but also gives you real time analysis on your driving so you know when to switch things up. Renault says your driving talents deserve to be recognised, stored and analysed hence the on board telemetry system can give your stats and store them for you.
It's hard to fault this car and when you take everything into consideration, this is the best rand for rand hot hatch on the market. It's cheaper than a GTI, has performance figures that match the Golf R and is cheaper than both of them! The best part about it, is that there's still a Trophy version to come! There's a stigma in the local market when it comes to Renault's that need to be broken but with the success their other models have been experiencing in the market, it wont be long since this one would be recognised too. The biggest challenge Renault SA face is trying to convince those who are contemplating getting a hot hatch, to take a look at theirs instead of following the sheep. I guess that's also my job as well, so if you are in the market for something sporty with an oomph of flair, this is your car. Take it for a test drive and you'll see why I'm raving about this car, it's leagues ahead of its competition and deserves the recognition and street cred it's due.
6 Speed Automatic
Photography by YuviK Photo