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Renault Megane RS 250 Cup Trophee review

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    Even for a practised but middling driver, such as me, on public roads, the 250 is a joyous thing. Photo Gallery

Paul Pottinger road tests and reviews the Megane RS 250 Cup Trophee.

Megane RS 250 Cup Trophee 4
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  • Glorious handling
  • Addictive performance
  • Attitude
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  • Rear seat room
  • Rear visibility
  • Barely legible speedo

This is not so much the best hot hatch for anything like the money as something that stands the hot hatch category on its head, shakes out its pockets and shoots through with its keys. Everything comparable is over priced or too polite.

A hot hatch is traditionally a top line but still relatively affordable model, one that is essentially a tooled up version of a humbler shopping trolley. And yes, the stunning RS 250 is derived from Renault's modest Megane (a car with much to be modest about).

It has, however, as much commonality with its parts donor as a sub-machine gun with a musket.

VALUE

If performance were the sole measure, we'd be moving on straight away, attaining 100km/h all of 6.1 seconds after we'd started (about the time taken to recite in full the model's name). Pace, as we'll see, is not even half the story.

In tangible and tactile terms, the Cup edition gets sports seats, leather steering wheel and matching gearknob, carbon-fibre-effect dash, onboard telemetry via the Renault Sport Monitor and a Power Start feature that controls wheelspin under flat-out acceleration.

The (even) more track-focused Cup Trophee gets rear seat space eating Recaro thrones, tyre pressure monitoring, folding mirror, smart card key with neat its hands-free entry and engine start functions, Bluetooth, iPOD audio streaming, dual zone climate control, RS Monitor Display and entirely necessary rear parking sensors.

There's also optional 19s with smoky alloys. Go on. You know you want to.

TECHNOLOGY

Multi-stage electronic stability program allows increasing degrees of freedom, though as is true of the whole construct, you really want a racetrack to play with it. Engaging its Sport setting in turn allows access to the torque regulator's Sport and Extreme mode via the stalk mounted "mouse".

No gimmick these. All are genuinely distinctive and useful, though you're almost always going to choose Linear in urban running and Sport whenever circumstances permit impactful acceleration.

For all the plethora of info charted through the centre console - G-Forces, lap times, gear shift alert warnings - it's the 250's tried and true tech that most manifests itself. That's a mechanical limited slip differential up front - as opposed to an electronic approximation (a la Golf GTI) - and a rear torsion bar. The suspension is bespoke, lowered and tautened.

SAFETY

Observe, as if you could avoid seeing them, the immense, bright red Brembo four-piston brake callipers gripping huge 340mm ventilated disc rotors on the front wheels and solid 290mm jobs at the back.

There's seatbelt warning lights for all five seats (though how you can hardly be unaware of the bright yellow straps), tyre pressure monitoring, bi-Xenon directional headlamps, auto headlamp activation, auto windscreen-wiper activation, cruise control, speed limiter, ESP with understeer control and emergency brake assist. The spare's a 17-incher.

DESIGN

As the danger of going over the top loomed, Renault's designers applied the Brembos hard, leaving the 250 teetering on the brink of the overly stylised. Make of it what you will it is distinctive and, in a dark metallic as opposed to signature yellow, faintly menacing - all flared wheel arches, sharp creases and day time running lights that, somehow, appear reptilian.

Opening the door is to appreciate the most obvious connection to the (much) lesser Megane, though the impression is rapidly overwhelmed by the racing accents: Recaros, yellow rev counter, a highly adjustable full grain leather steering wheel and aluminium pedals (and footrest - merci for that small mercy).

DRIVING

When the 250 ceases to affect you, you're either hopelessly blasé or in need of rehab. It's an adult dose.

Blast off from standing. There's minor but discernable hesitation, then an avalanche of torque and some amiable jiggling through the wheel. It doesn't come on as fluidly as we've come to expect from the direct injected turbo fours like the Golfs GTI and R; more in the manner of a jab to the solar plexus.

Raw acceleration numbers are bested by others listed here, but in the French car the process feels more, shall we say, outré? That would be meaningless if it wasn't carried so utterly ably when the road ceases to be straight.

This is where the 250 departs from the pack, holding the chosen line with amazing tenacity and an equally eye-widening absence of body roll or understeer. I'm reduced to the cliché that it corners as though on rails. If you remain convinced a front wheel drive hottie cannot be gratifying, here's one you must try.

Can this be electric steering? There's another preconception with which we can dispense; this is completely linear, amply informative.

Even for a practised but middling driver, such as me, on public roads, the 250 is a joyous thing, an almost unrecognisably enhanced shopping device perhaps, but one surely capable in more assured hands than mine (and on a race track) of undoing high end performance machines for which made sums are demanded.

Yet in urban surrounds, Frenchie is almost urbane, acceptably firm but not skittish. With torque delivery dialled down you can negotiate car parks just as adeptly as a quiet B-road cutting. Not perfect perhaps, but, pound for pound, perilously close.

VERDICT

The hot hatch to have; a joyous giant slayer

SCORE

85/100

Renault Megane RS 250 Cup Trophee

Price: $46,990
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol 4-cylinder; 184kW/340Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual: FWD
Thirst:10.7L/100km tested

RIVALS

Audi S3 ($69,000); BMW 135i ($74,700); Ford Focus RS ($59,900); Mazda3 MPS ($38,435); Subaru Impreza WRX STi (from $59,990); Volkswagen Golf R (from $48,490)

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 27 comments

  • Just bought the 265 Trophy + after test driving a GTI and R from VW,, difference - one word PASSION. Yeap.. it’s like the perfect lover.

    Tony of Adealide Posted on 14 February 2013 9:42pm
  • Hey Jerry why don’t you go and drive a Cup Trophee for a day then come back and if you’re not convinced say what you want!!!

    murray baldy Posted on 11 May 2012 4:48pm
  • Hey Jerry, I’ve owned an RS250 for 4 weeks now, and everyone says it looks awesome. I’ve driven the Golf GTi and R. They’re boring!  You say VW could make a car to beat it, but they haven’t. It’s like when a jealous child witnesses another kid doing something special and say, “i can do that, I just don’t feel like it”. The car has been praised by EVERY possible review, and rated as the best Sports car under $60k. If you can find one bad review, good luck champ!

    Brian Dean of Sydney Posted on 22 April 2012 3:15pm
  • First of all let me say…. what an ugly car.  Looks like the head of of hippo. That arched rear is pathetic. 
    Secondly this car is designed for the tracks and stop comparinng it with the Golf GTI and the R.  If VW decided to design these cars with track driving in their mind (simply put on a kick ass LSD, bigger brakes etc etc) then game over to this Renault.  Besides, the R can be modded to become a track oriented car which will leave this car in the smoke.  Seriously, it is a front wheel car and there is only so much mod you can do to it.

    Jerry Posted on 10 November 2011 12:32am
  • I had a Megane Sport 2009 model and let me tell all the people who think Renault is a joke! When I first drove that car I thought it was the most fun place to be in the world. I used to spend more time in it than I did at home! So I’m sure this next model is even way much better!

    redha almasri of saudi arabia Posted on 16 June 2011 12:42am
  • I’ve now had one in the garage for 3 weeks and can report that it’s all it’s hyped up to be. I test drove the Alfa Giulietta QV, Golf GTI & R, Peugeot RCZ and whilst they are all terrific cars and I can entirely understand why you’d opt for any one of them, the RS250 is the sports car of the bunch.

    RBH of Melbourne Posted on 29 May 2011 6:45pm
  • I have just ordered one… Went to see if a 6,4” frame could fit in… the first test it passed with so much room and I can fit a helmet on for those occassional track days… but when I drove it… it is the new hottest hatch… and sinfully pretty as well!

    Brian of Melbourne Posted on 26 April 2011 11:48pm
  • Dan of Melbourne. Tell me where I can get this upgrade to 220kw. The R250 is without doubt the best car I have driven and just a load of fun every time I hop behind the wheel. Makes driving a pleasure again. I bought it after testing the WRX and HSV Holden.

    Sunnycoaster of Mooloolaba Posted on 02 April 2011 11:10am
  • Hi there,i have just read your test of this car and could not believe the weight of a car of this size being 1,835 KG.
    I looked up the Renault UK website and it quotes two weights
    Gross vehicle weight of 1,835 KG
    Kerb weight of 1,387 KG
    Kerb weight is the correct figure
    It sounds like an exciting hot hatch though !

    Patto Posted on 27 March 2011 3:35pm
  • I can almost see the author smiling. Having owned a RenaultSport for the past 5 years, I can only agree with the sentiment.
    Do you all really buy a car because of its drivetrain and what it’s going to be worth in three years time? What about “joie de vivre”?

    Griffyn Posted on 21 March 2011 7:50am
  • What a bunch of narrow (0-100) minded people. There is more to a good car than how fast it can go in a straight line…and how good they are in the wet. In both cases that accounts for about 5% of all the time a car spends on the road….for the other 95% of the time, Renaultsport is the answer. Drive the RS250, and I am sure you too will want one….

    John Scevola of Sydney Posted on 20 March 2011 8:56pm
  • @Kelvin of hk : the 250 is faster around a race track than a WRX…

    Matt Z Posted on 20 March 2011 8:28pm
  • I just cancelled a Fully Optioned VW Golf R and bought an RS250 after one 20 minute test drive. The car is the best thing I have ever driven this side of $100k. WRX Fanboys need not apply here, The Standard WRX is an understeering somewhat benign vehicle with styling that will never ever come close to the Pre Bug eye days, and why oh why every time do I jump inside a Rex do I feel like im sitting in a 4x4 ute?

    No, the RS250 is a game changer, the current cream of the crop, those who think this is merely an advertisement and not a review, check out the the european reviews of the RS250 on youtube, in particular Fifth Gear’s Vicki Butler-Hendersons take on it being the “best hot hatch money can buy”.

    Don’t forget wheels Mag hot hatch shootout, Megs came number one around the test track in front of STi, Golf GTi AND R, Cooper JCW and Focus ST. That is just two examples..

    Straight line speed? Don’t worry, the Meg RS250 can be (for around $700) upgraded to a healthy 220kW (and reports of 5.2s 0-100), and yes, the chassis CAN handle it. People discounting Renaults are akin to bitter fanboys who refuse to accept they bought a car that is beaten by a French hatch.

    Dan of Melbourne Posted on 20 March 2011 1:21pm
  • Hello Dave of Brisbane

    Hey, you’re right, the numbers don’t add up, but I compare the Megsy and the135i because I think they provide comparable thrills. 
    Cheers PP

    Paul Pottinger Posted on 14 March 2011 9:37am
  • Fed Up and James, you have no idea what you are talking about. The writer mentions the STi because that is the model that stands a chance of keeping up with a RS250. AWD is a marketing gimmick, my humble 2.2 Astra had no trouble at all keeping up with WRXs around the back of Oran Park. It was only on the straight that they were able to hook up their 85kW power advantage and get away.

    As for BMW N54, In December’s Wheels, the 135i was outgunned by both an STi and a focus RS. Given that tho

    AWD does not allow you to carry any extra speed through an apex and, from everything I’ve read, that’s the RS250’s real party piece. i.e. It may not be the fastest in a straight line but it doesn’t have to slow down as much for corners.

    This month’s Wheels has a massive hot hatch round-up and the RS250 beats the standard WRX quite easily (as well as whipping a Focus RS and AWD Golf R), despite having straight line performance in the lower half of the pack. To put it simply, LSD trumps AWD when you get to the twisty bits. Remember, too, the base model RS250 is mechanically similar, so just as fast, and only 2 grand more than a WRX. Given the standard equipment, it represents much better value.

    MotorMouth of Sydney Posted on 14 March 2011 9:30am
  • Great car but a Renault in 3 years will only be worth half its price. I have lost more money on Renault’s than at the Casino ...

    Rob Lane of CBD Posted on 14 March 2011 12:44am
  • FedUp of Ur Face - Grow up mate. Then drive them both. You’ll see what I mean.

    Kyle - Thank you sir.

    Cheers, PP

    Paul Pottinger of Sydney Posted on 13 March 2011 3:46pm
  • Don’t bag the Renault until you have taken one for a test drive. I hadn’t even considered a Renault until I test drove the RS250 Cup Trophee. How can you compare a BMW135i when they have twin turbos, 6-cylinders and costs at least $20,000 more. As for the WRX, Subaru designers have lost the plot!

    Dave of Brisbane Posted on 11 March 2011 10:46pm
  • We are the proud new owners of a blue RS250 Cup Trophee and all I can say that we tested everything including the GTI and the baby Beemer and nothing came close. Even better, they are as rare as hen’s teeth. Go the Renault.

    Tracy Priddle of Brisbane Posted on 11 March 2011 5:31pm
  • I cant wait to purchase this technological feast of wonder. You really have to see the car in real life to actually appreciate it. Heck I’ve even dumped my purchase of an HSV E3 to go and purchase one. Even go down to your local Renault dealer and just sit in it, it’s just beautiful.

    Jamie Little of Gold coast Posted on 11 March 2011 3:35pm
  • If WRX is rival, maybe a “standard” Corolla hatch too LOL

    kelvin of hk Posted on 11 March 2011 2:18pm
  • The 135i can do a sub 5 sec 0-100km/h. This car isnt even in the same league in the straight line haha!

    BMW N54 owner of QLD Posted on 11 March 2011 12:50pm
  • I used to own a WRX so kinda understand some of the comments about the WRX being (still) value for money.  But lets be honest: the WRX does not have the same style, inside or out, and I assume probably not as fun to drive.  I guess anyone considering a WRX has nothing to lose by driving the Renault - and visa versa.  BTW, I really love the Lambo style rear exhaust on the Renault, shame the photos don’t show the rear!  Me? I’ve moved on. VW makes some great cars now days!

    Don't trash it coz its not a WRX! Posted on 11 March 2011 12:40pm
  • STI is its RIVAL? LOL dont make me laugh, sti gts to 100 in 4.9 has 4 doors better safety. Wake up you jokers its not even a rival to the standard WRX.

    James of NSW Posted on 11 March 2011 10:35am
  • Would agree that the Subaru is an excellent car - but ugly.

    Barney of Melbourne Posted on 11 March 2011 9:12am
  • Anyone can read the numbers FedUp but we want to now how the car feels and makes you feel. I thought it was a great review, something a bit new and different in the hot hatch world.

    Kyle of Melbourne Posted on 10 March 2011 12:32pm
  • Stupid review. the WRX is cheaper, more powerful and has AWD. why only mention the STI only? guess your getting paid to advertise not to review. For shame.

    FedUp of Ur Face Posted on 10 March 2011 11:44am
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