The Renault Megane RS Cup is the stuff of legend but was always for the hard-core hot-hatch lover. With the addition of the six-speed twin-clutch EDC, it might just make the Cup chassis accessible to a much wider audience.
Sporting Renaults are legendary. From the Clio Williams onward (not that we got that car here), RS-badged Clios and Meganes have been the thinking person's choice for hot hatches. Preferably in bright yellow or orange.
The third-generation Megane RS landed just over a year ago in Australia and for the first time you could choose a two-pedal version. This sort of thing upset the Clio squad five years ago and made them so mad that heaps more people bought the Clio RS. Although it could have been the five-door bodystyle, which also made people mad enough to buy the car. Seems counter-intuitive doesn't it?
Speaking of counter-intuitive, you couldn't get the harder-edged Cup chassis with the newly available twin-clutch, track-friendly transmission until... well, now.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
Hot-hatch pricing is an art that I will never understand, which is my way of saying $51,990 for this car is bananas. Well it would be, but to get a banana-coloured one Renault has the cheek to sting you another $1000 (but it is a great colour and the paint is magnificent).
The Cup chassis means black wheels, lighter two-piece brake rotors and a heavier but very important torsen limited-slip differential between the front wheels. For just $1500 more than the standard chassis. That's pretty good going. The price suddenly looks less bananas and, when you chuck in the fact it has four-wheel steer, it's actually looking pretty good.
Some time in the last year, Renault (or Apple) has fixed something that really annoyed me about the portrait-mode screen. Well, one of the things, because it's still round the wrong way. One of the knock-on effects of that is that CarPlay was marooned in the middle of the screen. Now it fills the display and makes it easier on the eye and much easier to use. It also reminds you of the slightly amateurish graphics of the rest of the setup, apart from the RS telemetry stuff.
So, I said the pricing was bananas, and it is, at first glance - you can get the brilliant i30 N for $39,990. But when you pack in all the cleverness, it's not too bad at all. Apart from the paint pricing. Youch.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
This Megane has absorbed nicely into the general automotive population. Like its French compatriot, the 308, this generation Megane has fewer mad flourishes and is all the better for it.
This generation Megane has fewer mad flourishes and is all the better for it.
The Megane RS has a few tricks up its sleeve - we already know about the 19-inch wheels, but due to various changes in the underguts (wider track and fatter wheels) versus the standard car, the front and rear guards are nicely pumped up (the fronts are plastic, a Megane party trick). The front lights form a huge pair of LED parentheses when the driving lights are on, which is an effect I really like, and the rear lights are a bit current Porschey. I quite like the design and it works very nicely in both the yellow and orange hero colours.
The Megane RS has a few tricks up its sleeve including 19-inch wheels.
The interior is dating rapidly, which is a shame. That's partly because of the silly orientation of the screen but also because it wasn't all that attractive to begin with - lots of plastic, dark and not very French. That means it's less intimidating to the casual observer but nobody in Australia buys a Megane without it being very much on purpose. The fake carbon trim bits lift things a little, as does the leather steering wheel with the red-backed RS logo and the red marker to show you where the top of the wheel is.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
The new Megane's extra two doors suggests things have improved in the rear seat, but alas, it's still tight in there if you're not a child. Headroom is okay but, as ever, your legroom and footroom are quite tight, yet no worse than, say, a Mazda3.
Headroom is okay but, as ever, your legroom and foot room are quite tight.
The front seats are spectacular without being too tight and they look good, too.
The front seats are spectacular.
The boot starts at a very decent 434 litres and expands to 1247 with the rear seats down, which is a handy chunk of space. Also not very French is the provision of usable cupholders in both rows. The doors each contain a bottleholder, too. A rarity in this class (and even some larger SUVs) is the addition of air vents in the rear. Classy move.
The boot starts at a very decent 434 litres and expands to 1247 with the rear seats down.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
Fans of the genre will know engine sizes continue to shrink while turbo tech replaces high-revving power with lower-revving torque. The Clio RS's turbo has all the right numbers, apart from the redline, which always feels too low.
The 1.8 here in the Megane RS spins up 205kW and 390Nm. The EDC transmission is Renault's six-speed unit, which I've long felt is superior to almost every other twin-clutch (the VW Group's seven-speed is finally drawing level). As always, power is delivered to the front wheels only, but in the Cup's case this happens the assistance of a limited slip diff.
The 1.8 here in the Megane RS spins up 205kW and 390Nm.
The benchmark sprint to 100km/h is over in 5.8 secoonds, which isn't messing about and there's a launch-control feature that doesn't require half an hour of setup to activate.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Renault's sticker says you'll get 7.5L/100km from the 1.8, but I think the usual performance-car caveat applies - fat chance. Having said that, a week of a mix of enthusiastic (me) and still fairly keen (my wife) driving, as well as a long highway run gave me a figure of 9.9L/100km, which is not at all bad when you've got this kind of power on tap.
Whatever you get, you will be filling up with 98 often - the fuel tank is just 50 litres.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
You can install the kiddy seats by way of three top-tether anchors or two ISOFIX points.
ANCAP still hasn't tested the Megane, but EuroNCAP awarded it five stars.
ANCAP still hasn't tested the Megane, but EuroNCAP awarded it five stars.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
In May 2019 Renault announced a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty on the Megane RS, which matches the rest of the range, along with roadside assistance. Hopefully the forthcoming Clio takes that on as well.
On top of that, the servicing intervals are 12 months/20,000km. Unfortunately for Cup EDC buyers, the first service - which is part of a three-year capped-price deal - is a VW-like $799, before dropping to $399 for the next two.
What's it like to drive? 9/10
I first drove the Cup version of this generation last year as a manual. It was good. Very good. But I also drove the standard car with the EDC and realised a couple of things. While the previous car's manual (the only transmission) wasn't great, the rest of the experience more than made up for it. But the throw is a tad long and the action is verging on uncooperative - give me a Civic Type R's slick shift any day.
Now with the very accomplished EDC available, it made me realise that the Cup might be a better car - despite the 23kg weight penalty - with the EDC.
In Race mode the super-fast shifts soften the blow of a low-ish redline.
Time has answered the question in the affirmative. While the manual is not so bad as to make it the "wrong" choice, the EDC is more right. In Race mode the super-fast shifts soften the blow of a low-ish redline. In the RS, the gears are a bit more tightly spaced so the gaps aren't big and you can really work the gearbox. The lovely aluminium shifters feel nice on the fingertips and it's all very positive indeed. Paired with a proper limited slip differential, you can get in the power super early and brake much later than in the standard car
The suspension on the Cup is harder, but it isn't like the Clio Cup - I find that car way too hard for general use, but the Megane just seems a bit friendlier. Like its little sibling, the Megane's suspension features hydraulic bump stops, which means instead of thudding when the suspension runs out travel, you get a softer landing. It helps knock the edges off what is a tremendously sporty machine and keeps it liveable for everyone else. Amazingly, it does all this with a torsion-beam rear end rather than a heavier, more expensive multi-link setup.
Driving the twisty bits in this car is a genuine whooping-with-delight experience. With just two pedals to contend with, you can left-foot brake, if you're feeling racy, and have an absolute blast. The grip from the front tyres (245/35s, by the way) is colossal, but the first time you turn-in with vim and vigour will give you a shock - with four-wheel steer, this thing chases corners like lawyers chase ambulances. In Race mode, the rears go opposite to the fronts up to 100km/h, and you can feel the car rotating very crisply. It also makes three-point turns really easy.
The big Brembo brakes are tremendous and if you keep the engine above 3000rpm (easily done), you will cover ground at a rate of knots that will keep its more powerful rivals pretty honest.
Adding an auto version of the Megane RS Cup won't suddenly sell a bazillion of them, but it will certainly attract a few punters who want or need the auto. The thing is, you're gaining more than you lose when you pick the EDC - including lightning-fast shifts, which give you more mental bandwidth to really enjoy the way the car changes direction, and how well it responds to being thrown around.
In everyday use, it's hugely maneouvreable, likeable and even comfortable, as long as you're not in the back seat.