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Renault Megane RS vs Mini JCW hatch


Sporting makes do dual-purpose hatches — daily drivers that can be unleashed on a track — in divergent ways, says Craig Duff.

value

Renault Megane RS 265 Cup Premium

$48,000 drive-away

The no-extras price (until October) and capped price servicing of $897 for the first three annual/10,000km visits gives the three-door Renault an edge here. Metallic paint (anything other than red or white) adds $800-$1000. The five-year warranty is another tick.

Mini John Cooper Works

$49,950

The Mini JCW can’t match the Renault’s on-road price — it’s about$5500 dearer, albeit with a six-speed auto rather than a manual . Warranty is three years/unlimited km but the JCW servicing is capped at $980 for the first five years/70,000km. Intervals are “condition-based” — expect five trips to the dealer in that time.

design

Renault Megane RS 265 Cup Premium

A mix of soft-touch surfaces and fake carbon-fibre accents please the eye and Recaro seats are hard to beat for support. The seven-inch touchscreen includes satnav but graphics display is far from best in class. The screen shows track-based telemetry to monitor brake force, turbo boost pressure, G-forces and a GPS stopwatch, to be saved to a USB. The single drink holder is perched under the centre console, so some 600ml items don’t fit.

Mini John Cooper Works

Reflecting its all-rounder role as a quick car with daily driver pretensions, the Mini doesn’t look as overtly quick as the Renault. Inside is a big step up — the centrally mounted speedo is replaced by a head-up display and analog speedo. Satnav is standard and is top-quality though the switchgear is still quirky or unique, depending on your point of view, and the JCW only has room for four, rather than the five seat belts found in the Megane.

technology

Renault Megane RS 265 Cup Premium

Engine

The Megane’s heart is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder (195kW/360Nm). The six-speed manual gearbox sends those outputs to the front wheels and there’s a mechanical limited-slip diff and tricky steering setup to quell torque steer. It is seriously quick — 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds — and loves to rev. Don’t expect to match the official fuel use of 7.5/100km.

Mini John Cooper Works

Engine

From equal displacement the Mini gets 170kW/320Nm. The auto just trails the Megane for the 0-100km/h sprint (6.1 sec) but uses just 6.7L/100km. It also has the edge on weight (1280kg v 1374kg). The Mini will chirp the front tyres and tug on the steering wheel under hard acceleration. Track day enthusiasts will need to wait on the GP version.

safety

Renault Megane RS 265 Cup Premium

ANCAP rates the diesel Megane as a five-star car and I’ll happily accept the RS is in the same league. The chassis feels hewn from a single slab of metal and there are six airbags to protect passengers. Brembo brakes bite hard and a reversing camera overcomes limited vision due to the thick roof pillars.

Mini John Cooper Works

The Mini was tested last year (the Megane in 2011) and achieved four stars — the side-impact result wasn’t the best. For a “premium” car that’s marginal. Six airbags are fitted, as is a reversing camera. It rolls on run-flats so doesn’t have a spare, unlike the temporary wheel in the RS.

driving

Renault Megane RS 265 Cup Premium

The uncompromising performance setup leads to discomfort around town where the stiff suspension thumps over speed humps and crashes into potholes. It is the price paid for a car that’s all but devoid of body roll and pitching under hard braking or acceleration. As good as the Renault is, the Mini isn’t far off in the twisties and is easier to live with as a daily driver.

Mini John Cooper Works

The shorter wheelbase and the runflat rubber handicap the JCW when the road surface isn’t ideal and the pace is insane. It is more prone to feeling the undulations of the road surface, and the grip levels are ultimately lower. The variable suspension delivers a softer ride around town, making this the better dual-purpose car.

Verdict

Renault Megane RS 265 Cup Premium

Mini John Cooper Works

Fit a different set of tyres to the Mini and it’ll take a manic Renault driver to keep it at bay. The Megane’s lower price can’t justify its inability to be a comfortable daily driver as well as a track day weapon. As a second car, though, the RS is hard to beat.