Renault Megane VS Hyundai i30
- Sexy looks
- You can still get a manual!
- More practical than before
- Four-wheel steering adds complexity
- Interior little differentiated from GT
- Rear legroom
- Well-equipped, even in cheapest trim
- Plenty of tech in top-spec cars
- Ride and handling balance on point
- Engine can feel lethargic...
- ...and harsh in the cabin
- Cheaper cars feel... cheaper
More power, more wheelarches, more steering, more doors and more transmissions. Aside from possibly the doors part, it's all sounding pretty rosy for the new third generation of Renault's Megane R.S. hot hatch.
The current Clio R.S. has followed a similar formula to great effect, improving its overall sales figures drastically, but it's fair to say it's lost a certain je ne sais quoi for the purists who've grown to worship the brand.
Selling cars vs brand building is always a tricky balance for car companies, but the previous Megane R.S. is giving the new model a handy head start with Australia being its third biggest market in the world.
Wander down the pit lane at any track day or tarmac rally, and you're bound to come across a handful of previous models. Often more than any other hot hatch, which is a clear sign of approval from those in the know who work their cars hard.
Will the new model build on that legacy? We were among the first to drive the new R.S. on road and track to find out at its Australian launch this week.
|Engine Type||1.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Hyundai i30 Sedan is the artist formerly known as the Elantra, with the brand renaming its small-car sedan to make a little more sense in its line-up.
But it's more than an Elantra with a new name. The all-new i30 Sedan rides on a new platform, wears a new design, carries new technology and new safety equipment, and falls under a new - and more expensive - price structure.
Is that enough to put sedans back on the small-car map? Or is it destined to play second fiddle the i30 hatch? Let's find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The new Megane R.S. is objectively a better car overall, and will probably appeal to more people, but it's not quite as special as the model it replaces.
It will be telling if the expected Trophy R flagship retains the all-wheel steering system, but in base R.S. guise its benefits are questionable.
It's an excellent hot hatch regardless, particularly on public roads, and I reckon it's at its best with the EDC transmission and the Alcantara and Bose option boxes ticked.
Do you think the new Megane R.S. is a step forward or sideways for Renault Sport? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
You can't miss those bulging wheelarches on all four corners, which are needed to cover the 19-inch alloy wheels and tracks which have been widened by 60mm at the front and 45mm at the rear. They cost Renault a lot of money to change over the regular Megane, and no other current hot hatch manages to do it.
The front guards also feature functional air extraction vents and the look is capped with completely different front and rear bumpers and a central exhaust. Unlike most of its rivals, the rear diffuser is able to generate downforce in lieu of a big rear spoiler. The body kit is completed by fatter and lower sills on either side, and other dimensions are largely the same as a regular Megane hatch.
You won't mistake it for just any Megane from the outside, but the interior is a bit more subdued. If you're looking to trade up from the existing Megane GT, the only real changes you'll notice will be carbon-look inlays on the dash and doors and an R.S. logo on the steering wheel.
Aside from R.S. logos on the headrests, the front seats look outwardly similar to the sports seats in the GT, too, but have been treated to specific shaping and materials to balance everyday driving with the extra bolstering required for the track.
The i30 Sedan continues Hyundai's adventurous Sensuous Sportiness design language, though CarsGuide opinions are a little split on how successfully it's been applied here.
The front-end looks sharp and shapely, with a cat-clawed bonnet split by two swept-back headlights. The bonnet points down towards the tarmac, with these angular inverts on either side that, in Elite models, house deep-set fog lights.
The body, too, is a collection of sharp lines and angles, but both it and the front-on view look accomplished and premium, in our humble opinion.
It's the rear, though, that raises the questions, with the lip of the boot jutting out dramatically before angling in sharply before jutting back out again, a little little a pyramid laying on its side. It's adventurous, no doubt, but it might not be to everyone's taste.
The ambience in the cabin of the i30 Sedan depends on which one you're sitting in. The Elite models are lovely - all quality-feeling materials (save the hard plastics on the upper doors), including a vaguely denim-feeling fabric that trims the inner door panels, and those big twin screens that feel plenty tech savvy.
The Active model makes do without the niceties, though, feeling decidedly cheaper inside - a feeling not helped by the fact the smaller 8.0-inch touchscreen is housed in the same surround as the bigger 10.25-inch screen, meaning you're suddenly confronted by a lot of flat, black plastic.
Unlike the last generation, the new model is a five-door hatch. This may not be as sexy as the three door, swooping coupe roofline of before, but it makes the R.S. a whole lot easier to live with.
Access is the number one benefit though, as the regular Megane's back seat is somewhat lacking in legroom, which is further compounded by limited toe room underneath the sport front seats.
The other big practicality must-haves are retained though, with two cupholders front and rear and bottle holders in each door. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outboard positions, and it also gets the same 434-litre boot space as a regular Megane hatch, which is pretty decent for its class.
You'll only find an inflation kit instead of a spare tyre though, regardless of whether the Bose audio system is optioned.
It's a small sedan, but it doesn't feel small. It's longer and more practical than the hatch, for example - at least in terms of seats-up boot space - and there's a surprising amount of room for rear-seat passengers, too.
This is a seriously spacious backseat - at least for those in the window seats - with a heap of room between my knees and my own 175cm driving position, and plenty of headroom, too. Yes, three adults across the back will prove a squeeze - this is a small car, after all - but two can ride in comfort.
The rear seat is split by a pulldown divider that's home to two cupholders, there's bottle storage in the doors, and two ISOFIX attachment points, too.
Upfront, the cabin feels plenty spacious, and the light-coloured, denim-look materials used in the Elite models add a sense of airiness not found in the cheaper, more plasticky Active models. Up front riders get cupholders, bottle holders in the doors, twin USB connection points, a power outlet, and wireless charging for phones.
Cubbies abound, too, including one at knee height under the dash, and more in the doors and centre console.
Hyundai says the i30 Sedan will swallow some 474 litres (VDA) of luggage, up from 395 litres in the hatch - with the rear seats in place - and around 1350L with the seats folded flat.
Price and features
The new R.S. kicks off $1000 higher than the previous R.S. 265 Cup starting point with a list price of $44,990 with the manual transmission. The EDC auto adds $2500, but the overall price list is still among the best value in its class.
It sits below key rivals like the recently revised $45,490 Golf GTI and the 308 GTis $45,990 starting point, and significantly below the identically priced $50,990 Civic Type R and all-wheel drive Focus RS, as well as the Golf R at $56,490.
However, the Renault is still trumped by the i30 N's $39,990 starting point, as well as entry-level offerings such as the $38,990 Ford Focus ST.
Only one Renault Megane Sport trim level is available for now, with the recently revealed Trophy due to be added in around 12 months. How much it will cost is yet to be determined.
Out of the box, the new R.S. features an 8.7-inch multimedia system capable of displaying performance analytics including acceleration, braking, and wheel angle. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is also now built in, as is GPS sat nav.
It also gains R.S. badging, sport seats, a perforated leather steering wheel and shifter, dual-zone climate control, and heated folding side mirrors.
The only performance option at this stage is the Cup pack, which for just $1490 gets you a Torsen limited slip differential, a sharper suspension tune, red Brembos with two piece rotors that lower the unsprung mass by 1.8kg per corner, and a whole bunch of little detail changes under the skin. You can pick the Cup pack visually by its black versions of the standard wheels.
You can also upgrade the standard cloth trim to Alcantara for an extra $1190, add a 10-speaker Bose sound system for $500, and a panoramic sunroof for $1990.
The new 'Tonic Orange' hero colour is stunning, but it and the now classic 'Liquid Yellow' will set you back a further $880, while other metallic hues will cost $600. The only non-metallic colour is actually 'Glacier White', with the rest of the colours made up of 'Pearl White', 'Diamond Black', 'Titanium Grey' and 'Flame Red'.
The i30 Sedan range kicks off with the Active trim, available as a six-speed manual ($24,790) or a six-speed automatic ($26,790), before stepping up to the auto-only Elite trim at $30,790 - all about $3000 more than the hatch.
Before the end of the year they'll be joined by the sporty-flavoured N Line models, available in manual ($30,290) or seven-speed DCT automatic ($32,390), or the fancy-feeling N Line Premium, for $37,290.
Active cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-appointed interior, wireless smartphone charging, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a comprehensive safety suite - which we'll circle back to under the Safety sub heading.
Elite cars add dual-zone climate control, twin 10.25-inch screens - one in the centre of the dash, the other in front of the driver - with satellite navigation, a BOSE eight-speaker stereo and DAB+ digital radio.
Finally, N Line cars will add a sportier engine, unique bodykit with new-look front and rear bumpers, and a new mesh grille. There's also twin exhaust tips, LED headlights and taillights, and 18-inch alloys, while the N Line Premium adds a sunroof, front parking sensors, 10-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
Engine & trans
There's no point having the bulgiest wheelarches in the business if you can't back them up with actual strength, and the new Megane R.S. manages to squeeze out an extra 4kW and 30Nm over the previous R.S. 275.
Technically this new model is the R.S. 280 after its power output in metric horsepower (hp), but the output figure nomenclature seems to have taken a step back this time around in favour of just R.S..
Either way, the new totals are 205kW and 390Nm, with the former reached at 6000rpm and the latter available from a higher than usual 2400-4800rpm.
A twin scroll turbocharger is once again utilised, but the new engine drops from 2.0-litres to 1.8 and is shared with the new Alpine A110 sports car. The Alpine tune is just 185kW/320Nm though, and Renault claims the Megane R.S. spec is the most powerful 1.8-litre motor on the market.
The base engine has been co-developed with Nissan as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but features a specific cylinder head design in Renault form, with a reinforced structure and redesigned cooling passages. It also features plasma-lined cylinder bores like the Nissan GT-R. Previous Megane R.S. owners will be glad to learn that the new engine uses a timing chain instead of a timing belt.
Perhaps the biggest surprise with the new Megane R.S. is that it retains a six-speed manual transmission as its default choice, even though a six speed dual-clutch (EDC) automatic is now available as an option for the first time. This conflicts with the Clio's EDC-only specs these days.
The Megane's EDC is a tweaked version of that used in several other Renault models, but with bespoke gear ratios, shift tuning and strengthening to suit the R.S.'s high torque loads. The weight penalty over the manual is just 23kg.
Gears can be manually selected via the shifter or shift paddles behind the steering wheel, and shift times get faster as you move between 'Comfort'/'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Race' drive modes.
One unique feature is 'Multi Change Down' mode, which will automatically select the best gear for a corner if you hold down the downshift paddle when in Sport or Race drive modes.
The EDC transmission also has 'Launch Mode' to optimise standing start acceleration.
Drive is still sent through the front wheels, but the R.S. now scores four-wheel steering to help with slow speed agility and high speed stability.
The '4Control' system is also seen on the Megane GT, and steers the rear wheels by up to 2.7 degrees to tighten the turning circle at slower speeds, and transitions to follow the front wheels in parallel to effectively extend the wheelbase at higher speeds. This transition generally happens at 60km/h, but moves to 100km/h when Race mode is selected.
It's a pretty tried and true powertrain this, with the i30 Sedan Active and Elite both fitted with Hyundai's 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 117kW and 191Nm, pairing with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
The combo feels dependable, rather than exhilarating, but does produce enough grunt to get you humming along easily enough. Frustratingly, there are some super-clever hybrid-assisted powertrains available internationally, but we don't get them in Australia. At least, not yet.
Renault claims an eight per cent fuel consumption improvement over the previous generation R.S., which leaves the new model with official combined figures of 7.4L/100km for the manual and 7.5 for the EDC.
As you'd expect with such a specific output, top-shelf 98 RON unleaded is needed, and the 50-litre fuel tank suggests a theoretical range between fills of at least 666km.
Now for the important part.
I always felt the previous Megane R.S. was as if Porsche had been involved, and an assurance that if the Zuffenhausen brand does end up building front-wheel drive models it wouldn't be the end of the world.
It was so direct, tight as a drum and predictable. What you put into it is exactly what it gave back, so the new one has big shoes to fill.
We drove the standard car with the EDC transmission, as well as the Cup pack with the manual transmission around town, and put the R.S.'s money where its mouth is on track with the Cup pack at the Norwell Motorplex in Queensland.
Beyond those fantastic looks, the seats, the steering wheel and the raspy exhaust note are spot on for an R.S.
The steering itself is quite nice, too, no doubt due largely to the front suspension's specific 'independent steering axis' steering knuckles, which move the steering axis 13mm closer to the hub face on each side to reduce torque and bump steer.
You'd expect it to ride like a rollerskate based on the 35 series rubber at each corner, but the ride comfort is actually quite livable.
This continues right through the spectrum of road conditions, with the crashiness that some hot hatches suffer over big bumps absent. This is likely due to its hydraulic compression stop dampers, which effectively puts a dampening bump stop within each shock absorber to create second stage dampening instead of a sudden thud. The new R.S. is proof that you don't have to be harsh to be fast.
The EDC transmission's tune is much nicer than in any other Renault I've experienced, regardless of drive mode, with responsive automatic shifts and quick manual shifts when needed. The manual is also fine, but the fat gear lever doesn't feel as mechanical as I'd like in a driver's car.
The new engine's smaller capacity makes itself known around town, with max torque not available until 2400rpm. Most current turbos manage this sooner, but it's worth noting that the new engine does manage to deliver peak torque 600rpm earlier than the previous 2.0-litre. Once you're underway though, it feels every bit of its 205kW/390Nm.
The 4Control all-wheel steering is largely undetectable under general driving conditions, but when it does become apparent (when you're having fun), it's pros also bring a few cons.
If you're heading through a bunch of corners of varying speeds, which let's face it, most twisty roads do, it's mildly annoying how the all-wheel steering shifts between modes, particularly if it happens mid corner. Think of it as a variable wheelbase and you'll get an idea of what I mean.
The torsion beam rear suspension on the other hand feels fine, and a more complex independent set-up would certainly push the new model's 34-57kg weight gain much higher. For the record, the manual weighs 1427kg, while the EDC is 1450.
The Norwell Motorplex circuit may be dead flat, but its surface is quite bumpy and therefore handy for performance testing a road car.
Once again, the new R.S.'s fundamentals seem fine, and the Cup's stiffer suspension didn't make it skittish on the circuit.
It puts the power down brilliantly through the Torsen diff and 245-section tyres, allowing you to get on the power much earlier and its amazing how it hauls for a 1.8 litre in a near-1.5 tonne car. The official 0-100km/h acceleration claim with either transmission is an impressive (for a front driver) 5.8s, which is also in line with the previous generation's Trophy R ultimate incarnation.
Those 355mm front Brembos reign it in nicely too, retaining a consistent feel after five or so laps of Norwell where we saw 155km/h along the back straight.
The all-wheel steering's effects are more obvious on the track, with quite a few of the corners straddling the 60km/h transition point in all modes aside from Race. The long sweeper straddles the 100km/h transition point in Race, so that's hardly the solution. You're effectively switching wheelbase lengths depending on which corner you're in, and often mid-corner.
It isn't drastic or dangerous, but it adds another dimension to your judgement of corner speeds that would take some getting used to.
Salvation is likely at hand though, as I learned after our drive that it's possible to turn off the 4Control system via the Perso drive mode that allows elements to be adjusted independently. We can't wait to give that a crack.
It's not an excitement machine, the i30 Sedan (the incoming N Line models with their turbocharged engines should better fulfil that role) but what it lacks in outright speed it makes up for with its road manners.
We came away impressed with its ride and handling balance, with the newest Hyundai feeling genuinely competent in corners - so much so that we were longing for more grunt - yet comfortable on the dodgy road surfaces of the city, too.
Part of that is likely down to Hyundai's local chassis tuning, but could also be down to the fact the Sedan rides on a new and different platform (the K3) to its hatch sibling. Either way, this i30 balances the dual roles of comfort and connection to the road below with aplomb.
There are some downsides, though. The engine, though providing enough shove to move you around fairly easily, lacks the urgency required for overtaking or for spirited take-offs. Instead, planting your right foot makes things get louder and more gruff in the cabin, without producing much in the way of extra performance. You're far better off treating it gently, and letting it do its thing without asking too much of it.
It's an easy, breezy, largely care-free drive. It won't get your heart beating any faster, but nor will it have you kung-fu-gripping the steering wheel in frustration. But we do wish Hyundai could have gotten its hands on those European mild-hybrid engines.
All variants are equipped with front, side and curtain airbags that extend to the back seat, plus the usual suite of stability and traction control functions and front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Safety is an interesting one, given Hyundai won't be submitting this vehicle for ANCAP testing. Recent changes to the testing regime require the addition of a central airbag to qualify for a full five-star rating, and the i30 Sedan doesn't have one, meaning it would likely max out at four stars.
Does that mean it's unsafe? Nope. Just that ANCAP's testing requirements are moving quickly, and not all cars have managed to keep up.
You'll find six airbags, along with the usual braking and traction aids, before the tech steps up to the active safety stuff, like AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as junction detection, plus lane keep assist, lane following assist and active cruise - all in the Active model. The Elite trim then adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors.
One detail you should be aware of is that Renault Sport models have dropped back to a three year warranty as of May 1, 2018. Kilometres are still unlimited, but all other Renault passenger models carry a five year term.
Service intervals are a decent 12 months or 20,000km, and the first three services are capped at $399 each.
If any reliability issues arise, you'll likely find them on our Megane R.S. problems page.