Renault Megane VS Skoda Superb
- Sexy looks
- You can still get a manual!
- More practical than before
- Four-wheel steering adds complexity
- Interior little differentiated from GT
- Rear legroom
- Subtle good looks
- Stands apart from the rabble
- Performance and handling to match
- Badge can work against it
- Thirstier than its claimed fuel economy
- Misses out on full engine tune
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|
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Skoda Superb SportLine wagon with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Sydney.
Explore the 2016-2017 Skoda Superb Range
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Anything with large wheels and a taller stature is simply muscling other, equally capable cars out of way on the showroom floor, and there seems to be no end in sight.
It's a bit heartbreaking, then, that cars as capable – and as relatively affordable, spec wise – as the Skoda Superb SportLine are in danger of being overlooked because it's not an SUV.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium 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.
It's genuinely difficult to fault the Superb in this spec, although the front-wheel drive 162TSI version is on par in practical terms and can be had for almost $12,000 less, albeit with fewer toys.
However, the Superb SportLine wants for almost nothing in terms of specs and appointments, and it differs from the regular 206TSI thanks to its subtle, sporting demeanor.
It's flexible, strong and elegant, and it's as practical as any sports utility vehicle on sale today.
Skoda does well with the Superb in relation to the rest of its line up, but even within its own ranks, a coming challenger in the form of the Kodiaq SUV will make life unnecessarily difficult for this well-priced, well-specced wagon.
If you don't need a high-riding 4x4-esque SUV, and you're not concerned about the badge your car wears – or even if you are – you really need to short-list the Superb for a test drive.
Can you walk past an SUV for a great wagon? Tell us what you think in the comments 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.
There's a feeling that the Skoda brand has supplemented the now defunct Saab as the thinking driver's car of choice. In fact, Skoda defies its origins as a discount sub-brand of Volkswagen, with almost every vehicle sold locally optioned up like, as Skoda's product manager Kieran Merrigan told us, "a Christmas tree."
The Superb has a bold, masculine, yet friendly shape that manages to avoid being slab-sided and dull. The blacked out presentation of the SportLine variant is nicely underplayed, while the distinctive alloys give the Superb a real presence.
Its front end is not a million miles away from the one that adorns its smaller Octavia sibling, but in its wagon guise, the Superb SportLine is a genuine head-turner.
Inside, the Superb is clearly a high-end VW Group car, but the unique seats and sports trim and interesting Skoda touches - door bins, for example - set it apart.
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.
The Superb wagon is an amazingly versatile car that's easy to live with. Its electric tailgate opens to reveal a cavernous luggage space; there is 660 litres behind the seats, which expands to 1960 litres when the seats are flipped down.
We love the handy seat releases near the rear door, along with shopping bag hooks, cargo cover, load restraint points, nets and a 12-volt socket. The load cover can interfere when larger bags or boxes are stowed, though, and the Skoda also sports an odd pseudo storage hammock that could easily be deleted.
Storage is plentiful, and there are two cupholders up front and another pair in the flip-down rear centre armrest – though the cupholders are frustratingly tiny in their diameter, defying even a regular can of drink.
Another four bottles can be stashed in the front and rear door pockets.
Rear seaters can also control the climate via temperature adjusters if they so desire. The SportLine even has heated rear outside seats, which also have ISOFIX child seat mounts added to them.
Up front is an inductive phone charging slot; simply place a suitable phone flat on the pad, and the car will charge the phone without a cable. Not only that, but the pad can enhance the signal of the phone. It didn't work with every phone we tried, though, and the slot is too small for huge devices like Apple's iPhone 6S.
Seating is generous and supportive in all positions, with loads of room throughout the car for five people. Rear legroom is a particular standout, with our lanky teen enjoying limo-like space in the back seat.
The Alcantara fabric isn't perhaps as soft and as luxurious as the leather you'd find in the 206TSI 4x4, but it's grippy and comfortable, and cleans up just as easily as the leather, despite having perforations. Don't ask how we tested that...
And as usual, Skoda adds its cool little touches, with small umbrella ports in both front doors and garbage bins in the door pockets, as well as sun shades on the rear side windows.
Oh, and if you're worried about ride height, don't be; the Superb cleared our steep drive test front and rear with ease.
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 Superb is based on the same Volkswagen Group MQB platform that underpins the Volkswagen Passat. This particular model is known as the SportLine, and supplements the previous range-topper, the 206TSI 4x4, by dint of a handful of extra bits and pieces and an extra thousand dollars on its price ticket.
The sedan costs $51,990, while it's $53,690 for the wagon tested here (plus on-road costs).
On top of the already well specced 206TSI the SportLine picks up a black finish on the mirror caps, rear diffuser, roof rails and front grille, as well as black door trim pieces, unique 19-inch alloys and SportLine badging on the front guards.
A new dashboard instrument cluster is finished in white trim, there are Alcantara-trimmed front and rear seats and door card inserts, a flat-bottomed sports wheel, alloy pedals, black roof lining and a sports monitor that adds boost, power, and engine oil temperature gauges as well as a lap timer.
The SportLine also gains all the standard inclusions of the 206TSI, including auto lights and wipers, LED headlights and tail-lights, heated front and rear seats and an inductive phone charging bay.
The only options on the SportLine are metallic/pearlescent paint ($700) and a sunroof ($1900).
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.
Torque is rated at a hefty 350Nm from a low of 1700rpm, and it hurls the SportLine wagon to 100km/h from rest in a claimed 5.8sec.
It's backed by a six-speed dual clutch transmission and runs a Haldex all-wheel drive (AWD) layout that biases traction to the front wheels. The Superb also has a drive mode select switch that modifies the behaviour of the throttle, gearbox and steering. It also runs adaptive dampers.
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.
Skoda rates the Superb SportLine at 7.3L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, and it needs 95RON fuel as a minimum. Its 70-litre tank should yield 958km of range.
Over 380km of testing, the Superb returned 12.2L/100km according to the dash, which is a surprisingly high figure when compared to the claimed average. The majority of the test was conducted with the car in Sport mode, but this has only a marginal effect on consumption.
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.
The Golf-R engined Superb belies its size with mid-range urge that would shame a lot of larger capacity engines. It's not as vocal – it's not an RS model, after all – and it's missing a bit of the oomph that Skoda Australia's hot weather tuning takes out of the European spec engine (about 16kW and 30Nm), but it's still a marvel to think this big car has such a relatively small engine under the bonnet.
Its chassis balance is spot on, too, with the 19-inch wheels and 235/40 R19 tyres still offering a decent ride compliance, as well as sharper handling when the dampers are turned up to Sport.
The AWD system, too, is a great addition, providing a more stable, connected feel that ties both ends of the car better than the FWD-only versions. Be warned, though – AWD cars need to have all four tyres replaced at the same time, even if you've only worn the fronts or damaged a single tyre.
Steering feel is good, if a little isolated, but overall, the Superb shrinks around the driver, behaving for the most part like a smaller, more agile car.
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.
The five-star ANCAP Superb is well equipped with safety kit, including nine airbags (front driver and passenger, driver's knee airbag, front and rear side airbags and front and rear curtain airbags), AEB (auto emergency braking) which operates at speeds of up to 65km/h, lane departure assistance, adaptive cruise control, side assist and rear traffic alert.
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.
Skoda offers a pre-paid 'Service Pack' for the Superb , with a three-year/45,000km plan costing $1299 and a five-year/75,000 plan coming in at $2650.
Service intervals of 15,000km or 12 months are suggested.
The car is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.