Renault Megane VS Toyota Prius V
- Sexy looks
- You can still get a manual!
- More practical than before
- Four-wheel steering adds complexity
- Interior little differentiated from GT
- Rear legroom
Toyota Prius V
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|
Toyota Prius V
I could use three words to describe this car: Toyota, family, hybrid… A fourth word comes to mind, which begins with 'b' and ends in 'oring'…
That might seem harsh, but this isn’t what I’d describe as an aspirational purchase. If you do aspire to a Prius V, though, you’re probably either a hardcore Toyota fan, someone who has a large family, or someone who likes hybrids.
But then again, if you are a potential Toyota Prius V buyer, you could also be one of the smarter examples of our species. While only about 3000 Aussies have chosen a Prius V since it went on sale in 2012, it’s a very, very clever option for family buyers who want to do their bit for the environment, not to mention their own hip pocket.
The Prius V is the most affordable seven-seat hybrid vehicle on the market, and in terms of price, it competes with mainstream models like the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail. But what about space? Practicality? Performance? Let’s take a deeper look, shall we?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Toyota Prius V7.1/10
No, the Prius V isn’t exciting. But it does what it’s designed to do - move families in decent comfort without using much fuel. And if that’s what gets your (hybrid) motor running, then you really ought to take a closer look.
Would you consider a Toyota Prius V over a more conventional seven-seat SUV? Let us know 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.
Toyota Prius V
The world was a different place when the Toyota Prius V came out. Back then, the iPhone 4s was at the cutting-edge in phone design, Gangnam Style was smashing it on the charts, and car design was in a very different place.
There are some signature Prius elements, with a swept, aerodynamic looking roofline and sleek front-end styling. The facelift that was applied to the Prius V in 2015 saw sharper lines and more aggression, but it arguably doesn’t have a lot of aesthetic appeal given the way Toyota has evolved its design since then.
It isn’t a traditional people-mover, because it has regular doors at the back rather than sliding doors to allow simple access to the third-row seats. It’s more like a hatchback that’s been stung by a bee, looking a bit bloated. But as one pint-sized tester put it this week, it’s one very big little car.
The inside is a bit of a marvel in terms of space management. This car measures just 25mm longer than a Corolla sedan (4645mm long), and it's only 1775mm wide (the same as a Corolla sedan) and 1590mm tall, because it needs a bit more room to fit seven people in. And it can.
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.
Toyota Prius V
The cabin of the Prius V highlights the notion of versatility. There are two rows of seats at the back, with the middle row sliding and folding to allow easy third-row access. And I mean easy - even me, a 183cm-tall human - can clamber into the back seats without too much in the way of old-man noises.
The space in the back row is limited, though, particularly for knee room and foot space. It is best left for children, then. But the second row has three individually slide-able seats, meaning if you really need to fit seven adults in, you theoretically could.
That second row is nicely useable. The fact the seats are sculpted individually means they feel made for a proper family getaway, and even with them set as far forward as they can go (to allow maximum legroom in the third row) I could sit in the outboard seats without much discomfort. The sun-blinds that are built into the back doors are a really welcome touch for parents and adults alike.
What isn’t so great is the lack of rear air-vents - there aren’t any face-level vents in either the second or third rows, meaning things could get stuffy on a hot day.
But the practicality side of things is reasonably well sorted, with useable cup holders in the rear wheel arch moulds, plus there’s a 12-volt outlet in the third row, too. The middle row has bottle holders in the doors, and there are map pockets in the front seatbacks.
Up front there is more smart storage; a pair (yep, two) of gloveboxes adorns the dashboard, and there’s a pop-out cupholder on the passenger side, too. Two more cupholders grace the centre console (which itself is very shallow, because the hybrid batteries sit inside it), plus a small storage box - presumably for your keys to sit. A small shelf sits at the bottom of the centre stack, and that’s where you’ll find a USB port to connect to the media screen above.
That 6.1-inch touchscreen is fine, but pretty ancient. It has some small menu buttons, won’t allow you to input phone numbers or connect to Bluetooth when the car is moving, and you (or your fellow front passenger) can’t manually enter sat nav details when you’re driving. There is voice control, but it’s painful. Forget Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too - neither is available in the Prius V.
While the boot space is pretty limited with seven seats in place - Toyota claims 180 litres of capacity in that configuration - there’s still enough room for a suitcase or two.
But with five seats in play it makes quite a bit more sense, more easily fitting family things like prams with its 485L of cargo capacity. And remember, there are no batteries under the boot floor eating into space, and you get a space-saver spare wheel as well.
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'.
Toyota Prius V
It undercuts the Tarago, Kluger and Land Cruiser Prado by a decent margin, with pricing starting at $37,590 for the base grade model and stretching to $45,380 for the top-of-two-tier i-Tech flagship. Should you bother spending up on that version? In short, no.
That’s because the regular Prius V has a pretty strong standard equipment list. Push-button start, keyless entry, sat nav with SUNA live traffic updates, a reversing camera, climate control and a head-up display are all standard. You also get 16-inch alloy wheels, which have a set of plastic wheel covers over the top (great for kerb touch-parkers).
The i-Tech sees the addition of Bi-LED headlights with auto-levelling (as opposed to the halogens with LED daytime running lights you see on the base model), plus fake leather seats (not cloth), heated front seats, a dual-pane panoramic glass roof (which doesn’t open), an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and a semi-automated parking system.
Plus, whether you choose the entry grade or the high-spec, you get Toyota’s 'Safety Sense+' system - read the details in the safety section below.
Colour options for the Prius V are quite broad. There are nine rather sedate hues to choose from, with eight of them being 'premium colours' that attract an additional cost ($450).
And, as with most Toyota models, there is a range of additional factory-backed accessories that you can choose, such as a bonnet protector, boot scuff guard and even door handle protective film (to stop rings from scratching them up), but things like roof racks/roof rails or a roof pod are unavailable.
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.
Toyota Prius V
Powering the Prius V is a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, which uses a CVT auto and combines with a lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors. It’s what’s known as a series parallel hybrid set-up.
The system can allow the car to run using both the battery and engine, or just the battery, or have the regenerative braking system feed the battery pack more juice. That tech isn’t necessarily cutting edge today, but it was when the car launched (waaaaay back in 2012).
The engine can produce 100kW of power and 142Nm of torque. The electric motor can produce 73kW on its own, but the maximum combined power output is still 100kW.
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.
Toyota Prius V
Obviously if you are considering a hybrid, you’re looking to take advantage of excellent fuel consumption. And the Prius V doesn’t disappoint.
The claimed consumption is just 4.4 litres per 100km. In the real world, you can expect to use about 5.5L/100km if you’re light on the throttle, and 6.5L/100km if you thrash it.
You can’t skimp on the fuel when you get to the bowser, though - the Prius V insists on running using 95 RON premium unleaded.
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.
Toyota Prius V
If you’re a car geek like me, you likely find driving as efficiently as you can fun. If so, you'll love this. You can watch the car switching between EV mode - which it will use for up to about 30km/h, but only for a couple of minutes - and hybrid power. And honestly, if you’ve never driven a hybrid you might think it sounds dumb, but being a fuel miser can be fun!
But the fun factor is pretty much limited to being a cheapskate on fuel. It really isn’t that fun to drive otherwise, but that’s not what it’s designed for.
Still, the drivetrain does a decent enough job for most families - it builds pace pretty easily, and while the refinement and power could be better, if you’re not aiming to break records on the school run, you shouldn’t be too disappointed.
The ride is mostly good, though it can be a little sharp over patchy surfaces, and the steering is decent, if a little lifeless. My biggest issue is the brake pedal response, which takes some getting used to. Sometimes it feels like it won’t stop quick enough.
That, and the adaptive cruise control doesn’t slow to a stop on the highway - it cuts out at about 30km/h, so you’ve gotta be on your toes if the traffic starts to build up.
If you want the latest and greatest in hybrid family friendliness, you really ought to wait for the new-generation RAV4, which - admittedly - mightn’t have seven seats, but it will have a hybrid drivetrain offered. And it’ll be much more modern inside and out.
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.
Toyota Prius V
Every Prius V still carries the same maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating that it was stamped with in 2015, even though the car was actually tested in 2012.
The range is covered with the safety systems you’d expect, including electronic stability control, ABS, electronic brake distribution, plus there’s a reversing camera, too. Rear parking sensors are a dealer-fit accessory.
There was a bit of back-and-forth between myself and Toyota Australia over airbag coverage. The company stated on its public site that the car had curtain airbag coverage all the way to the third row, but no image to support that. I’ve since had it confirmed by Toyota Australia that it does definitely have third-row airbag coverage, which is a great added piece of mind element for family buyers (plus there are dual front, driver knee and front side airbags, too).
Airbags are one thing, but what about the other safety kit? Well, every Prius V has Toyota’s Safety Sense plus system, with auto emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam lights and lane-departure warning.
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.
Toyota Prius V
It’s cheap to run a Prius V in terms of its fuel use, and it’s cheap to run in terms of its maintenance, too. Toyota lists its charges at just $140 per visit to the dealer under the Service Advantage offer, though you’ll need to take it in every six months or 10,000km.
The warranty cover is three years or 100,000km for the car, but the hybrid battery attracts an eight-year/160,000km cover of its own.