Renault’s racy R.S. Megane

22 February 2019

THIS week’s events have shone a very bright spotlight on the types of vehicles we have traditionally driven, the ones we drive now and those that we will be obliged to opt for in the future.

A few years ago it was petrol and diesel-powered saloon and hatchbacks, which gradually gave way to mostly combustion-engined cross-overs, and will soon be replaced by electric vehicles of various shapes and sizes.

For those who enjoy the art of driving rather than simply getting from one place to another, the joys of individual transport could be numbered.

The concept of the so-called hedonistic conventional hot hatch will eventually be replaced by Tesla-style electric supercars, which in due course will become a more financially viable alternative to the current crop of sporty models.

In the meantime there will be a limited but attractive choice of so-called hot hatches, of which the Honda Civic Type-R is usually regarded as the exponent of the art.

Awesome though it inarguably is, there is another extremely impressive contender in the striking shape of the Renault Megane R.S.

Together with the Volkswagen Golf GTI in its many states of tune and power, the sporty Megane offers an extremely attractive alternative.

For a start it really looks the part, with a perfect balance between its striking appearance and an almost contradictory classical sporting elegance.

The relatively compact 1.8-litre four cylinder engine belies the impressive performance on offer, with a 0-60mph acceleration time of just over five and a half seconds.

There is a top speed nudging 160mph, and economy averaging virtually 40mpg, with a CO2 rating of 163g/km.

This is the sort of performance of supercars, with running costs more akin to a family hatchback, and the sort of everyday usability that makes the Megane R.S. perfectly suited to the school run, daily commute or weekly shop.

Naturally the engine is turbocharged, achieving an ultimate power output of 280bhp at 6,000rpm, with 390Nm of pulling power from 2,400rpm.

Power reaches the front wheels via a slick short-shift six-speed manual gearbox, or automatic transmission, whilst optional extras include Brembo bi-material brakes at £900 a pop for enhanced stopping power.

This is a vehicle that car connoisseurs will appreciate, with the sort of rewarding driving experience that is fast becoming a rarity in the increasingly sanitised world of politically correct transport.

The mid-range performance is right up there with the best, handling is of the limpet-like variety, and there are additional driving modes to create the sort of rock-hard suspension that is ideally suited to track events for the die-hard enthusiasts.

However, in the real world this car will be used mainly by everyday motorists who shun the mundane and aspire to creature comforts into the bargain.

The £27,500 price tag includes typical R.S. touches such as chrome door sills, special roof lining and sports seats, plus a nappa leather perforated steering wheel and gear gaiter.

Externally the car resembles a standard Megane on steroids, with bulges in all the right places plus eye-catching 18-inch alloys as standard, with larger-diameter all-black ones as an option.

Naturally the full suite of safety equipment includes virtually every device ever created, and there are luxuries such as climate control, a sunroof, 8.7-inch touchscreen and a superior BOSE sound system all on offer.

There is also a tweaked Trophy version, with fractionally more power and a slightly higher price tag.

So are these Renaultsport models merely almost irrelevant niche-market offerings for a dwindling number of driving enthusiasts?

In the overall scheme of things, possibly, but certainly not to the 53,000 buyers who have been attracted to the Megan R.S. so far, most of whom are right here in the UK.