Another chance to drive the Renaultsport Megane - 20 June 2011
Jethro’s Megane 250 was in the office over the weekend before heading back to Renault HQ, so I was quick to snaffle the keys on Friday. It’s one of my favourite hot hatches on sale. Even now it’s accumulated 17,510 miles, his custard-yellow model feels as tight as new which has rather changed my perception of Renault build quality. Despite leaps forward in recent years, I would never put Renault ahead of the class leaders (the Germans, Volvo) but Jethro’s Meagne feels admirably together considering the punishment it’s had and track days it’s endured.
Naturally, the reason I was so keen to take the Megane was to explore talents other than squeak monitoring and plastic prodding. I really bonded with this car on CAR’s Performance Car of the Year 2010 event where we spent five days in the south of France on some of Europe’s finest roads.
I remember one memorable drive on a hillside road in Provence where I was in the Megane chasing Ben Pulman in the Mercedes SLS. The Megane was in its element on mountain roads - a nimble, unusually athletic goat to the supercars’ leopards – all poise and traction and full-hammer accessibility where the more exotic cars tiptoed.
The Renaultsport Megane 250’s ace card is the way it engages the driver at all speeds and on all roads. That engine is strong and torquey, but unlike some turbocharged fours there’s still reward for revving it hard with a raspy growl at the top end. Our car has a decent turn of speed but as any fool knows, acceleration per se is nothing without control – and the Megane has that in spades.
The steering is meaty and responsive and the turn-in is excellent. Love the yellow strip at 12 o’clock on the wheel, too. Traction is simply amazing, the LSD-equipped front-drive chassis having improbable grip into and out of corners. As you’ll see in the video clip below, you simply throw the Megane into corners, aim at the apex and give it full beans on the way out. The Megane just rockets whither the wheel is pointed, the chassis soaking up anything the road throws at it. The Megane was the SLS’s equal that day, on that twisting, turning mountain road and Pulman couldn’t shake the buzzing custard tart from his rear-view mirror.
Back in the UK, spring 2011, and everything I remember about the Megane remains intact. The gearchange and pedal positioning are first-rate. The Recaros secure and grippy. My only gripes are the bobbly ride which gets tiring on UK bitumen, the mediocre switchgear and the impractical three-door Megane bodystyle: hauling children into the back seats is a chore and the boot has a comically tiny opening.
But these are small glitches. The Renaultsport Megane is my favourite hot hatch for driving thrills. You may pick a Golf GTI for all-round polish, but for anyone claiming to be an enthusiast, there can only be one winner. It’s France 1, Germany 0.
By Tim Pollard
To Cup or not to Cup – 13 October 2010-10-13
Jumped into Jethro’s Megane not knowing if it was a Cup model or not. It is, and this isn’t a spec that you spend miles convincing yourself that you really can spot the difference. You notice its extra sharpness instantly.
But when I pushed really hard on a B-road, the firm rear started to limit my confidence – I wondered how stable the car would be if I needed to stop quickly mid-way round a bumpy bend. And whether the standard car’s extra compliance would actually be better. Mmm, a call to the Renault press office is in order.
By Ben Barry
Welcoming the Renaultsport Megane 250 to the fleet – 20 September 2010
Welcome to the world, HM10 FMD. Not every trip will be quite like this one, but what a way to start. My Megane Renaultsport 250 arrived on a Friday morning with just 391 miles on the clock. On Sunday I pointed it towards Dover, then Spa Francorchamps. On Monday we both learnt the track together and when Ben Pulman disappeared back to the UK I headed east, towards the Nürburgring. After four blissful laps with literally no traffic to negotiate I headed back to Spa, this time taking the autobahn, and saw 155mph on the speedo…
So now it’s outside, grimy, tyres lightly frazzled around their edges, brakes still strong but a little noisier than ideal. And already I love this car. How could I not after a honeymoon like that?
I didn’t spec the Megane and nearly swallowed my tongue when I was told it wasn’t the Cup-spec car. Fortunately it does have the Cup chassis though, and the gorgeous Recaros that make this humble hatch feel super special. It should, as specced it’s £26,510. One option box ticked is for the Renaultsport monitor system, at the expense of sat-nav. So now I can hone my 0-60mph technique, and check out what G I’m pulling as I endlessly flail around roundabouts with no bloody idea where I’m going… What a rubbish idea.
At Spa the Megane was terrific. Not as agile as the Clio but perhaps a bit more indulgent, sliding gracefully when you ask it to, locked solid when you crave stability. I can’t think of a better car to learn this amazing track in. At the ’Ring – narrower, bumpier, less like a circuit in many ways - it was even better and grown-up scary fast in places. I’ll be back before the summer is out, no question. It’s going to be a very good year indeed.
By Jethro Bovingdon
>> Track action photography by Mathilde Millet
>> Thank you to P&O Ferries – www.poferries.com