Oh my. Someone’s been busy with the stickers.
Hmmm. They are a little less than subtle, aren’t they? But this new Renault Megane is a little more than just a go-faster decal job. Celebrating the success of this year’s Renault Formula 1 car (and announced way before the title was secured, natch), it builds upon the already potent Megane Renaultsport 225 F1 Team – to the tune of five extra bhp and an even better chassis. Making it the hottest Megane ever.
That sounds great. So come now – tell us what it’s called.
You’ll need to take a deep breath. It’s full title (and we’re not making this up) is the Renault Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26. The Renaultsport and F1 Team designators signify it was put together by the firm’s highest-octane swilling engineers. The 230 bit is its power output in ps – a frisky 227bhp of 2.0-litre turbocharged action – and R26 mirrors the name of Renault’s 2006 F1 car. We’ll just call it the Megane 230. Or, The One With The Limited Slip Differential.
A limited slip differential? Isn’t that what made the old Focus RS such a handful?
Yes, but not all front drivers so equipped are a handful. The optional diff in the Cooper S, for instance is certainly more of a help than a hindrance. In fact its action in the Megane is so subtle most people won’t notice it at all. You have to be really aggressive with the accelerator to feel any kind of tug on the steering wheel in a straight line. So, in spite of all the shouting graphics malarkey, mean-looking 18¨ anthracite alloys and matching door mirrors, the 230 isn’t actually too extreme a driving experience.
Oh dear. It’s starting to sound a bit dull…
Couldn’t be further from the truth. What the slippy diff does do is help the Megane in the corners. Now instead of understeering when you put your foot down mid-bend the chassis simply grips and goes. And considering the car has 229lb ft of torque going through the front wheels that’s very impressive. The lack of drama is down to the suspension changes, which include new dampers and stiffer springs, reduced bump stops for greater travel, a different front anti-roll bar and changes to the rear suspension layout. It stays remarkably stable no matter how bumpy the road gets and you have to be trying pretty damn hard to induce any noticeable body roll. To say it makes swift progress is a serious understatement.
It can’t all be good news. What’s not to like?
Not much to be honest. It’s the same £19,570 price as the outgoing 225, even with all the extra hardware. It gets from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds and hits 147 mph. It stops better thanks to new Brembo front brakes, has a six-speed gearbox and even the steering feel is improved. Plus the graphics are a delete option. It rides badly over rough surfaces, but such is the body control and the chassis’ ability to maintain your chosen direction this doesn’t really slow you down. Biggest disappoint is the noise – it sounds great outside thanks to the modified exhaust but there’s no real aural excitement on the inside. The cabin could look a little more special, too – but the grippy Recaro seats do their best to make up for this, and you do get a numbered plaque by the gearlever.
This hardest of hardcore Meganes is a serious challenger to the current hot hatch crown. There’s plenty of power from the engine, the brakes are up to the task, and the limited slip diff brings enormous cornering prowess without all the usual scary side-effects. It’s also not bad value for money given its potency, and at least people on the outside will enjoy the soundtrack. We’d avoid the attention-seeking sticker set, pick a dark colour, and spend our free time hunting for GTis. Or whoever came up with that name.