It’s been a big year for hot hatches, with the Golf GTI, Focus RS and Scirocco R fighting it out to name but three. Renault’s last-gen Megane R26R is still a match for them all despite its age, and now the French hot hatch expert is piling on the pressure with this, the all-new Megane 250.
What are the headline changes?
Well, the basics remain the same as last time around, with a 2.0-litre turbo four channelling over 200bhp through a six-speed manual gearbox and the front wheels alone. However, the gearbox is all-new, and the familiar engine gets new intake ports and sodium-cooled exhaust valves, stronger pistons and con-rods, new intercooler and oil coolers and new piston ring carriers along with a power hike to 247bhp.
Is there a Cup version this time?
There are two models, Cup and Sport. The Sport costs more because of its higher standard equipment (climate control, electric leather seats, automatic lights and wipers and more), but the lighter Cup with its more aggressive chassis setup is the one for trackday regulars – and its lesser spec means it’s £1000 cheaper at £21,995. And, as ever, you can spec the Cup chassis on the 250 Sport at extra cost.
How does it drive?
It’s a corker. The electrically assisted steering is much nicer than the previous generation Megane's, having a more progressive build in weight away from the straight ahead, seamlessly increasing its resistance in proportion to your efforts. The gearchange, too, is much improved. It still feels fairly long of throw, but the engagement feels tighter.
The standard 250 Sport comes without the CUp's limited slip differential, but its grip and the way it powers through turns could fool you into thinking otherwise – you can get on the power stupidly early, and the more power you feed in, the more keenly it pulls through the bend.
The engine lacks character (its just a flat roar of boost), and it takes a good 2500rpm to properly get into its stride, but it is still tractable from down low and it charges to its 6500rpm with impressive eagerness. That said, this chassis could easily cope with more.
>> click next to read the verdict
How do the two versions compare on the road?
We’re yet to drive both models on UK roads, but the Sport feels impressively compliant, and certainly a lot smoother than the Focus RS. However, that does impact on the connection between driver and tarmac, and its responses – while highly impressive in isolation – feel a little warmer and fuzzier than the ultra-sharp Cup's. Even smooth Spanish roads had the Cup – 35% firmer front springs, 38% rear – jigging around, but it pays you back with its directness and even sharper steering. The Cup brakes, too, feel stronger, especially in the initial centimetre of travel – its discs are grooved and, more relevant to pedal feel, its servo is 11 percent more powerful. And then there’s its standard LSD, which helps to quell wheelspin through second-gear hairpins.
Another top drawer effort from Renaultsport. The Megane 250 offers more excitement than the Golf GTI, is more rounded than the Focus RS and significantly undercuts the Scirocco R. The way it steers, grips and turns is particularly impressive, especially in Cup trim, but we suspect the softer Sport is the best option for UK roads.