2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

Is the latest Mégane RS 265 a better bet than a Golf GTI?

By Tim Kendall | 24th February 2014

Vital Statistics

  • Model: Mégane Renaultsport 265
  • Engine: 2.0 turbo petrol (261hp)
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Price: £26,925 (£28,015 as tested)
  • 0-60: 6.0 secs
  • Top Speed: 158 mph
  • Economy: 37.7 mpg (combined)
  • Options fitted to test car:
    See text

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

Keep half an eye on the UK motoring press and the feverish anticipation with which anything Renaultsport badged is greeted won’t have escaped you. Yet a dalliance with the previous generation Mégane 225 Trophy a decade ago left me feeling like an outsider, someone who’d missed the obvious twist in a film everyone else is talking about. For me, the uber-charm of the sonorous Golf R32’s V6 was more seductive than a buzzy French four-pot with a plasticky interior, cult following or not.

Strong words? Well since then the usual suspects have waxed lyrical about successive hot Renaults, the Megane R26.R has broken the Nürburgring lap record for front-wheel drive production cars and the current generation  Mégane  RS 265 has been universally lauded as hot hatchback nirvana. A fresh appraisal and possible re-alignment of opinions may be in order.

With that in mind, DrivingTalk recently got with the programme and now brings you a 2014 Renault Mégane Renaultsport 265 review. What’s all the fuss about? Read on.

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265

The Mégane 265 is a driver’s dream

The Renault Mégane Renaultsport 265 – what is it?

Probably the swansong for this generation of hot Méganes. The whole range has had a facelift to tide it over until the new generation arrives, so in comes a new front-end with over-sized Renault badge, gloss black highlights, re-positioned daytime running lights and elliptical headlights.

All of which looks a touch bland rather than exciting, but from some angles (rear three-quarter and profile) the RS 265 is not without purpose or presence. Harping on about looks when an RS Mégane is clearly all about the driving might seem pointless, but it’s important in a sector where the benchmark Golf GTI is a crisply styled and tastefully executed default. And, it must be said, a bit cheaper. But more on that later.

The standard car (£26,925) sits on 18-inch ‘Tibor’ alloys in a satin grey finish. Gloss black or diamond cut 19-inch Speedline wheels (pictured) are available as a £1,000 option and give the hot Renault more visual clout.

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

The facelifted Renaultsport Mégane 265 gets a new nose

What’s under the bonnet of the Renault Mégane RS 265?

An absolute cracker of a powerplant.  Nestling in the RS 265’s nose is the now defunct Mégane Trophy’s uprated 2.0-litre, 261bhp turbocharged four, which provides performance-a-plenty via the six-speed gearbox. It develops its peak torque of 360Nm (265 lb ft) relatively low-down at 3k rpm which means full grunt is available on demand.

Mind you, maximum attack mode is only available if you can find the Sport button (hiding down by the driver’s right knee) which toggles through the switchable ESC system. Renault calls it ‘Renaultsport Dynamic Management three-stage ESC’ (because Sport mode would be too simple). The ‘Sport’ setting provides you with the full 261bhp and relaxes the electronic stability control slightly to keep track day drivers happy. Default mode provides a more parsimonious 250bhp and keeps the stability control’s safety net switched on. There’s full ‘off’ mode too.

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

The 2.0-litre turbo engine develops 261hp

What’s the Renault Mégane Renaultsport 265 like to drive?

I don’t like to slavishly submit to popular opinion and follow the crowd. But I have to on this occasion because the new Mégane RS 265 is bloody good. Occasionally, I’ll drive a new car and struggle to find much of any import to say about it, but this French fancy left me bursting with an embarrassment of motoring journo’s clichés.

From the moment you fire up the gravelly turbo’d four, the RS 265 fizzes with excitement. And if you thought at least six cylinders were required to produce an aurally appealing motor then have a drive of the new RS 265. Having been treated to a more open exhaust design to give what Renault call a ‘satisfying pitch at all revs’, it does just that and sounds nicely rorty without being thrashy and intrusive.

So why is it good to drive? It’s down to a combination of really strong grunt coupled with short gearing enabling you to exploit all of the rev-band. It makes you want to grab it by the scruff of the neck and drive hard – and when you do, it doesn’t disappoint. Oh and the handling, that’s quite good too.

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

The RS 265 is a superbly accomplished handler

Handling. Will the new Mégane Renaultsport 265 go around corners?

Yes. It’s been sorted by the clearly talented Renaultsport engineers so of course it does. In fact so absorbed exploring the 265’s abilities around rural Gloucestershire was I, that I completely lost track of time and became immersed in a world of precise steering feel, lightening directional responses and expertly judged damping (even on the non-Cup chassis car I drove).

Key to the Megane’s ability to simply take apart any road is its front suspension design which features aluminium double-axis struts. In layman’s parlance that means it has separate hub carriers and front struts to combat the front-driver’s natural tendency towards torque-steering you into a hedge. Unruly acceleration runs in damp conditions will partially negate this system, but it’s still deeply impressive if you thought 261bhp would turn a front-wheel drive car into an understeering monster.

When the time comes to stop or indeed scrub some speed off, the Renaultsport Mégane’s Brembo set-up, which features huge 340mm stoppers up front (290mm at the rear) do a tremendous job of retarding things.

The Cup chassis option adds a limited slip differential and stiffer suspension to make it still more limpet-like through the bends. It adds £1,350 to the price but is likely to be a well-judged option for keen wheelmen and trackday enthusiasts.

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

The Renaultsport 265 interior is lacklustre

What’s the new Renaultsport Mégane like inside?

Less convincing. Everything feels well-screwed down, but to these eyes totally uninspiring. Red seatbelts and deeply sculpted front seats with an ‘R.S’ logo embossed on the headrests lift things a little, but compared to rivals like the Golf GTi or even Skoda Octavia VRS, it feels decidedly hum-drum and lacking anything to make you feel like you’re sat in something special. A driver’s floor mat which came adrift and snagged on the accelerator pedal, leading to some alarming and unplanned acceleration also loses the hottest Mégane some points here.

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265

Optional 19-inch gloss black wheels cost £1,000

What does the 2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 cost?

The Renaultsport Mégane 265 is arguably the best hot hatch currently on sale, but it has some strong rivals and it’s far from cheap. A basic price of £26,925 makes it around £1,100 dearer than the three-door Mk7 Golf GTI, although the German car does have a power deficit (220bhp vs. 261bhp). The Focus ST is a comparitive bargain at circa £22,000. The test car came without the optional Cup chassis but added a few options including the R.S. Monitor system (£500) which allows you to view various telemetry data (including a lap timer and steering oscillometer to measure steering lock angles…). That might sound gimmicky but it includes a wealth of interesting data which could come into its own if you venture on track.

The RS 265 also comes with Renault’s ‘4+’ scheme if you choose to buy via Renault Finance, which includes a four-year/100k mile warranty, breakdown cover and four years or 48k miles of servicing – thus any preconceptions about French car reliability should fall away.

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

2014 Renaultsport Mégane 265 review

  • Performance: 9/10
  • Ride & Handling: 10/10
  • Economy: 6/10
  • Equipment: 7/10
  • Want one factor: 8/10

The Verdict

Should you buy a Renault Mégane Renaultsport 265? That depends on your priorities. As an aesthetic proposition it’s so-so. As an ownership proposition? It’s likely to lose a fair whack more than a Golf GTI and that interior is particularly lacklustre next to the German car. But as a pure hot hatchback it’s a deeply satisfying, talented thing to steer and if driving thrills are at the top of your list, then so should the RS 265.

Summary

  • Performance, best-in-class ride and handling
  • Interior lacks flair, so-so looks

By Tim Kendall
24th February 2014

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