Like a fine pastry, The French have always had a sort of “je ne sais qois” that they inject into their hot hatches that few others have managed to crack the recipe for. With prices dropping, we’ve decided that it’s well overdue that we dove in and find out for ourselves whether the hype surrounding the RS265 Cup is deserved or a case of sales tactics meets the easily impressed.
With newer iterations of the RS Megane on the market, could now be a good time to grab a performance bargain?
It’s a sunny Autumn day in Perth, my flight is an hour late which only means that the rush hour has had a chance to die down. Sometimes linings are indeed Silver. The standard twenty-minute wait for my bags is over, and I find myself briskly walking towards the car rental car parks with a subconscious spring in my step. Signing my life away and declining the optional ‘double the money, half the risk’ insurance option, a young lady hands over what looks like a chunky credit card with a smile.
I’m pointed out to the car park and in the far corner, a slick, gorgeous looking hatchback sits, soaking in the environment around it with it’s infinite, deep paintwork reflecting its surroundings. Finger on the small square and the doors pop open. As far as first impressions go? The RS 265 comes wrapped in a gorgeous pseudo coupe body. Opening the boot reveals a practical albeit not generous storage space. The styling of the rear lights cuts into the typical hatchback opening and the sweeping rear window means that the rear compartment is, lets face it, a little squashed. Added to the sweeping roof which means that any lad who’s been drinking their milk as a kid will struggle to sit with a straight head.
The interior of this RS attract criticisms of feeling dated; and prodding the clunky air-con controls and turning up the sound through the borderline lacklustre speakers does lead you to start to understand why. But if you viewed the roof spoiler, the low suspension, the racing red “Brembo” callipers and the small “R.S.” badging on the back on the walk back to the car, chances are you already knew that comfort wasn’t the name of the game here. This premium version does have some sprinkles, such as part leather seats and reversing camera.
Pleasantly surprised, I mash my clumsy man fingers on the start button and the engine chirps to life. Pulling out of the car park, she feels typically sporty hatchback. Comparatively light steering, firm suspension soaks up the bumps whilst also keeping you aware of what’s going on. All in all a smooth ride. The Clutch has a low biting point, so smooth take-offs do take a little getting used to. The RS is a proper manual, none of this flappy-paddle nonsense. A stiff pedal, a stick that mashes metal to other metal and it all feels rather involving.
There is an iffy looking rocker switch to the inside of the handbrake which enables or disables the cruise control. Effective compared to many ‘stick’ type cruise control switches where you don’t know if its on or off, but looks rather oddly placed, but the switch gear around the wheel including the cruise control adjusters are all well placed and intuitive to handle. The route is a gorgeous section of road in the Perth Hills. Sweeping beds, rolling landscapes and magnificent trees that tower up into the horizon.
I add more and more gas, turning in with increasing gusto when I spy a small ‘RS’ button. That’s got to be good right?
The Megane starts to make sense. With the RS mode enabled, the 2.0 engine burbles and pops. The revs are that little bit more forthcoming. The whole vehicle feels. Tighter. A Placebo perhaps, but as I dial in more and more gas, the Megane becomes an absolute blast! The turn in is sharp and composed. The suspension is firm but not crashy. It telegrams you to let you know exactly what your car is doing. The game of progress becomes a flowing cascade of focusing on the next apex, squirting the pedal, and riding the huge grin on your face onto the next. Bucketloads of grip mixed with the utmost poise. The heart pumps adrenaline around your body and you brake later and later, trusting the Cup’s chassis to guide you on your journey.
The brakes do fade with continual pounding, despite their racing heralds – but in RS mode the steering tightens up, the throttle response becomes crisp and perky and the whole experience becomes about raw pleasure.
The gear change is satisfyingly mechanical in nature. Squeal towards the redline, dip the clutch and a satisfying clunk composes things again ready for the onslaught.
The RS mode gives the centrally mounted screen a splattering of race focused options, timers, g-meters, telemetry trackers, 0-100km timers. 5.8 – in case you wondered.
Torque steer makes a cameo in this production, but it never steals the spotlight. It’s dealt with in a subtle manor, gently swaddling the wheel side to side as opposed to stamping the axle, snatching the wheel from your hands and tossing you asunder into the nearest tree.
The pedals are placed well for some of your finest heel-toeing, and for my height the seating position is very agreeable. Some may find they need a little extra rake on the wheel. The Megane sounds somewhat muted but does have a nice tone to its growl. Reving out to over 6,500 rpm, it punches the hardest over around 3,500, hurtling you towards the redline. It’s not the lightest hatch compared to the Clio, but the Clio lacks legs which the Megane has and then some.
Over a weekend, and some 2,000 kms of driving, I managed an average of 11.6 L / 100m – which whilst significantly over the factory claims; is what I think you could expect when driven the way this thing deserves to be driven.
The RS is a car that isn’t without it’s foibles. Some argue that the gearbox is too noisy. You won’t want to fit a serious payload in the boot. Big Dave might not fit in the back seats if he
wants to maintain his posture. You can’t use the cruise control whilst in RS mode (but why on earth would you want to??). The sub-premium audio setup will leave audiophiles numb. Then there’s the dated looking air con setup and the basic dash. But do you know what? None of that matters. It’s a car that you grab by the scruff of the next and drive until your senses are completely satisfied. The interior is adequate for the purpose, and the gearbox is swift enough to add to the sense of occasion. It’s a car that is made for the petrolhead. And with used prices dipping below $22,000 – it’s a bloody performance bargain!