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HomeFEATUREDRenault Megane RS: THE GALLIC GTI

Renault Megane RS: THE GALLIC GTI

Renault has turned the corner with its latest hot-hatch offering, the Megane RS, which has seen the model now offered exclusively in a more practical five-door body style, while the suspension in the instance of our Lux version has been softened somewhat to give a more compliant ride. However, for those with a penchant for a much firmer ride, then there is also a Cup version on offer. LERATO MATEBESE took the latest version for a whirl to see if it can hold its own against the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Yes, that pesky, over-achieving Golf GTI will always be the bone of contention when the words hot-hatch are bandied about in bar banter, and with good reason because, love it or loathe it, it remains the benchmark performance hatch. Now in its third generation, the Megane RS looks set to challenge the indomitable Golf GTI with its latest rendition throwing its hat into the ring to challenge the undisputed champ as it were.

DESIGN

Renault Megane RS

Styling wise, I have to doff my hat off to the French marque as I am of the firm view that the latest Megane is one of, if not the best looking hatch in its segment, thanks to those quirky French flair design cues that will not be mistaken for anything else on the road. Yes, one might argue that the design might be a tad too dramatic and will likely not age well but, to the contrary, daring designs remain few and far between, so the Megane’s shapely contours are a welcome breath of fresh air.

STANDOUT MEGANE RS FEATURES

Renault Megane RS

Thanks to a bright palette of hues, including this vivid yellow paint scheme of test unit, which when combined with the flared wheels arches, 19” alloy wheels and that rear diffuser that is him to a central exhaust outlet – gives the model a curb appeal that its German rival simply cannot muster.

Those sporty design cues filter into the cabin where alcantara form hugging seats are both comfortable and keep you in place when driving spiritedly – a rather common phenomenon in this car – while the rest of the cabin mirrors those of its Megane sibling. There are also aluminium pedals to add to the racy recipe, while Renault Sport logos on the door sills are a stark reminder of the model’s sporty pedigree.

DOES IT HAVE THE GO?

Renault Megane RS

The answer is a resounding yes, thanks to the new 1.8-litre turbo engine that thumps out a healthy 205 kW and 400 Nm via a six-speed dual clutch gearbox to power the front wheels. While the manufacturer claims that the model will romp from standstill to 100 km/h in about 5.8 seconds and top out at 255 km/h, the reality is the former figure cannot be replicated in the real world, with the vehicle managing around 6.3 seconds in independent tests.

This is perhaps largely due to the fact that the front tyres tend to scrabble for purchase with torque steer in abundance and the steering baulking in your hands to try and keep it pointing in the right direction. I feel that limited slip differential (LSD), which is offered as standard in the Cup, will help the Lux model in that regard, too.

However, once those traction issues have been overcome and the Megane RS gets into its stride, it is actually quite a rewarding steer. Thankfully, the gearbox is well up to the task of swapping cogs in a relatively clean and quick manner, but the transmission is no match for the Golf GTI’s slicker DSG version, which manages to dispatch gears in an even more efficient and sleek manner.

Where the Megane RS seems to have a one up on the Golf, though, is in the handling department where the rear-wheel steer in the Megane makes the car more agile and eager to pitch into corners with relatively very little steering inputs required. It will flatter the novice and reward the experienced driver with its handling prowess and therein lies the Megane RS’s main forte.

LAST WORD

So, the Megane looks good, steers exceptionally well, makes all the right noises and is keenly priced, but does it depose the champ GTI off its perch then? The answer is not quite that simple. You see, the Golf trounces the Megane when it comes to build quality and it will likely have better residual values in the pre-owned market. That said, the new Megane RS is a valiant attempt by the French maker to depose the stalwart GTI and deserves heaps of kudos for coming this infinitely close.

Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © RENAULT SOUTH AFRICA

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