Caught in the classifieds: 2018 Renault Megane RS
Back in 2004, Renault decided to flip the world of hot hatchbacks upside down with the introduction of a brand-new model based on the second-generation Megane. Dubbed the Megane Renault Sport II (or RS for short), it was one of the most aggressive, driver-oriented hatchbacks ever made. It was able to run rings around VWís Golf GTI and Fordís Focus ST without even breaking a sweat. It might not have been the most practical hot hatch, but it was definitely the most hardcore one. It practically cemented Renaultís position as the hot hatchback king.
The second-gen Megane RS was based on the all-new third-gen Megane, so it was a lot more luxurious and practical, as well as offering even more performance. The latest, third-generation Megane RS is based on the fourth-gen Megane, and although it looks like a facelifted version of its predecessor, itís a very different beast altogether. In this weekís ĎCaught In the Classifiedsí, weíve got an incredible example with just 13,000 miles on the clock, costing a cool £22,490. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but as youíre about to see, for the performance on offer, itís a lot of car for the money.
Visually, the Megane is one of the meanest hatchbacks around. A seventh-gen Volkswagen Golf GTI looks pedestrian in comparison. The first-gen RS had an incredible design, mostly because of how unique and exciting the rear end looked. It wasnít everyoneís cup of tea, but it was undeniably special. The third-gen Megane RS is a lot sharper because itís got a more modern design. Some people think it looks fussy, others agree itís got the right amount of aggressiveness and presence.
Itís not as shouty as a Civic Type R but itís not as mundane and dull as a Golf GTI. It fits snugly somewhere in the middle. Compared to a normal Megane, the RS has a wider body with flared arches, a front bumper with large air dams and foglights in the shape of the RS logo, a rear bumper with a massive central exhaust, two diffuser-elements sticking out on either side of it, and a very raked top-mounted deck spoiler.
Itís also got RS-bespoke wheels wrapped with low-profile, high-performance tires, and one of the coolest rear taillight designs Iíve seen on a hatchback. I love how far the lights extend, almost touching the Renault logo, and how well they complement the carís wide stance. Overall, this has to be one of the smartest-looking hot hatchbacks right now.
As is the case with all previous Megane RS models, the newest RS sort of falls flat if you compare its cabin with cabins of its contemporary rivals. The build quality is okay but itís not as good as the Golfís, and while theyíve tried to make it look interesting and exciting, itís not a very appealing design.
I donít like the fact that the centre console is empty and almost completely devoid of any buttons. The infotainment screen and all of the controls for the radio and the A/C look like they were an afterthought. Theyíre mounted to a massive square slab that just looks like itís been plastered on the dashboard. Donít get me wrong, itís functional and ergonomically sound, but it looks so out of place with everything else.
Then you touch the controls and everything makes much more sense though. The three-spoke steering wheel is superb. Not too thick but not too thin. The gear lever is incredible. The throws are short enough but it doesnít feel too notchy. The pedals are exceptional for heel-and-toe. You get what Iím getting at, donít you? As boring as it is to look at, to actually get behind the wheel and drive, the latest Megane RS is one of the finest machines ever created.
Legroom and headroom in the back are okay but theyíre not class-leading, and the same goes for the boot. The Megane RS is a very practical car if you want to use it as a daily driver, but thereís more to it than that. Otherwise, you might as well have an ordinary Megane, right?
Engine and Performance
Downsizing seems to be the trend as we move ever-closer to the complete electrification of the automotive industry, so itís no wonder that the latest RS has a 1.8-litre four-cylinder instead of a 2.0-litre. That being said, because the engine is heavily turbocharged, it still puts out a healthy 276 horsepower and 288 lb-ft of torque. Power is naturally sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, but you can have it with Renaultís EDC dual-clutch as well. As lightning-quick as the dual-clutch is, youíd have to be mad to have anything other than a manual in a hot hatchback.
Performance is of the exceptional variety. Itíll hit 62 mph in 5.8 seconds and top out at 158 mph. In the real world, itís a lot quicker than those figures would have you believe. The way the engine pulls from, say, 2,000 rpm, all the way to redline, is simply remarkable. Itíll put a lot of more powerful cars to shame, especially on twistier A and B-roads. The way the front diff extracts grip from the road surface is neigh-on mimicking an all-wheel-drive system. At times you forget itís a FWD hatch because itís got so much grip. If you go for the Cup trim you also get a mechanical Torsen LSD, but then youíd have to deal with a 10% stiffer ride compared to the base Sport trim.
The steering is lovely too. Plenty of feel and feedback for a modern rack, but itís really easy to manoeuvre in town at slow speeds as well. At low speeds when youíre just trundling along it doesnít feel all that different from a normal Megane. Perhaps a bit stiffer and more taught, but nothing you couldnít live with every day.
Model: Renault Megane
Trim: R.S. 280 Sport
Why you should buy one
Iím a massive fan of rear-wheel-drive cars, but even I have to admit the new Megane RS is a spectacular piece of kit for the money. It feels like it could annihilate some seriously expensive machinery on track, which it probably could if you go for the Cup or the Trophy versions. As it is, the Ďregularí Sport trim is the perfect daily-drivable hatchback for anyone thinking of buying a Golf GTI or a Ford Focus ST. If youíre still on the fence, give one a quick test drive. Thereís no better place to search for used Renault Megan cars for sale than on DesperateSeller.co.uk. I guarantee youíll never look at the Golf or a Focus ever again.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 8 out of 10