Review: 2018 Renault Megane RS 280 Lux EDC

Denis Droppa sees if the new Renault Megane RS is a worthy rival to the Volkswagen Golf GTI

11 October 2018 - 19:27 By Denis Droppa

Two years after the launch of its fourth-generation Megane, Renault SA recently introduced the big-muscle version — as a matter of fact, two of them.

In an unusual move the French car maker offers its hot hatchback in two flavours: the Lux automatic and the Cup manual. The two cars are identically priced at R549,900 but the Cup is a racier version for enthusiasts, and along with requiring manual gear shifts it also has firmer suspension.

Both derivatives are fired along by a new 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine. It’s downsized from the previous 2.0-litre unit but power and torque have increased from 195kW and 360Nm to 205kW and 390Nm.

There is plenty of sporty show-and-tell to visually distinguish the RS duo from regular Meganes, the most obvious being the more aggressively-styled bumpers with fog lights that are inspired by a chequered flag. The wider stance (an extra 60mm at the front and 45mm at the rear) and bigger alloy wheels (standard 18-inch and optionally 19-inch) also imbue this racy Renault with more presence, as does our test vehicle’s "tonic orange" — a new colour added to the palette of the Megane RS.

The sporty vibe continues in the cabin with its aluminium pedals, nappa-covered steering wheel and body-hugging Alcantara sports seats. As befits its flagship status in the range, the spec sheet is fully-loaded and includes a heartbeat that plays through the speakers as a welcome when you get into the car.

A completely automatic key unlocks the car as you walk up to it, and locks it again when you walk away — no pressing of any buttons required. My problem with the hi-tech key is its lack of a low-tech eyelet so that you can hang it on a key rack at home, which meant I was constantly misplacing it.

Along with governed top speeds of 250km/h, Renault quotes an identical 5.8 second 0-100km/h time for both Megane RS derivatives, a claim we’d be inclined to dispute given the propensity for modern automatics to outsprint their three-pedalled counterparts. Especially automatics with a launch control function, as found in this Megane RS Lux, where left-foot braking allows the driver to hike the engine revs before zooming off the line.

Apart from requiring manual gear shifts, the Cup version is designed for a more visceral experience with its 20% firmer suspension and better traction under hard acceleration due to a front limited-slip differential.

That said, the Lux that I road tested is hardly "soft" and still occupies the wilder side of the hot-hatch kingdom, compared to the more approachable and civilised VW Golf GTI.

Its ride is still pretty firm, especially on bumps and ripples, and the RS Lux isn’t a car that doubles as a comfy commuter for school runs. Gearshift paddles allow the driver to be more involved, but unfortunately not while turning as they’re fixed in place on the steering column rather than on the wheel itself.

The Multi-Sense feature offers various drive modes that affect throttle, steering and gear shift responses.

The sportier modes bring out this Megane’s feral side with a quicker throttle and heavier steering, accompanied by loud crackles and burps from the exhaust that add vocal sizzle. In Race mode the stability control is disabled, leaving traction duties in the driver’s hands.

The Megane RS still has its power fed through the front wheels and becomes a bit of a handful when driven enthusiastically. There is some wheel spin and torque steer under hard acceleration which some drivers might find disconcerting and others alluringly playful.

Keep a firm hand on the tiller and Renault’s racy hatch gets through corners with a planted feel. The 4Control rear-wheel steering gives it a nimble turn-in that nicely resists understeer.

I like that the Megane RS doesn’t try to clone its rivals but forges its own niche in the hot hatch segment. With its firm ride and tendency to torque steer the Megane can be a handful in everyday driving but it’s well priced in the hot hatch league, being notably more powerful than the similarly priced GTI but power-wise venturing right into the territory of the more expensive Golf R.

Fast Facts: Megane RS 280 Lux EDC

Engine: 1 798cc four-cylinder turbo

Power: 205kW at 6 000rpm

Torque: 390Nm from 2 400 to 4 500rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic EDC dual clutch

0-100km/h: 5.8-seconds (claimed)

Top speed: 250km/h (claimed)

Fuel: 8.5l/100km (claimed)

CO2: 158g/km (claimed)

Price: From R549 900