4 Mar 2013

Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup, a front wheel drive hot hatch icon of the modern era

265bhp should be too much power to deliver purely through the front wheels.  It is in some cars.  Take, for example, the old Astra coupe that my Speedmonkey co-contributor, Colin, used to own.  It was remapped, had a new exhaust, intercooler and turbo fitted.  Output was in the region of 250bhp.  It torque steered from hedge to hedge.  In the rain it felt dangerous.

The Megane 265 can handle 265bhp, with ease.

Two versions of the Megane Renaultsport 265 are available.  One has electrically operated leather seats, a tyre pressure monitor and air conditioning, and costs £26,000.  The other, the Cup, doesn't have those but it does have a limited slip differential, red Brembo calipers, orange seat belts and the most supportive seats I've ever sat in, but that you have to move with a bar.

The Cup costs £24,840 and is the one to buy.  The version with leather seats misses the point.  I'll explain.

The Megane 265 has essentially the same body as the standard Megane coupe.  This means it's a 3 door muscular hatchback coupe with tiny rear seats and a small boot.  To achieve an aerodynamic shape the  windscreen is so far ahead of the front seat passengers that one has to stretch forwards to reach it.  Given that the Megane 265 doesn't come with an integral touchscreen tablet with satnav, a TomTom will need to be stuck to the windscreen and the driver wont be able to reach it.

But that doesn't matter.  What matters is that you sit inside the car and immediately realise you are in something a bit special.  The seats - fabric, but trimmed with leather and featuring some fancy stitching, sit low in the car.  The steering wheel - chunky, leather and with a stitched ring at top dead centre.  The pedals - aluminium, drilled but basic, purposeful not decorative.  The left foot rest is simply riveted in place.  It needs to be, it'll take a hammering as your left foot braces around corners.

The rest of the interior follows a functional theme.  As previously mentioned there's no touchscreen tablet, just basic controls, readouts and a stereo (with no DAB as standard).  The materials all feel good to the touch although carbon fibre lookalike touches don't suit the rest of the car's intent.  Oh, and the glovebox is tiny and a bit rubbish.

Before you insert the stupidly large card, which substitutes for a key in Renaults, you know the Megane 265 Cup has a 6 speed manual gearbox, limited slip diff, PerfoHub double axis front suspension, CSV understeer control, grooved brake disks, Brembo calipers, stiff springs and dampers, anti roll bars, 265bhp, and a proper handbrake.

Press the button marked Start/Stop and the engine fires into life.  Quietly.  Engage gear, drive away at a sedate pace and the engine growls a little.  It's a pliable, easy to drive hatchback.  Light steering, light, crisp gearbox, long throttle travel.  It's a doddle to drive the Megane 265.  As long as you've kept the Dynamic Management setting in Normal mode and the revs low.

Press the button once more to engage 'Sport with ESC' and things liven up.  The throttle requires just a small push to access its power, the steering weights up a little and wants to return to the central position more readily.  Push the throttle until the revs pass 3,000rpm and the Megane 265 turns into what you always knew it could be.

The engine only really lights up between 3 and 6,000 revs.  At that point the Megane 265 comes alive.  Its engine makes a glorious noise and it hurls you forwards.

Accelerate, hold the bucking steering wheel in place, change up, wheels scrabble, change up, keep hanging on.  2nd, 3rd, 4th gear - the car has so much power its driven wheels want to tear themselves from each other, want to free themselves from the driveshafts, LSD, gearbox, engine.

Your eyes never leave the road, the next apex.  Occasional flick down to check speed, never revs.  Gearchanges are conducted through aural feedback alone.  It's a demanding, intensive experience that never feels dangerous, but always feels thrilling.

Amid the frantic delivery the chassis copes well.  Scream into a sharp corner, change into 2nd as you enter, foot heavily on the brake pedal, turn in, foot on accelerator, ESC copes with tyre slip, tiniest amount of wheelspin from inside wheel, eyes on next apex.  Never revs.  Don't look down.  This all happens so quickly, so absorbed you are on the road, movements become fluid.

When it's time to stop you realise your hands are sweaty, your eyes dry from not blinking.

The Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup is that good.

The other mode on the Dynamic Management button is 'Sport ESC off'.  I tried it once.  It was too much.  The tyres can't cope with the power.  There is no ECO mode.  The Megane 265 doesn't do ECO.  It is a full fat, melted cheese dripping, bacon topped, half pound burger compared to most new car's limp salad.

It would be an easy car to live with.  Economy is 38mpg if you drive it sedately.  There's plenty of room up front.  It's got cupholders and a few bits and bobs of storage space.  You don't hear much road noise, in fact it's quite well insulated.  You can tune the stereo in to your smart phone, although not having DAB is a bit of an omission on a £25,000 car.  The gearbox is smooth, as it is in all modern Renaults, and has a short throw.  It has a tight turning circle

The Megane 265 has its faults - the tiny back seats, the faux carbon trim, the silly glovebox but as a sports car it does everything it should.  It is the equivalent of a front wheel drive Porsche Cayman.  Praise can come no higher.

As a value for money proposition the Megane 265 has little competition.  £5k cheaper than a BMW M135i, better to drive than a Focus ST.

If you're looking for a sporty, addictive hatchback, have small children (or none) it really is hard to beat.  Believe the hype.

Just make sure you buy the cheaper Cup version.  You'll be kicking yourself from the comfort of your leather seat as it understeers, due to it's lack of LSD, coming out of every corner.


Price - £24,840
Engine - 2 litre, 4 cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission - 6 speed manual, FWD
Power - 265bhp
Torque - 266lb ft
Weight - 1379kg
0-62mph - 6 seconds
Top speed - 158mph
Fuel consumption - 37.7mpg combinedCO2 - 190