Singapore - With the competition placing turbocharged 2.0+ litre engines in their hot-hatches (think: Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R, Seat Leon Cupra, Hyundai i30 N, Ford Focus RS), Renault has done the complete opposite. The previous powerplant in the Megane RS has been dropped in favour of a smaller force fed direct injection 1.8-litre unit.
Don’t let that fool you though, it might be 200cc down but the Megane whips out a remarkable 280 horses and 390Nm of torque for a zero to hundred timing of just 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 255km/h. New to the Megane RS too is the addition of rear doors and the availability of six-speed dual-clutch transmission - all previous cars only came strictly as manual-gearboxed 3-door hatches. The new car has also grown bigger, its 60mm wider at the front, 45mm at the rear and 5mm lower.
Taking the current Renault design DNA and giving it aggressively styled front, rear bumpers and side skirts, the RS also gets Renault Sport badging under the front facade’s Renault logo, over its vented fenders and at the rear tailgate along with its huge central-mounted exhaust and equally large diffuser.
Our test unit’s Serious Yellow paint job - the RS’ signature colour - really brought out the black accents and massive 19-inch wheels that encase Brembo brakes within. Besides the physical and mechanical changes, Renault has also loaded the Megane RS with an arsenal of tech that actually further the course for the car’s claim to the hot-hatch than.
4Control, that’s Renault-speak for four wheel steering, the RS might be a FWD but the rear wheels will turn in accordance to your directional input at high speeds for increased grip and in the opposite angle at low speeds for better manoeuvrability. The Megane RS’ suspension gets hydraulic compression stops to all four shocks - think of it as a damper within a damper- whereby the compression hydraulic in each damper stops and avoids any rebound or pendulum effects during driving for optimum control of tyre/ground contact.
Sounds confusing? Well, on the move think of it as extra dampening even in the bumpiest of roads, the suspension is still stiff but not bone jarring hard; a fine balance between comfort and performance unlike the previous iterations of the Megane RS.
Moving onto the driving, set the transmission into manual mode and the new Megan’s next slick trick will become available - Multi-Gear Downshift - similar to F1 cars, u can now rapidly downshift through multiple gears simultaneously while braking and holding down the left paddle shifter; handy when you need to best gear to be immediately engaged to take on the sharpest of corners.
As the icing on the cake, Renault introduces the RS Monitor to the Megane’s 8.7-inch tablet style infotainment system. This system effectively cancels out any need for the driver to ever need to buy additional gauges as there are nearly 40 over bars, graphs, timers and everything else in between showing you crucial and essential information whenever spirited driving is involved.
For the driver, the instrument cluster has become mostly digital; changing colours depending on which mode you are in. Contrary to our previous experiences with Renault’s EDC transmission, the 6-speed dual-clutch in the Megane RS was nothing short of splendid.
It shifts with lighting speed minus any of the negative attributes from earlier outings in lesser models, in fact, the gearbox will hold second and third gear as long as possible for you to extract the maximum out of the engine, which for a 1.8-litre, never really ran out of puff, at over 6,000rpm it was still pulling - thoroughly impressive!
Throttle response was rapid with barely any noticeable lag, complement that with a spread of gear ratios that are on point and you got a serious giant-slaying hot-hatch. Speaking of wide-open throttle, the Megane will charm your socks off with its repertoire of ‘snap, crackle and pop’ sounds coming from the exhaust with any upshift. You will probably find yourself constantly shifting between second and third just to relish the series of overrun pops and crackles upon coming off the throttle.
In the sharpest of bends the RS remained undeterred, lapping up everything in its path. The car itself is exceptionally balanced allowing you to change directions on a whim with ease and good progression on both pedals, in particular the brakes on the Megane are to simply put - perfect. Another shortcoming of previous RS cars were their lack of ride comfort due to an overemphasis on being a track-ready weapon.
Thanks to the new hydraulic compression stops though, the car is much more liveable now to the point that it can actually be used as a daily driver as the ride is now a lot more forgiving though the suspension is still super firm. That said though, there still is a little bit of torque steer through gears one, two and three when you stomp on the throttle at the lights. But once the car grips, there’s a finesse and flair while driving it, something lacking in a lot of the souped up hatches that have been launched recently.
As such, when it comes to hot-hatches, the new Renault Megane RS stands out with an array of features and a whole lot of personality that allows it to step out from the barrage of high powered competitors that feature overly predictable controls and very little fun factor.