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Driven: Renault's new Megane RS

2018-08-22 16:00

Sean Parker

Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker

The hot hatch segment is one of the most fiercely contested... on paper. In reality, Volkswagen's Golf GTI enjoys unparalleled sales success in Mzansi. 

So, what has Renault got up its sleeve with the new Megane RS to take on the establishment? 

The French automaker is pushing value, Formula 1 tech and a good price... the two-model line-up in Lux and Cup versions both cost R549 000. Purists will take heed knowing the Cup version is available with a six-speed manual gearbox. 

205kW and 390Nm

Visually, the RS model makes its mark with a wider air intake, the body has also been widened and it sits lower to the ground. It looks purposeful, powerful and poised. 

At the back, there's a Formula 1-inspired diffuser and the rear spoiler, according to Renault, provides genuine downforce. 

                                                                  Image:  Wheels24 / Khaya Dondolo

We spent some time around the track in the Lux model, with features the Sport chassis and not the hardcore Cup chassis. 

Around the Aldo Scribante race track in Port Elizabeth, the 1.8-litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine which produces 205kW and 390Nm felt decidedly flat. A 0-100km/h time of 5.8 seconds is quoted, but I struggled to feel the urge. 

However, down the main straight it managed to lick close to the 180km/h figure. There are fixed paddle-shifts on the steering column which conduct changes for the six-speed dual clutch gearbox. 

The 'box does a decent job of executing changes and the exhaust emits a delicious burp on up changes. 

Inside

Play around with the various drive modes: comfort, normal, sport, race and personal via the RS button or the massive touchscreen on the dash. These modes enhance the engine note and stiffen the steering (sport) or completely disable the ESP and enhance agility from the four-wheel steering system (race).   

Renault's fiery, adrenaline-pumping Megane RS is finally in SA: Here's how much the new hot hatch costs in Mzansi

The interior's highlights are a pair of Alcantara-wrapped sports seats which did a good job of keeping me stable while I navigated the track, they're helluva comfortable too.   

You'll find USB and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, my phone connected to AppleCarPlay immediately. Expect four speakers, push-to-talk and audio streaming tech.

                                                                Image:  Wheels24 / Khaya Dondolo

Four-wheel steering

As for the ride comfort, it's impossible to gauge a car's ride quality on a smooth race track, but on Port Elizabeth's average road surface the Megane displayed a comfortable ride. Naturally, I was impressed by the compliant ride but also felt the Megane had lacked the rawness of previous generations. 

First seen on the Megane GT, the RS version also benefits from a four-wheel steering system which helps the car's agility. 

At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels, up to a maximum angle of 2.7 degrees says, Renault. When the tarmac gets twisty, the system delivers 20% more direct steering, says the automaker. 

At high speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction, limited to a one-degree angle for the rear wheels. It's all about positioning the car better for acceleration out of corners, particularly when you've selected Race mode. 

GALLERY: 2018 Renault Megane RS

It's an enjoyable car to drive, dancing around the track with enthusiasm, but very little steering feel. I'd go so far to say artificial. 

Take it for a spin and scrutinise it for yourself, but most people won't push a car to the manner in which we did at Aldo. The Megane certainly delivers, perhaps not in the same way its hardcore versions have in the past. 

The Megane RS offers a lot of performance for the money (when compared to the Golf GTi and Ford Focus ST), so at R549 000, you can't really count it. 

The Cup version and the revised range (Expression and Dynamique) arrives locally in mid-September 2018. 

                                                                Image:  Wheels24 / Khaya Dondolo

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