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Tuesday 8th January 2013


PH FLEET: RENAULTSPORT MEGANE 265 CUP

The Megane impresses, even from the passenger seat


A fleeting drive in the Megane is a bittersweet event. Not least because I wonder how much future there is for mainstream firms like Renault to build such uncompromisingly focused cars like this. When even the 911 GT3 - threatened with PDK only and a non-Mezger engine - looks like it may be toned down a tad next time around, you've got to wonder whether the business case for such driver oriented cars really has gone for good.

A greasy Blyton first track outing for Megane
A greasy Blyton first track outing for Megane
Enough moping; let's enjoy what we've got. I may have told a slight white lie when I said the Caterham was the first car I'd driven in months. Actually it was the Megane, but as I powered up Blyton's first straight it felt like only yesterday since I'd last been behind the wheel.

Familiar with the Clio 197 and 200, I'd always felt that the previous generation Renaultsport Megane was a very different car. Brilliant in its own right, especially the diffed R26 and .R. But where the Clio is all on its toes, pointy and super alert the Meganes always felt a little more grip-focused. Massively capable and very, very fast, but more planted and less adjustable. I remember thinking as much when I first drove the 250 version, but immediately this generation Megane has more of the Clio about it. It's got that same sense of agility, underpinned with a lot more pace and traction thanks, respectively, to the turbo and diff.

Pointy like a Clio but much faster - we like!
Pointy like a Clio but much faster - we like!
The old Meganes had a very flat engine note too, making it easy to run into the rev limiter and its characteristic chuffing stutter. There's some induction trickery going on with this car making it sound more normally aspirated, at least to the driver. In the back seat it's got that same Vader's fart blast from the exhaust, as a camera mounted to the rear screen at Blyton reveals.

Bar, initially at least, slightly less bite than I'd have hoped for from the brake pedal, the Megane felt fast and alert round Blyton's greasy tarmac too. Massive traction, an easily adjustable attitude and beautifully harmonised controls made it an absolute joy. I stuck with the progressive throttle setting in the Renaultsport Monitor and for a turbo car it's beautifully crisp, eagerly responding to blipped downshifts like a normally-aspirated Clio but without any of the low-rev lethargy.

Dan gets first track shakedown in the Cup
Dan gets first track shakedown in the Cup
Sadly, for the rest of my time with it I was in the passenger seat, co-driving for my brother on the run up north for Christmas. This was interesting, and a chance to concentrate more on the talents of the Cup chassis. Make no mistake, it is effing stiffly sprung. But it's also brilliantly well damped.

The way the Megane deals with rapid-fire bumps is the really impressive thing. It never wallows or writhes. Sharp transverse bumps thump through the dampers but they all work as a quartet so the car never porpoises. And it settles instantly, meaning even at maximum attack on knackered moorland roads the harshest of mid-corner bump refuses to unsettle it. Couple that with immense wet-weather traction and you have a car that can rip apart a winter B-road so effectively you wonder what could keep up. No wonder Subaru couldn't shift any Imprezas.

It's all about the front axle, mind, to the extent you sometimes wonder if the back wheels are simply there to prop the rear end up off the floor. No matter. Anyone who writes off 'wrong-wheel drive' needs a blast with the Megane.

Megane absolutely in its element here
Megane absolutely in its element here
There are practical issues. It doesn't feel much bigger inside than a Clio. I guess it is officially a 'coupe' and you buy accordingly. But don't be fooled into thinking it's a Golf GTI/Focus ST style all rounder. The rear is tight and claustrophobic, and you can't get your feet under the Recaros. The boot is small, too, and has a high sill and an oddly-shaped aperture. It is, thanks to chafing from the seatbelts, literally a pain in the neck at times too.

Basically, if you're trying to sneak a Cup onto the family fleet as a do-it-all runaround you'll be rumbled in an instant. It's a selfish car, all about the driver. But that's fine. There aren't many like it left, in any market sector.



FACT SHEET
Car:
Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup
Run by: Alex (and Dan when circumstances allow)
On fleet since: December 2012
Mileage: 2,230
List price new: 28,115 (Basic list of 24,840 plus 350 for Renaultsport Monitor, 1,300 for Recaro seat upgrade, 750 for bi-xenon lights, 250 for hands free card with push-button start, 75 for spare wheel, 250 for tyre pressure monitor, 300 for Arkamys Bluetooth/USB ICE system)
Last month at a glance: First track shakedown complete, winter driving credentials tested

Previous reports:
New arrival! Megane 265 Cup joins the fleet...

Author: Dan Trent