Tuesday 12th February 2013


PH FLEET: RENAULT MEGANE 265 CUP

Scrof finds living with the Megane day-to-day isn't as enjoyable as driving it fast


If you’ve been following the progress of our Megane long termer, you’ll have read so far of Dan’s exploits both on and off track that generally involved apexes, cornering speeds, grip and understeer/oversteer balance. I, meanwhile, have been exploring the other side of the Megane’s personality – namely, those to do with contraflows, SPECS systems, stop-start traffic and speed bumps.

Megane has revealed a few... erm... 'quirks'
Megane has revealed a few... erm... 'quirks'
Yes, after Dan’s stint at the wheel over Christmas, the keys to the Renault have been handed to me. I was, naturally, delighted – Dan’s had many a good thing to say about the Megane’s driving experience. But there’s been a problem. Most of my driving these days is done on congested motorways; on that vast swathe of the M25 around Clackett Lane that’s been turned into a 50mph limit thanks to roadworks, to be precise.  

As such, my time with the Megane so far has been less about B-road blasts and more about Radio 2’s traffic reports. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard about the snow gates being closed on the A93 at the Spittal of Glenshea. Still, the experience has at least given me plenty of time to get acclimatised to my new travelling companion. And I have to say, we’ve not made the best of friends so far.

I was most concerned about what the Cup’s ride quality might be like when I first took to the wheel. Actually, it hasn’t been much of a problem. Despite offering a super-taut chassis, the Cup’s well-damped, and although I’d never describe it as cosseting, it isn’t as jarring as you might expect. No, the problems have been more niggling than that. You might not think that much of them, but together they conspire to make the majority of my journeys in the Megane a rather tiring experience.

Standard setting for the climate control...
Standard setting for the climate control...
First up, there’s the clutch, which is stiffly-sprung and leaves you with cramp in your ankle after too long in a queue. Then there’s the long-arms, short-legs driving position – fine for some, but it leaves me feeling as though I’m sitting on top of the steering wheel, craning over it, rather than comfortably ensconced behind it. The stereo’s fiddly to use and can’t handle anywhere near enough bass, and the steering column stalk has far too many unintelligible buttons on it. The trip display has a vast array of functions, which leaves you cycling endlessly through tyre pressure information (front, then rear), service indicator and digital speedo just to get to the readout you want, and then the range indicator changes to useless dashes below 35 miles – just when you need it most.

The plastics feel a bit cheap in places, and the odd carbon fibre effect padded vinyl on the door is just plain weird. The climate control seemingly needs to be set to sub-tropical temperatures to get it anywhere near warm enough... and then there’s the auto stop-start. This sometimes takes an age to kick the car back into life, and occasionally doesn’t actually re-start the car at all. Which leaves you flailing around at a green light trying to work out why the engine hasn’t started and the car’s beeping at you as you gently and powerlessly roll back towards the car behind you. Oh, and the doors are simply too big for any normal parking space.

Good job it still makes us smile on a fast road!
Good job it still makes us smile on a fast road!
Sorry, I know that was a not-really-at-all-well-disguised rant, but when you spend four hours a day in a car having to deal with these little things, they get to you. It isn’t that the Megane is a bad car; it’s just not an easy one to live with. There’s a general sense that things haven’t quite been thought out as well as they could; as well as they have been on, say, a Focus ST or a Golf GTI.

In the Megane’s defence, though, the moments I have managed to get it alone on a back road (oo-er missus) have shown that it can do more there than either of those two. It’s an utter joy to drive fast; not quite as planted as many modern performance cars, but the better for that. The back end is loose, but predictable; meanwhile, up front, the diff hauls you around corners. There’s more power than it can handle on anything but a dry road, but in those circumstances that slightly ragged scrabbliness just adds to the fun. It’s a gripping car to drive fast, and that’s almost led me to forgive its foibles.

Almost, but not quite. Not just yet, anyway. I think I’ll need more time alone with it to really figure out whether the driving experience is worth living with the niggles, but at the moment it really could go either way.  The one upside is that it’s not made of newspaper and filler. Which, in myworld, stands it in good stead at the moment.


FACT SHEET
Car:
Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup
Run by: Alex (and Dan when circumstances allow)
On fleet since: December 2012
Mileage: 4,010
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: A go-slow month reveals that the Megane isn't as fun to live with as it is to drive

Previous reports:
The Megane impresses, even from the passenger seat
New arrival! Megane 265 Cup joins the fleet...

Author: Alex Robbins
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