Tuesday 12th March 2013


RENAULT MEGANE 265 CUP: PH FLEET

A few out-of-town excursions mean Scrof's warmed to the Megane somewhat


Last month, you caught me in a somewhat grouchy mood. It was the result of having to get to grips with the Megane’s myriad little niggles on my daily commute. And while the niggles haven’t really gone away, I was aware that I hadn’t really given the Megane much chance to shine away from the congested arteries that make up my usual drive into work.

Megane gets a fancy new barnet...
Megane gets a fancy new barnet...
So I made a point of taking it out for a blast on more than one occasion this month. And the good news is that it’s gone up in my estimation as a result. What’s more surprising, though, is the manner in which it did so.

It was an early Sunday morning, and I was on the way up to Sunday Service at Silverstone. I had Joe Satriani on the stereo, and it was a blissfully deserted motorway cruise up as the sun rose. And you know what? The Megane was, suddenly, great company.

What really made it was the engine. It’s a cracker, this 2.0-litre turbo. There’s a solid wodge of torque right there whenever you squeeze the throttle, and the way the Megane accrues speed almost without trying, accompanied by all sorts of whooshes and pops, is phenomenal. Addictive, too.

...before meeting up with an old friend
...before meeting up with an old friend
Turning off the motorway, a brief spurt in the twisties confirmed that the chassis is just as good. That engine can be put to good use hauling you out of corners at faintly unbelievable speeds thanks to the diff. Yes, the power does sometimes overwhelm the front wheels, causing scrabbling, tugging, and a bit of nose drift, but you can’t buy a front-driver with this much power and not expect a little bit of that. In any case, it’s just the Megane’s way of warning you you’re being too heavy-footed; ease off, and it comes neatly back into line without any unnecessary drama. And it’s shockingly, unremittingly, devastatingly quick. Into each bend, along each straight, the speeds just gets higher and higher, and before you know it you’re having to back off not because the car can’t handle it, but because your senses can’t keep up.

So I arrived at Silverstone in a positive frame of mind, positively bubbling with praise for the Megane. It is a fantastic driver’s car, and I really do think that in those terms it’s probably the best of the current hot hatch crop. If pure, unmitigated kicks are paramount, and a hatchback is a must, I’d recommend it highly. And what’s more, with that engine, the standard cruise control and a ride that’s surprisingly compliant, it’s actually an unexpectedly enjoyable way to cover long distances, too. I certainly didn’t expect that when we took delivery of a Cup-chassis’d Renault.

Still looks good in this colour combo though
Still looks good in this colour combo though
But I’m still not entirely sold on it. I’ve long held the belief that a hot hatch should be a good all-rounder, and the more the niggles I mentioned last month infuriate, the more I feel it falls short in areas other than driver enjoyment. It’s not just me, either: Mr Garlick of this parish took the car for a few days recently and returned complaining of some of the same issues, notably the heater’s reluctance to warm up properly and the driving position, which feels nigh-on impossible to get right. That point was proven when I got back into the car to drive it after him, and found it took around two days of fiddling before I was able to find a position I felt comfortable enough in. And I’m still finding the stop-start occasionally gets confused and fails to restart the car. And yes, I’ve tried turning it off; it just turns itself back on again when the engine is next started.

On the whole, though, my feelings on the Megane have undoubtedly taken a turn for the positive this month. I feel happier to call it one of the best – if not, the best – front-driver around today in the curves, and it’s surprisingly good for the long haul too. If that’s all that matters to you, and you’re prepared to live with some inherent awkwardness, you won’t find anything better. But that inherent awkwardness is still a sticking point for me – one which means I’m still struggling to love it 100 per cent of the time.


FACT SHEET
Car:
Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup
Run by: Alex (and Dan when circumstances allow)
On fleet since: December 2012
Mileage: 6,042
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: Scrof finally finds some love for the Megane. It's not unconditional just yet, though.

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

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

Author: Alex Robbins
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