BMW M135i vs Renaultsport Megane 265


Are a four-cylinder front-driven hot-hatch and a straight-six turbocharged BMW really fighting for the same audience? You can read on to find out but if a Megane is on your shopping list it can't have escaped your attention that it's not that much further to stretch to an M135i. Worth it though? And is rear-wheel drive really the be-all, end-all? If any car can challenge that assertion it's the Megane.

On paper this leap will cost you £10K...
On paper this leap will cost you £10K...
At the wheel
The BMW is too nuanced to boil this down to a simple case of blunt weapon versus sharpened blade, tempting as it may be. On the numbers the BMW is clearly packing a heavier punch than the Megane but it's also carrying 121kg more.

By the numbers the BMW is decisively the quicker machine though, subjectively and objectively. Peak torque comes in at 1,500rpm on the BMW, 3,000rpm on the Renault, meaning you have to be up in the revs on the Megane for it to really come alive. But the BMW's got top end too, and a more charismatic sound once there meaning there's incentive to explore life beyond the torque band.

Then there's the question of the driven wheels. The Megane might put its power through the front but with the optional diff it makes much more of its traction through and out of the corners than the BMW, whose lack of an LSD means it too often spins away its power advantage through its unladen wheel and subsequent intervention, be that you or the electronics. In the wet the Megane is an absolute weapon too, clawing at the tarmac where the BMW scrabbles for traction. The M135i feels fast but stodgy in comparison to the Megane, which is always on its toes and spoiling for a fight, the knife-edge chassis much more exploitable than a front-driven car has any right to be. And it just gets better the harder you push it. On a motorway the BMW rules supreme but on a slithery winter B-road the Megane will leave it standing.

...reality is not quite so clear cut though
...reality is not quite so clear cut though
Basically the BMW is fabulous up to about eight tenths while the Megane only really comes to life and shows its class in the final two. Where you pitch your driving tastes - or requirements - should be the ultimate deciding factor.

Feelgood factors
In the BMW it's that ability to feel as cosseting as a downsized 5 Series on a dreary motorway commute and then morph into a pint-sized muscle hatch at the press of a button from Eco Pro to Sport Plus. There are few driving situations where the BMW doesn't punch way above its weight and few 'normal' cars are going to leave it standing.

The Renault makes you work harder for your thrills and is more single-minded in its approach. In the BMW you have modes to suit your mood. In the Megane it's maximum attack all the time and up to you to play along. When the road, moment and appetite converge it's exceptional. On a bumpy high street, when you're not feeling it, less so.

Four-cylinders and FWD a knife to a gun fight?
Four-cylinders and FWD a knife to a gun fight?
Bragging rights
If badge snobbery and the spec sheet stats matter to you then there's really no contest here - the BMW hammers the Renault on prestige and bald performance numbers. And the traditional appeal of the rear-driven chassis - rare in this price bracket - probably seals it for the purist driver brigade too.

But if you're willing to look beyond status and numbers the Megane has the pedigree and ability that go far beyond its more humble roots. And on a track it's the real deal.

Meanwhile, in the real world...
To compare like with like you'd really want a three-door M135i rather than 'our' five-door. On pure practicality terms neither car is especially accommodating of anyone other than the driver and front-seat passenger. Space in the back of both is limited for full-size people, though fine for kids. The Renault has a bigger boot, though hampered by a small load hatch and tall sill, the five-door and auto options for the BMW opening up the scope to those who need a more all-round machine.

Renaultsport faster than the numbers suggest
Renaultsport faster than the numbers suggest
The BMW's slick controls, glitzy navigation and cool, minimalist interior all feel from a class above the Renault. But the Megane counters with a sense of fun from the upgraded Renaultsport Monitor, the grippy Recaros and brilliantly harmonised controls.

Do they compare on price?
Perhaps not at first glance. The Megane starts at £25,545 for the Cup, rising to £26,745 for the 'full fat' and £28,245 for the special edition RB8 here. The BMW kicks off at £30,570 for a manual five-door, £31,100 for a five-door. As tested (see below for full details) the Megane weighs in at £29,370 while our carefully optioned Cup that we ran as a PH Fleet car not so long ago came in at £28,115.

On paper then you're looking at a near 10-grand price leap to a specced up M135i. They don't call BMW a 'premium' brand for nothing, though the six-cylinder motor and power advantage do make the pill easier to swallow.

Recaros or plump red leather? Seats say much!
Recaros or plump red leather? Seats say much!
Do they REALLY compare on price?
As we're finding out, BMW dealers seem to be reasonably malleable on M135i pricing, with PHers reporting low 30s and even high 20s being enough to secure sensibly specced cars with all the toys you'd reasonably want. That's pretty depressing reading if you're trying to make a financial case for the Renault, though our colleagues at What Car? put the standard Megane's target price at £22,289 against the £28,137 for a three-door M135i by the same measure.

Conclusion
We need to split this conclusion in two really. By the numbers it's hard to see how the Renaultsport can really offer much of a challenge to the M135i's awesome package of ability and value for money. The BMW wins on quality, comfort, badge appeal and raw speed.

But this is PH. And, hopefully, our car buying decisions aren't entirely dictated by cold, hard logic.

Best seat in the house for pure thrills
Best seat in the house for pure thrills
And as a pure driver's machine the Megane pours scorn over it's supposed 'wrong-wheel drive' format, more humble four-cylinder powertrain and hatchback roots. This is an exceptional driver's car that really comes into its own just as the BMW's hugely impressive 'real world' abilities and easy-win performance starts to fade.

Best buy? It's got to be the BMW. But the ultimate driving machine? That'll be the Megane.

 

 

 


Further reading...
BMW M135i vs ... the world!
BMW M135i vs Toyota GT86
BMW M135i vs Porsche Cayman 2.7
BMW M135i vs Audi S3
BMW M135i vs used Porsche 911 Carrera


RENAULTSPORT MEGANE 265 RB8
Engine:
1,998cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 265@3,000rpm
0-62mph: 6.0sec
Top speed: 158mph
Weight: 1,379kg
MPG: 37.7mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 174g/km
Price: £28,245 (£29,370 as tested inc. £200 for extra tinted rear and tailgate windows, £250 for keyless entry, £95 for spare wheel and £580 for Climate Pack inc. climate control, auto lights and wipers)

BMW M135i
Engine:
2,979cc six-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (8-speed auto optional)
Power (hp): 320@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,300-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.1 sec (auto 4.9 sec)
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,500kg
MPG: 35.3 (37.7 auto) (NEDC combined)
CO2: 188g/km (175g/km auto)
Price: £30,525 (before options) £37,680 (as tested inc. £515 for Adaptive M Sport suspension, aluminium trim, complimentary BMW Business Loudspeaker system, £295 for DAB, £360 for Driver Comfort Package comprising cruise and parking sensors, £90 for 'extended storage', £250 for dimming/folding mirrors, full black panel display, high-gloss black finish, £95 for 'internet', £200 for driver/passenger lumbar support, £1,995 for BMW Professional Multimedia, £515 for metallic paint, £235 for front/rear Park Distance Control, £265 for seat heating, £1,600 for Sport auto transmission, £290 for Sun Protection Package, £450 for Visibility Package inc. adaptive xenon lights)

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (128) Join the discussion on the forum

  • VeeFource 19 Sep 2013

    Roma101 said:
    toppstuff said:
    Seriously, when was the last time you saw a Renault 11 or even a 19? The 19 isn't that old.

    Come to that, even first generation Meganes are disappearing from our roads.

    Clios and Lagunas too - all being scrapped at a rapid rate.

    In contrast, you still see plenty of old 3 series BMWs knocking around. I don't for a moment believe things have suddenly changed and the French are suddenly making cars with deep down build quality. And there is no evidence in the modern reliability surveys to suggest things are changing either.

    In short. This shiny Megane will be a shed not long after the finance payments are finished.
    I'm not talking about their older cars. I'm talking about their recent cars - i.e. the last decade or so, of which I have a lot of experience. My point is that even in the last decade or so the quality of the cars has improved a lot and now it is very good. A number of people above have put counter arguments to your other points above, so I will just ask why you don't think Renault would have improved the quality of their cars in the last 15 or so years? I find that baffling. Improvement in technology, knowledge, materials, methods and also the need to. If they had not made that effort, they would have folded ages ago. Don't forget their relationship with Nissan. I am sure there would have been/is a lot of knowledge and process sharing there, which perhaps partly explains the improvement.

    Seriously, PH, can we stop this silly anti-French rubbish once and for all.
    Renault do seem to have improved according to the What Car reliability index above. But I can't help but think back to the moment when I discovered why my 350Z's boot kept filling up with water; it was the cabin air vents which had big Renault logos on them! Made my own seals and problem sorted.. did make me chortle though

  • daveknott5 18 Sep 2013

    Dblue said:
    Absolutely. Not saying otherwise but its a fair bit further away from the usability of the BMW. Also I've seen a few comparisons between the 2 suggesting quite the opposite.
    Agreed, EVO seemed to think the Megane absolutely destroys the GT86/BRZ for fun and adrenaline....

  • Dblue 18 Sep 2013

    daveknott5 said:
    Well a few months ago PH compared the Megane with the BRZ and the BRZ won. So by that logic, the GT86 must be more fun than both the Megane 265 and the M135i.........

    http://www.pistonheads.com/roadtests/doc.asp?c=47&...


    Edited by daveknott5 on Wednesday 18th September 13:23
    Absolutely. Not saying otherwise but its a fair bit further away from the usability of the BMW. Also I've seen a few comparisons between the 2 suggesting quite the opposite.

  • zebra 18 Sep 2013

    nickfrog said:
    jerrytlr said:
    I actually quite like the look of the 1 series ............
    Well I thought I was alone ! I got insulted here for daring to like it !
    The looks swayed me to buying one. Happy to be different.

  • daveknott5 18 Sep 2013

    Well a few months ago PH compared the Megane with the BRZ and the BRZ won. So by that logic, the GT86 must be more fun than both the Megane 265 and the M135i.........

    http://www.pistonheads.com/roadtests/doc.asp?c=47&...


    Edited by daveknott5 on Wednesday 18th September 13:23

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