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.
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.
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.
Car: Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup
Run by: Alex (and Dan when circumstances allow)
On fleet since: December 2012
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