RENAULT MEGANE 225 CUP
Steve Bell diarises his time with Renault's sporty new hatch
Renault Megane 225 Cup
Renault Megane 225 Cup
I didn’t get off to a good start with the Renault. Being stuck in traffic trying to collect the Mégane Cup, then fighting my way through the Friday night rush hour, made it hard to familiarise myself with the car.
Little things like the steering wheel adjustment lever which, instead of being under the steering column, is on the left. Then there’s the headlight level beam. It’s tucked too far down the right of the dash to catch a glimpse of where it’s positioned. As luck had it, my timing was good enough to escape the long queues, and within 15 minutes, I was on the M3 heading back towards London. Eventually settling down, the Mégane Cup is very quiet at 70 mph. It’s all very -- well -- civilised.
Basically, this Mégane has gone on a strict diet, the suspension has been stiffened, and the brakes uprated to Brembos just so that if the mood takes you, it can be driven as a track car as well as ferrying the kids to school. Hence the “Cup” name. This should all translate into a brisker car. But the trouble is, all 225 horses arrive between 4,000 and 6500 rpm. The 2.0-litre engine has so much torque, that it’s all over within a few hundred yards.
Then there is the sloppy gear change. It’s not what you would call smooth, nor direct. There is a long throw between changes, and it will catch you out if you're not forceful enough. At some point, you’ll end up selecting fifth instead of third. Despite the setbacks, both front tyres have no problem dispersing the power, even giving it large from a standstill, it barely bites back with any torque steer.
Yesterday wasn’t the best of days I’ve had at the wheel of a car, so I was hoping that my second outing with the 225 Cup, would be better. I decided to make up some time by heading out quite early. Using Renault’s card-key is odd at first, but the Mégane Cup starts up with a low hum from the exhaust, but unlike its looks, it doesn’t frighten people as you drive past.
My feelings towards the power available haven’t changed since yesterday. Hit the pedal, and from 2,000 to 4,000rpm, there’s the familiar turbo surge, but keep the throttle buried past 4,000rpm right up to the rev limiter, and expect warp drive.
But the clutch told a different story. It’s too light, and after ten or so minutes, it started to give out a “warping” sound, which tells me too many times giving a bit of stick isn’t a healthy option. Then there’s the gearbox. Yes, the gearing is perfectly spaced, but Renault hasn’t focused on the overall feel. It's a bit like stirring a bowl of porridge.
So, was day two as bad as yesterday? Well, not quite. Aside from the suspension designed for the race track, and the powerplant that delivers its power too quickly, the Megane Cup shows its mettle as you start to hammer through decent open roads.
Below 80 mph and it’s much like any other hot hatch. Exciting enough, but you’ve seen it all before. It's in the twisties that it shines. Don’t dab the brake pedal entering a corner. Instead, shove the loud pedal and sit back as the Sport Cup shows off its cornering abilities -- it delivers almost as much G force as the Mitsubishi Evo IX and doesn’t budge or skit. While much of this is down to the traction control, whose intervention is almost undetectable, if you get it right, you won’t see the yellow warning light flash.
After a full day repeatedly charging through quiet B roads, I’m more impressed than before. The positives remain its cornering capabilities, torquey engine, and a very reasonable price. For £18,000, you get a fabulous track day car. If that’s what you need, then your money's well spent.
The car's too compromised for everyday use, though. The rock hard suspension can’t cope with potholes and imperfections, the clutch and gearbox ruin the fun and, most of the time, the steering is vague until you push it over the limit. The brakes need constant heat to work efficiently (fine for track use but not the A408) and the power delivery is over too quickly.
So why bother? Renault reckons there's a huge market for this version, with nearly 20 per cent of all Mégane Sports ordered with the Cup Pack. However, for me it doesn’t excite enough to warrant spending over £18,000 -- given there are so many others to choose from.