- Available for £6,000
- Tough 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four
- Easy power, superb handling, and a genuine five-seater
- Not as raw as the old R26R...
- ... but a lot cheaper than an R26R
The first thing we need to clear up here is the name of the car we're featuring in this week's buying guide. Well, we'd like to clear it up, but who knows what the correct answer is? Like you we've seen just about every possible permutation: RenaultSport Megane, Renaultsport Megane, Renault Megane Sport, Megane Renault Sport, Megane RS, Renault Megane RenaultSport, Renault Sport Megane Sport Sport etc etc.
Since 2017 there's been a brand-new gen-three RS (or to be strictly accurate 'R.S.', hmm) based on the gen-four Megane. The first bustle-backed RS225 and 230 came out in 2004, but we reckon that the middle batch of RS Meganes from 2010 to 2016 - the 250, 265 and 275 - represent the best mix of performance, reliability and affordability. More importantly they handled a treat, winning a hatful of 'best performance hatch' awards from a raft of magazines and a lot of well-justified love from owners and enthusiasts, so these 2010-on gen-two RS cars (based on the gen-three Meganes) are the ones we'll be dealing with here. As to what they're called, for the sake of simplicity we'll simply be referring to them as the RS Megane 250, 265 or 275. We're even going to leave the accent off the 'e', heaven help us.
The first difference between the bustleback RS Mk1s and the Mk2s we're looking at is the place of manufacture. Using bodyshells built in Spain, the Mk1s were assembled in Dieppe, the traditional home of performance Renaults (and the new Alpine). Almost all Mk2s however were built entirely in Spain. The only exceptions were the composite-bodied, spaceframe-chassised 3.5 V6 Trophy cars which were bolted together in Dieppe and sold to racers at £126,000 a pop.
In terms of normal road cars, we'll focus on the straight 250 and get into the warmer stuff as we go along. The first thing to say is that there was nothing spectacularly different or exciting about the paper spec of either the first RS 225 of 2003 or the 2010-on RS Megane that followed it. Like so many other cars, they were front-drive hatchbacks powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In the RS225 it was a blown version of the Clio 172 motor: in the 2010 RS250 it was the unfortunately acronymmed 'F4Rt' unit producing 247hp at 5,500rpm and 251lb ft at 3,000rpm.
The transmission was a six-speed manual, again not what you'd call mould-breaking, and despite its extended sills, central exhaust, front splitter and the RS's availability only in 'sporty' three-door coupe format, the third-generation Megane base car had a more grown-up, corporate look about it that even the RS treatment couldn't fully de-bland.
Where the gen-two RS250 and its siblings really scored was, as before, in their ability to make the most of their driveline. The best compliment you can pay any front-wheel drive car is to say that it doesn't drive like a front-wheel drive car. The RS package put together by the chassis gurus of Renault certainly ticked that box. At mundane speeds you had all the usual safety- and traction-oriented benefits of front drive, but as you increased the pace you could feel the car's centre of interest gradually inching rearwards, the back wheels becoming more than just passive recipients of a tow up the road by the fronts. There was no comfort price to be paid for the 250's scalpel-sharp cornering either: the ride remained smooth and fluent in the old-fashioned French style.
On its strut front, torsion beam rear suspension the standard 250 - or Sport, as it was correctly called - was a planted and secure drive, helped by Renault's pivoting, torque-steer reducing Perfohub strut that was their version of Ford Focus RS's RevoKnuckle design. The 250 Cup freed up even more of the chassis's potential. It was a cracking variant not just because of its lower weight and stance, extra rigidity, 'proper' mechanical limited slip diff, 15 percent more anti-roll stiffness and 35 percent stiffer springs, but also because it was a thousand pounds cheaper than the standard 250. You can't imagine that sort of thing happening today. Extra focus nowadays generally means extra moolah, even if you're getting less actual stuff.
It was possible to have the standard Sport 250 with the Cup chassis, but even if you never tried a Cup of any sort you wouldn't be feeling cheated by the Sport's suppleness, control and precision. It wasn't as overtly fast as Ford's Focus RS but in a hypothetical race on a mix of roads there'd be very little in it.
In 2011 the 265 Trophy arrived. Built on the same chassis as the 250 Cup, this 1,387kg variant produced 261hp and 355lb ft thanks to a crank up in turbo pressure. Its special Potenza RE05a tyres reportedly played as big a part as the 15hp and 15lb ft hikes when Renault development driver and Nurburgring specialist Laurent Hurgon set a new Nordschleife front-drive record in one. Its time of just under 8m 8sec was nine seconds quicker than that set by the previous record-holder - the near-legendary Megane R26R - in 2008.
This time around Renault did cash in a little, charging £27,620 for the 265 Trophy. That price also reflected the model's rareness in the UK, with just fifty of the worldwide build of 500 coming here. Considering the fact that the standard spec included Recaro seats, metallic paint and model-unique 19in alloys, and the fact that the extra oomph in no way messed up the handling, it wasn't that big a price to pay.
In 2013 the Red Bull Racing RB8 appeared. Slightly disappointingly, given its branding, there were no tuning mods (if you didn't count the Potenza RE05a tyres). Few begrudged it that, however, as it was still an RS265 Cup and you got a beautiful dark blue paintjob with platinum detailing, along with gloss black 19in wheels, smarter seat materials, a TomTom satnav and the exclusivity that went with a run of just thirty cars. It cost £28,245, which was a £2,500 premium over the Cup, but if you tried to spec up a Cup to the same level you'd be up to the RB8's price before you even got round to fitting the sticky tyres.
This generation of RS Megane went out in a blaze of glory with the excellent RS275 Trophy-R of 2015 and the RS275 Cup-S of 2016, which was the last model before the end of production in July of that year. The 1,394kg, 158mph Cup-S deleted some creature comforts from the standard spec (like satnav, the 7in touchscreen, DAB and dual-zone climate control) but in compensation for that it offered 271hp and 266lb ft with the Cup chassis (stiffer suspension and LSD), cruise and rear parking sensors for a bargain price that made the £3,500 more expensive Golf GTI look a bit sad. You could then have some fun shopping for desirable add-ons like Ohlins dampers (£2,000), a full titanium exhaust by Akrapovic (£2,500), Potenza tyres (£1,000) and so on.
SPECIFICATION | RENAULT SPORT MEGANE 250
Engine: 1,998cc, inline four, 16v twin-scroll turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 247@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 251@3,000rpm
0-62mph: 6.1 secs
Top speed: 155mph
MPG (official combined): 33.6
Tyres: 225/40 (f), 225/45 (r)
On sale: 2010 - 2016
Price new: £23,730
Price now: from £6,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Not so very long ago, the very idea of putting more than 200hp through a car's front wheels was considered outlandish. It's all changed now with front-driver engines like the one in the Honda Civic Type R pumping out more than 300hp. Of course, having that much horsepower at your disposal is one thing. Putting all that, or even a good proportion of it, through to the road is quite another. The Megane RSs were good at that.
With a redline at 6,500rpm the 2.0-litre Megane motor is quite understressed. Speed builds smoothly and without much apparent effort. Some have used the word 'bulletproof' to describe this engine, which sounds like tempting fate. Light tuning is undoubtedly straightforward though, and anecdotally at least as risk-free as this type of thing can be. There are plenty of cars running around with 300hp and no issues, although you might want to invest in some extra cooling if you think you're going to be sitting in traffic a lot. That level of tune will cost you around £300. Some owners reckon the cars produced more power ex-showroom than the stated amount and don't feel that remaps are worth doing. Separate oil cooling is worth thinking about for extended track use but it's not necessary if you're mainly on the public highway.
When you're buying a car like this secondhand, it makes sense not only to look for a spotless service history but also to find out as much as you can about previous owners in order to build up a picture of the kind of treatment it may have had. Shiny low milers that have mainly been used for pottering about plus the odd thrash around the town centre will very possibly be more troublesome than cars that have regularly been given their head on trackdays and the like.
Rattly cambelt pulleys have been an issue. The cambelt should be changed every six years or 75,000 miles. Injectors can be noisy, which is nothing new for Renault. So can the flywheel, the bearings in the six-speed manual gearbox and the clutch. How much attention you want to pay to any of these phenomena will depend on how easy-going you are. If the gearbox noise is down to worn diff bearings, usually as a result of leaking driveshaft oil seals, that will probably mean a new box. Oil leaks can crop up on the top and bottom of the engine, so keep your eye on the driveway. Black or blue smoke on startup is not ideal. Gearbox and engine mounts give up. Clutch slave cylinders can leak fluid onto the anti-roll bar.
This generation of RS Megane might not feel as quick or dramatic as preceding cars like the R26 but much of that apparent difference can prove to be an illusion on the road. A big part of the fun and drama of the older cars was the responsibility they gave to the driver to keep things safe. Modern chassis tech in the newer Megs took a lot of the angst out of the driving experience.
The new ESP system could be fully disabled, fully engaged, or set to a mid point that permitted a degree of front tyre slip before cutting some power. With the best will in the world torque steer has never been held up as a positive handling trait, and it was much less of an issue in the gen-two RSs than it had been in the first cars. Even with everything switched off, wheelspin was effectively limited to first gear. Although the steering wasn't quite as feelsome as before, body control and ride quality were both highly impressive for the type of car. You'd never call the Cup ride plush but it was still pliant.
By the time the 265 came out, the Cup version had been dropped as a standalone model, but you could still option up the Cup's sharper chassis settings (including the GKN torque-biasing diff, 35/38 percent stiffer front/rear springs and 15 percent stiffer roll) for around £1,350. The Cup package also included red calipers for the Brembo brakes. With all the traction and stability aids switched off, the 265's default 247hp became 261hp and the car turned into a driftable, tuck-in-able, tarmac-chewing 160mph hatch, with little of the untidiness that could afflict lesser cars when you tried 'doing it yourself' with no electronic interference.
The regular Sport 250 had Dunlop SP Sport tyres: the Cup had Michelin Pilot Sports. Both came on 18in wheels, the Cup running on Ax-I rims. There was also an option of 19in Steev wheels wearing lower-profile (35) Continentals.
Top mounts have a reputation for splitting and there'll generally be wear to anti-roll bars. Creaking on full steering lock will likely be traceable to worn lower swivel joints. A lot of suspension, steering and drivetrain issues seem to pop up at the 40-50k mile mark. Ball joints are often mentioned in despatches and are a PITA to fix, but specialists will usually do this job for under £150 a side.
From 2014 the RS Meganes 'benefitted' from the Megane range styling refresh, with new headlights, grille and a bigger Renault badge further corporatising the look. The build quality on these gen-two RS Meganes is pretty good and the interior space is surprisingly large for both passengers and cargo. Five and their gear is a practical proposition but you wouldn't want to be one of the three in the back as it's a bit dark and dingy there.
Unlike the previous generation R26R, the 2010-on Meganes had actual rear seats to go with their heavily side-bolstered fronts. Those bolsters are prone to wear. Leather seats, or Recaros, were options.
The new Megane cabins might look and feel a bit second rate in terms of layout and materials compared to that found in cars from more premium brands, but they're a lot more solid than those in Renaults of yore. With the RSs it's best to take the view that Renault spent the money on creating a fine driver's car rather than a cosmetic masterpiece. The yellow face of the tachometer did enliven an otherwise plain interior and the steering wheel was specially designed for the RS to maximise feel.
The R-Link infotainment setup was less than slick but the Renaultsport Monitor software package was more impressive. It turned telemetry data into graphics and allowed you to check (and download) your trackday performance stats, acceleration times, position on the circuit, grin factor etc. You could also use it to adjust throttle map settings, so you could choose between (for example) extreme throttle response for traffic light GPs (well, that was the idea anyway), or linear mode for better control in corners.
Damp footwells tell you that your scuttle drains are blocked, and dicky seat sensors will illuminate the airbag light.
Some will see the gen-two RS Meganes as a throwback to different times. Some of us will rather approve of those times. If you don't believe all-wheel drive to be an essential component in a performance hatch you might come to the same conclusion. This vintage of Megane - particularly the later cars equipped with trick suspension components - proved beyond doubt that a driven back axle was no match for a cohesively tuned front-driver; especially if your overriding concern was circuit driving - or road driving with nearly as much vigour.
Renault is a mass-production company. The sheer number of cars they build logically suggests that more faults will be reported. Add in the sporting nature of their RS cars and the type of hard use to which many of them will be put and you'd be forgiven for having low expectations now, ten years after the first examples of this generation were built, but in fact the reliability record of these cars is not at all bad, all things considered.
We've listed a few common faults in this story but the good news is that the Megane is relatively easy to work on if you are able to tell one end of a spanner from the other. And if you're into your track days you'll see bushes, hubs, track rod ends and the like as consumable items, and fettling will become an enjoyable part of your ownership experience. Which starts off as enjoyable because these cars were built to make us smile.
You should get mpg figures in the low 30s on the motorway and mid-20s in more urban usage. Using high-calorie petrol as well as good quality oils (Ester synthetic is well rated) will be worth the extra expense in the long term. Normal services should come in at £200 or less until you get to the cambelt change, and those are the prices you'll pay at a Renault dealer too, but you do need to choose the right Renault dealer. Allegedly, they're not all kindly disposed towards RS cars. Front tyres get used up quite quickly, as you might expect - 8,000 miles would be typical, compared to more than twice that on the rears - and will cost between £150 and £200 a corner. Brake discs are quite dear (relative to RS Clios anyway) at around £200 a go.
As for which one to get, public opinion falls down heavily on the side of the Cup cars almost entirely because of their diffs. There'll be plenty of support for the view that the 265 with the Cup chassis is the sweet spot in the range but you do need to be aware of the extra firmness of the chassis. It's a win whichever RS Megane you choose because these cars were superb value when new and they still are now. We found a 129,000 mile 2010 car for the ridiculous sum of £5,989.
Spending a bit more will obviously bring that mileage down. In PH Classifieds we found this silver 2010 car with 85,000 miles at £7,995. Its service history only goes up to 58k, sadly, but on the other hand it does have the Cup pack, Recaro seats and the fun Monitor ting.
Chuck another grand into the pot and you're into this 45,000-mile 265 from 2012. It's had a fair few owners but the belts were done 10,000 miles ago making it very much worth a look at £8,995.
This 48,000-mile 265 looks the part in Oyster Grey with black leather is quite a bit more expensive that that but it's a year younger and even at £11,750 it will hardly break the bank. Predictably there's an additional premium for later 275 cars - here's a fully-kitted 2016 model with similar miles for £13,390.
1 / 15