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RenaultSport Megane 250 2009 Road Test

Fri, 23 Oct 2009

A class-winning Nurburgring lap time of 8 minutes 16.9 seconds made RenaultSport’s stripped out Megane R26.R hottest of the hot hatchbacks. Quicker than any other front wheel drive car ever. But now we’ve got a new Megane and a new RenaultSport Megane 250.

They’ve upped the power, to a storming 250PS at 5,500rpm, and the torque to 340NM at 3,000rpm.

And, as is the case with the RenaultSport Twingo and Clio, offer it in two versions: a hard core Cup, and a more luxurious Sport.

The RenaultSport Megane 250 Cup isn’t as bare bones as the R26.R. It comes with aircon, Renault keycard, RAID automatic door locking, electric heated door mirrors, 60W RDS MP3 compatible CD Player, Bluetooth, ISOFIX rear child seat tethers, rear parking sensors, 8 airbags, Renault Dynamic Management, giving the option of two levels of ESP or switching it off completely a yellow faced rev counter and, rather surprisingly, cruise control with a speed limiter.

On top of that, you get as standard the Cup Suspension Pack of limited slip differential; stiffer springs dampers and anti-roll bar; 340mm grooved front brake discs, red painted Brembo four pot brake callipers, 235/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres and 18” x 8.25” ‘AX-L’ alloy wheels in satin black. And all for £21,995.

The alternative is to cough up and extra £1,000 for the slightly softer riding Sport that offers two tone leather upholstery, heater front seats, electric drivers seat, Renault Hands Free card, dual zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, 18” x 8.25” ‘Keza’ alloy wheels with 225/40 Dunlop Sport Maxx TT tyres, rear privacy windows, tyre pressure monitor and Multi-Functional TunePoint computer.

If you want the Cup Suspension Pack you can have that too, for an extra £1,950, bringing the total price to £24,945. Plus £450 for factory fitted Carminat TomTom Satnav. Neatly integrated LED Daytime Running lights are £150. And, if you must have 19” alloys you can get them with 235/35 Continental Sport Contact tyres for a further £500.

All the cars on test, both Cup and Sport spec were on the optional 19” Speedline alloys with 235/35 tyres.

The Cup is obviously the one for track day enthusiasts and anyone planning to tackle the Nurburgring Nordschleife. And while those thin strips of rubber do bang over ridges, the ride quality isn’t spine shattering.

With progressive power delivery, very little roll, nice, informative steering and that demon differential it’s a sweet car to drive quickly, throwing up no nasty surprises, nor heavy-handed intrusion from the ESP in either of the ‘on’ settings.

Renault was so confident of its abilities it booked us a private race-track to try the car on and there, too, it didn’t disappoint. Usually I don’t like racetracks much, but I did enjoy this track driving this car and could have stayed out for a lot more laps than the six we were allowed. Afterwards, I had the privilege of a ride with the French National Tarmac Rally Champion, learned what I’d been doing wrong, and came away even more impressed. The car simply does what you tell it to do, whether you want it to grip or throw its back end out to help you round a tight corner.

We spent our second day in the company of the plusher Sport version, with slightly softer ride and without the trick diff, and, for everyday driving, since I’m not a track day aficionado, that’s the one I’d choose. The linear power delivery (accompanied by a nice rasping soundtrack from the central exhaust) is almost ideal for every eventuality. Despite quite a high ratio giving 27.7mph per 1,000rpm it even pulls strongly in 6th. And handling and general road feel are far nicer than a Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R, VW Golf GTI, VW Scirocco, MINI Cooper JCW or Mazda 3 MPS.

The RenaultSport double-axis ‘PerfoHubs’, that separate steering from damping, prevent any unpleasant torque steer which is still very evident in the Focus RS, MINI JCW and Mazda 3 MPS, and that’s even without the limited slip differential of the Cup chassis.

(Explanation: On a MacPherson Strut type front suspension, as on the standard Megane, the steering axis is between the ball-joint of the lower arm and the upper damper mounting. With the PerfoHub system the axis around which the steered wheel rotates is defined by the pivoting link between the hub carrier and pivot carrier. This reduces the hub level offset to 40mm compared to 56mm of the standard Megane, and also allows the fitting of bigger brake discs.)

CO2 is 195g/km, which puts it Band J for VED, £215 this year, £235 next year, and the near 28mph per 1,000rpm top gear means the combined economy of 33.6mpg has to be easily achievable.

Only one criticism. The gearchange of the PK4 transmission was a bit obstructive.

Otherwise, to write, “I was impressed” is an understatement. I really liked this car. I could definitely live with it day in, day out.

The worry would be points on an otherwise unblemished licence.


Test of Standard Renault Megane Coupe at www.honestjohn.co.uk/road_tests/index.htm?id=357

For prices, availability, specifications, powertrain details, dimensions, and performance figures please click the tabs.


More at www.renault.co.uk

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