With a temper tantrum that erupts at 3000rpm, the RS Megane 225 is still a cracking good hot-hatch.
- 2010 Renault Sport Megane 225; 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol; six-speed manual; four-door hatch - $43,990*
- Metallic Paint $800 (Fitted - Deep Black)
Words by Matt Brogan | Photos by Brendan Nish
On paper the Renault Sport Megane 225 might seem a little down on power and torque when compared to some of its newer rivals, and considering this car has been with us since 2006, newer rivals are rather plentiful.
But despite the figures, and despite Megane's ageing looks, this particular variant is still a cracking good drive - and in some ways, one that must be treated with just a little respect.
The RS Renault Megane 225 is for the most part a no-frills package, though a keen eye will note the Brembo brakes and sports seats as a perspicuous sign a true hot-hatch lies beneath that somewhat jejune exterior.
Megane's ungainly large posterior and box-like cabin do however lend the car a spacious five-seat interior with enough room to stretch out - even up back.
The cockpit presents enough amenity to be fitting of the $40K price tag - just - with single-zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control (with speed limiter function) and a six-CD tuner included as standard.
Sadly, and again due to the car's age, new fangled gizmos like satellite navigation, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and a plug for your iPod are left looming on the wish list.
The interior might look the goods, and for the car's orientation it's considerably comfortable, but if you're a stickler for quality, the plastic rattles in the dashboard and door trims will be enough to drive you to drink.
So it's a good thing then that most of the time you'll be having too much fun to care. The RS Megane 225 is one of those cars that just begs to be driven hard and is far better suited to a Sunday morning shellacking through your favourite section of deserted alpine road than it is meandering down to the shops - though it will do that just as well.
It's electronics and differential are of a different age, and comparing the RS Megane 225 head-to-head with some newer models may reveal its uncouth, torque steer-side as an unwelcome predator, waiting to catch out the unsuspecting novice, but if you're up for a little wrestle - or you're the type who uses front-drive dynamics to your advantage - the temper tantrum that erupts just north of 3000rpm can be a thrilling way to spend a tank of fuel.
And spend fuel you will. Our week-long road test returning a thirsty 13.3L/100km, quite a stretch from Renault's combined average fuel consumption figure of 8.4L/100km.
Under the bonnet - which you'll have to open from the passenger side - is Renault's turbocharged 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine developing a very hearty 165kW at 5500rpm and near-instant 300Nm torque hit at 3000 revs.
The turbo makes a curious, mischievous whistle when it comes on boost that sounds like a vacuum cleaner stuck in warp drive, though disappointingly, the exhaust note is rather inaudible - a shame given the obvious statement the placement of the outlets make.
Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the RS Meganne 225 offers a good spread of ratios for maintaining pace, and always feels like its in that 'sweet spot', ready to pounce with just a touch more throttle. The shifter however is disappointingly long of throw, and lacks any precision to the touch, feeling more like a spoon in a tub of custard.
The pedal box is tight enough to heel and toe, and the usually slippery polished metal foot flaps offer enough grip for the enthusiastic driver - provided you can keep them dry.
Clutch feel is rather on-off in function, brisk and quite firm, while the brake pedal is tight, yet suitably progressive for a fine level of control over those big Brembo stoppers.
As you'd no doubt expect from the team at Renault Sport, handling is nothing short of exhilarating. The strut (F) / torsion beam (R) arrangement is tightly sprung, almost solid underfoot with tenacious grip allowing you to make the most of the car's nimble size, once, that is, the tyres warm (this seemed to take a while).
Lift off the throttle as you poke the nose at the apex and the tail slides ever so slightly, deliciously drifting the back-end in to shape, just in time to take the next corner, and the next... it's really quite addictive.
Like every car in the Renault range, the RS Megane 225 offers a well endowed safety package. The car boasts a maximum possible five-star ANCAP rating thanks to ESC with Traction Control, ABS brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution plus the reassurance of front, side and curtain airbags. All five seating positions offer head restraints and three-point inertia reel seatbelts (the front seat passengers also score pyrotechnic pretensioners on their belts).
Up back, that big butt lends the Megane a spacious 330-litre boot. The rear bench has a 60:40 split function for even more space - just in case you ever come down from the hills to to do the shopping.
While a week with this fast Frenchie is hardly enough, the ageing looks, annoying cabin rattles and menacingly close competition see the current RS Megane 225 score a well deserved three-and-a-half out of five.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory costs.