Renault Australia has simplified its passenger offering by a great deal. The only other non-SUV alternative to the all-electric Zoe is the as-feisty-as-ever Renault Megane Sport offered in six varying guises. That means no more regular Megane, Megane GT or wagon variants. It may be the case for quite some time, too, as there’s no word yet on the Clio 5’s arrival in Australia.
It is nice to see that they’ve kept the Megane available with a manual transmission across all variants. It gives keen enthusiasts an option at all levels and pricepoints. The future of this arrangement is questionable, given the dwindling of three-pedal sales. However, at present, it’s a solid line-up that shows Renault Australia is at least trying to propagate manuals throughout our country. Bravo.
As the range has been a touch confusing and ever-changing since its Australian launch, I’ll give you a lay of the land for some context.
The simplified 2020 range begins with the Renault Megane RS Sport, followed by the Cup, then aced with the Trophy. As previously mentioned, all three are offered with a manual or the 'efficient dual clutch' aptly named EDC. Both the Cup and Trophy versions feature the Cup Chassis.
I will ignore both Trophy-R versions for a second here, as they’re limited editions and therefore not part of the furniture. The Sport features a 205kW engine; Cup is the same output but with big brakes, sharper suspension and locking diff as part of the fettled Cup Chassis package; and Trophy continues with the theme and adds more power, slightly shorter gearing, a fancy exhaust, ceramic turbocharger wheel and a lightweight lithium battery.
I hope you’re still with us.
Gone are most of the options. The streamlined additions now consist of metallic paint (white or black) at $800 or two signature hues (yellow or orange) at $1000. A sole equipment option remains in the form of an opening panoramic glass roof at $1990.
As for the RRPs of each model, focussing on the automatics, the entry Sport EDC is $50,490, add a further $1500 for the Cup EDC at $51,990 and another $4000 for the Trophy EDC finishing on $55,990. On test we have a 'Liquid yellow' 2020 Renault Megane RS Trophy, and using the above math brings it to $56,990 (plus on-road costs) with the fancy paint.
The five-door plus EDC transmission combo inflated conjectures among enthusiasts about the Megane Sport becoming tame. It has become something quite different in this format, but I’d argue that tame isn’t the right word. It still provides great levels of feedback and the same fidgety stiffness we’ve come to expect from Renault Sport. As promised, it remains a great companion to those seeking hot-hatch thrills.
The addition of the excellent EDC auto only adds to the overall speed of the car. It’s fast, and on the up-shift provides theatre thanks to loud claps when pushed. Intuitive around town in both comfort and sport modes, the automatic does not rob the experience of involvement. I’d go so far as to say the various shifting strategies are better calibrated and superior to that found in a Volkswagen DSG.
The ride is firm with the Cup Chassis-equipped Trophy. Its firmness seems to be aggravated by relatively short-travel suspension, and previous iterations of sporty Megane and Clio product were also burdened with this trade-off. The difference this time is the introduction of hydraulic bump stops, which seem like Renault Sport’s alternative to adaptive suspension.
To put it simply, this technology is aimed at fluffing out suspension feel when it reaches maximum squash. It does a good job of bringing some suppleness to the ride, but it can be overwhelmed on more continual imperfections at a higher speed. Here is where the Sport chassis option may appeal to those who might grow tired of a Cup Chassis version being on 24/7. However, with either chassis, the ride is consistent, so there’s no fiddling with settings to pick the right ride for the conditions.
The trade-off that the Cup Chassis brings with all of its firmness makes it entirely worthwhile on a winding road, even if you decide to experience it rarely. Its directness, ability to dart from corner to corner, and sense of control are all heightened with this version. Sitting relatively flat, it inspires confidence, but most importantly it makes you smile on those occasional cheeky breaks that you get from life. It’s these sorts of situations that make it hard in my eyes to opt for the Sport over either Cup Chassis alternative.
All versions are equipped with Renault’s '4control' rear-wheel-steering system. There are multiple modes to play with that change the threshold of operation. In regular mode, it turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction under 60km/h, and in race mode under 100km/h. Above these speeds, it does the opposite – it points the rear wheels in the same direction as the front with a limit of one degree of movement.
Stripping away the complicated nature of the system, you will find that it can make your life easier. Around town, it encourages the use of less steering lock, meaning a reduced effort during tighter turns. It creates a feeling of directness and isn’t intrusive in how it slots in with your steering interactions. Not thinking too hard about it, the best way to describe it is providing a sense of sharpening to the steering effort.
Another decision to navigate is the Cup versus Trophy specification, but that has been made a lot easier for you. The Trophy brings more muscle, in the form of an extra 16kW (221kW total) and a bump of 30Nm (420Nm total). This particular tune results in peak turning force appearing later in the rev range. Its newfound 420Nm is available from 3200rpm compared to 390Nm on offer from 2400rpm as per the Sport and Cup specifications.
The extra torque offers extra spice in the Trophy’s performance. Its 0–100km/h improvement of one-tenth of a second to 5.7sec is not where you should be looking to find its gain. In-gear shove is where it nets this most. The ceramic-bearing turbine wheel within the turbocharger unit, exclusive to the Trophy, spools swiftly with some momentum behind it. Rolling on the throttle is addictive, despite a slight delay from the pedal.
Using the performance did reflect in the fuel bill, with the 1.8-litre turbo averaging 11.3 litres per 100km. The official combined figure is 8.0L/100km, so a little thirstier than the claim. To throw some shade, it was driven with some gusto and did battle peak-hour traffic, multiple times, in wet weather.
Managing 420Nm in a front-drive package isn’t easy, but the Trophy is fairly well equipped. As part of the Cup Chassis package, it gets the locking differential as standard. On top of that, however, the Trophy also adds Bridgestone S001 tyres, unlike its lesser Cup family member. There has been talk about Renault Australia offering the bespoke S007 Bridgestone tyre as per European spec, but the car tested was still equipped with the S001 tyre.
There were times where the wheels became loaded up with undue amounts of force, creating torque steer, but overall it harnessed its new abilities well. The only other pitfall with more grunt is a touch of squabbling from the tyres when pressed. I find both of these points exciting and unwieldly, in a good way. It feels aggressive, and rightly so. It keeps you on your toes, and doesn’t shy away from its high-power front-drive nature.
Pairing up well with the fizzy aspect of the driveline is the Megane’s exterior qualities. The French have a knack for making things look right. Whereas the previous car looked slightly pointy at the back, this new car blunts things a little. It looks wide, wider so than the likes of a Type R, despite the Honda being squatter and a touch wider according to the measurements. The Trophy’s 19-inch Jerez wheels add to the feel, as does the proud TROPHY decal on the front air dam.
Keep looking and you’ll find plenty to keep your wandering eye tame. The chequered flag fog lights are a trinket that will ensure, in adverse conditions only, that you’re known to others to be in a Renault Sport. I quite like this test car’s yellow paint. It’s their warpaint, so that should give you enough permission to adorn your very own RS car with the same theme.
There are some quirks that come with French design. We’ve acknowledged their ability to create form, but sometimes they can retrofit function at a later date. A large portrait-orientated 9.7-inch central screen dominates the dashboard, with a handful of buttons below. This central command unit controls everything within the car, including the 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster behind the wheel. Two USB ports are located underneath the centre screen and enable the system’s access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The system can be delayed responding to input. Managing the main features of the climate-control system can be tricky, even after some familiarisation. It’s very easy to get buried in menu, after menu, after menu, then spend five taps trying to get back to the start. Engaging with it isn’t as simple as other cars in the segment, and brands like Volkswagen have Renault outclassed in this respect. If it were possible, I’d consider trading some of the Megane’s infotainment smarts for more of the basic operating principles as found in the Civic Type R.
Despite some interaction quirks, the screen itself is highly legible. The RS telemetry system gives good, real-time information, and provides you with answers to nerdy questions such as 'Guess how much the rear wheels are turning?' or 'How many ponies are being generated by the engine?'. Ease of use aside, there’s a lot to keep a budding enthusiast entertained, and a lot to show off to friends with similar interests.
Lashings of Alcantara can’t keep themselves away from performance cars, so naturally they’ve found their way into the Trophy. The supportive seats are covered head-to-toe in the material, so please be diligent with children (or adults) and food in the car. Despite the material’s higher maintenance, it gives back by appearing premium and svelte upon glance.
One omission is not offering Recaro seats in our market. Seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. Thankfully, they’ve only cladded the top and bottom of the steering wheel with Alcantara, the rest with nappa leather, meaning it’ll resist becoming shiny for as long as possible.
Poking and prodding around the rest of the cabin reveals no surprises. A few more ergonomic oddities do appear, such as a storage area that at first looks like it’s designed for the large square key, but misses out on housing it comfortably by a few millimetres. All in all, it’s screwed together well and made from decent materials. Cabin insulation is fair, but the glass and related seals create a small amount of wind noise on the motorway.
Configurable ambient lighting lines the upper door area, which is finished in a carbon-look vinyl that may not be to everyone’s taste. All in all, it’s screwed together well, free from rattles and constructed from decent materials.
The Renault Megane offers a well-proportioned rear boot, 434L to be exact, which trumps the Civic Type R by 20L. However, compared to the all-wheel-drive Golf R, the Renault’s volume eclipses it by a whole 100L (343L for the Golf R). This sizable boot isn’t without drawbacks, as the French hot hatch features a tyre repair kit in lieu of a spare wheel. A bugbear for some who travel lots, or for those who live in regional areas where a lack of specific tyre availability can result in time off the road.
Advanced driver-assist systems are present, but they’re mainly passive in ability. A lane-departure warning system notifies via audible and visual alerts, but doesn’t apply any steering intervention. The same for the blind-spot monitoring system. Active technology has been reserved for the adaptive cruise control function, and the raspy exhaust.
The variable exhaust ices the proverbial cake when it comes to deciding between the Trophy and the Cup. It adds another level of attitude to the Megane that wasn’t previously exhibited. It amplifies overrun burbles, transforming them into loud cracks, which makes your inner-child smile.
When in sport mode, the well-timed downshift blips gurgle through a field of thick rasp. On song, it roars with a slight tone. Modern turbocharged cars have a tendency to make a blowy, empty tune, but the Megane manages to conjure some depth to what it spits out.
Combining the two unique Trophy properties, a variable exhaust and a considerable power-up, cements it as the smart choice of the two Cup Chassis variants offered in Australia.
The fourth-generation Megane Sport is an excellent step forward as a road car when compared to the previous model. The Trophy version is another step forward when compared to the Cup. You could argue it’s pricey when compared to the all-paw Golf R, the precision instrument that is the Type R or the value-laden i30 N Performance, but there’s a lot to love, and a lot that you should experience before you make your pick.