I bought my RS265 because I’ve always been a fan of the former King of the ‘Ring. Coming from a much-loved 2005 Megane II Dynamique manual, I wanted something newer and with more go. In saying that, I also wanted something with some of the thoughtful touches that the older Megane was so well known for – such as the capless fuel filler or the under-floor storage compartments.
The newer RS was an obvious choice, but which model would I choose out of the myriad RS250s, 265s and 275s in various trims and special editions? In my opinion, the pre-facelift 265 Trophy+ was the sweet spot in the range, other than the RB8, which came with Recaro seats (if you’re into that) and the slightly better R-Link infotainment system (while retaining the pre-facelifted front end and cornering bi-xenon headlights). The plan was to use her as an all rounder – running around town as a daily, with the occasional road trip when not stretching her legs through the twisties.
Other kit that came with the Trophy+ included those aforementioned bi-xenons, proper keyless entry and exit with Renault’s ubiquitous key card, electric and heated leather sports seats in place of the usual Recaros, sat-nav with reversing camera, a fixed panoramic glass roof and tyre pressure monitoring to name a few.
The interior is a mixed bag. A lot of the main touch points feature softer materials such as supple leather, high-quality cloth and mostly tactile switchgear. Soft-touch plastics adorn the dash and the upper sections of the doors but the lower you go the harder it gets. With that being said, none of the materials look unreasonably cheap or out of place in a C-segment hatch. Most of the panels look and feel well screwed together but there are a few anomalies. The grab handles for the uncomfortably long and heavy coupe doors are carried over from the five-door version – they're positioned too far forward and are clearly not strong enough to deal with the heft. They creak and flex as you pull on on them, making you wonder how much longer they’re going to last (plenty of RS owners have reported these actually breaking off when pulling the door against wind or if parked on a decline). The boot floor is also oddly flimsy and has started to cave in after a few big loads.
While we’re on the subject of boot, there’s a useful 344 litres back there. Fold the seats down and it’s a surprisingly useful space for a car that was marketed as ‘coupé’. However, there are two caveats to using your 265 as a minivan: the boot opening is narrow and the lip is high, so loading larger objects in is tricky or sometimes impossible, and in order to make a flat floor you have to flip up the rear seat bases.
And what if you want to carry actual humans? The Megane III 3-door is longer and wider than the Golf Mk7/7.5 but that doesn’t exactly translate to interior space. The sloping roofline leaves six-footers struggling for headroom and the chunky sport seats means that rear-seat occupants will need to negotiate with those in the front. The panoramic roof does help it feel less claustrophobic back there.
Interior tech is hit and miss, too. The keyless entry, for example, is a joy to use. Walk up to the car with the keycard in pocket, slide your hand into the handle and the optic sensor will immediately unlock the doors. Walk away and it will lock, accompanied by the indicators flashing, the horn beeping and the mirrors retracting. The infotainment on the other hand isn’t great. The navigation works well enough and is reasonably easy to operate with a rotary joystick near the handbrake. What if you want to change the music? That’s controlled entirely separately from the buttons and knobs on the actual dashboard. Who knows why they separated the controls for the same screen, because I certainly don’t. Luckily the audio pod behind the wheel is a clever piece of French design (that wasn’t sarcasm) that becomes second nature after a bit of time with the car.
The main reason someone buys a Renault Sport is because of the way it drives. If you’re a hot hatch fan, chances are you know that this generation RS Megane was once the fastest FWD car to lap the Nürburgring. The launch of the 265 corresponded with the new record of 8:08, and this was without extensive weight saving. The Cup chassis was standard on almost all 250s, 265s and 275s that came to Australia and it is nothing short of excellent. It features stiffer springs and dampers, a Torsen LSD, Brembo brakes and 19-inch Steev alloy wheels. The car came rolling on Continental ContiSportContact 5 rubber, but I have since replaced it with a lovely set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4Ses, which are addictively grippy in both dry and wet conditions.
Of course, you’ll still get the wheels spinning with a too-heavy right foot on less-than-perfect surfaces. That’s a given when you’re trying to put 195kW/360Nm through the front wheels. The 2.0-litre F4RT engine an aural delight, even without any of the fake noises that are so commonly pumped through car’s speakers these days (she definitely feels a lot more analogue than many newer rivals). I also deleted the resonator, which transformed the formerly subtle exhaust pops in sport mode to proper pops and cracks, as well as a meaner sound anywhere above 3000rpm. The engine is eager to rev, feels surprisingly linear for a turbocharged unit and is genuinely quick when on the boil. The 0-100km/h dash happens in six seconds flat, which is pretty respectable even by today’s standards. The six-speed manual is a delight (with a beautiful aluminium RS knob) and has a reasonably short throw, even if not as slick or precise as some Japanese rivals.
Fuel consumption is what you’d expect from an older engine with no fuel-saving tech. No direct injection, no stop/start, and no cylinder deactivation all means that I rarely venture below 10 litres per 100 kilometres in everyday driving. The tall sixth gear allows consumption to drop as low as 7.2L/100km on the highway, and the big-for-the-class 60-litre tank ensures longer trips don’t require too many fuel stops.
Servicing can get costly. The F4Rt engine shows its age with an old-school timing belt that needs to be replaced every four years or 80,000km. That service alone was north of $2,000. Ignoring the big ticket items, running costs have been more or less what you expect of a non-premium Euro brand. Find a good mechanic (there are a few reputable Renault Sport mechanics in Sydney) and source what parts you can online and you’ll manage to save a fair bit over sourcing from local parts shops. In terms of reliability she’s never missed a beat.
I personally think the hot hatch is the Swiss Army knife of the automotive world and the RS265 is the perfect example of the breed. The new RS Megane IV is a gorgeous hot hatch that’s undoubtedly more advanced and more refined than the RS III ever was, but it’s also seen a slight change in personality. With a five-door body and the option of a dual-clutch transmission it will no doubt appeal more to the masses, but Renault Sport is leaving behind a cohort of enthusiasts who will miss the RS Megane’s boisterous and raw predecessor.
NOTE: We've used a CarAdvice photo of an RS265 Cup for this review.