If people keep telling you how good something is, when you eventually get to sample it for yourself, you naturally start hunting for flaws. In this case, we’re talking about the Renault Megane RS 265; specifically the Trophy 808 edition.
Motoring press the world over cannot seem to heap enough praise on the pugnaciously styled Megane hot hatch. The look is very much a love or hate proposition. But after driving the RS 265 for myself, I could only come to one conclusion; I loved it! I tried really hard to disprove the general consensus and, aside from a few minor gripes, I ended up falling in line with the crowd.
So, what makes the Megane RS 265 so damn good? It all starts when you sit behind the wheel. The seating position is close to perfect. Helped, of course, by the Recaro seats that are standard in the Trophy 808. The pedal placement is actually perfect; anyone should be able to heel and toe in this car.
There are some faults inside the cabin. Namely some of the controls and stalks are hard to see and difficult to use. Although, I’m sure such gripes would be overcome with long term ownership.
Around town… you know what, let’s forget about city commuting for the moment. You’re probably not interested in that anyway, and who can blame you.
Let’s start with some praise that ensures we can deliver hyperbole with the best motoring hacks in the world. In dry conditions, on a mountain road, I can’t think of any situation that would unsettle the Megane RS 265. It is one of the most neutral and pure handling front-wheel drive cars that’s ever been made. It has a level of composure, balance and inherent grip that inspires confidence whatever the road ahead throws up.
A tight corner? Just chuck it in, as hard as you like, and marvel at how a car with 195kW/360Nm ripping at its front wheels can do exactly what you ask of it. Even better if you have a series of fast flowing corners, because then you’ll be amazed at the Megane’s ability to change direction. Its response is immediate, thanks in part to its near perfect steering, and all the while that balance and composure is present.
I was pleasantly surprised at how stable and sure-footed the RS 265 was through fast sweepers as well. Within reason, of course, the harder you push the greater the rewards. Again, with its balance, you can easily build speed through a flowing corner in a way that almost defies logic.
Much of the Megane’s delights are down to the wizards at Renault Sport who have gifted this car a sublime suspension tune. The ride quality is very, very good when you’re really hooking in. No matter the road surface; there’s no skipping if it gets unsettled mid-corner. The combination of steering and suspension means you’re getting all the feedback you could ask for. You won’t be surprised to learn that feedback is delivered with immediate effect, too.
Being a turbo four-pot you can’t expect to be granted with a induction sound or exhaust note that you’d want to hear forever. Yet, the the exhaust system has been tuned to provide a purposeful note with just the right amount of snarling and crackle on overrun.
Despite its very respectable performance stats, the RS 265 doesn’t feel super quick. That’s to say, thanks to its linear power delivery, there’s never a huge burst of power that makes you think, wow, that was fast. Where it matters, though, the RS 265 is plenty quick. And that’s through the corners. You probably won’t be winning many standing start shoot outs, but it’ll take a mighty adversary to be nipping at your heels through the twisty stuff.
It really is a wonderful experience to point the RS 265 at some winding blacktop and let it rip.
Few cars could be described as perfect, and while the Megane makes you think pretty hard about bestowing the ultimate accolade, it is no exception.
I encountered three minor niggles and I’ll start with the least annoying. There’s a slightly awkward feel to the throttle pedal. It’s almost as if it has a couple of stages of resistance. It’s nothing major, but it’s a slightly artificial feel that is at odds with the rest of the car.
Thankfully, Renault has resisted the double-clutch transmission craze, for now. Alas, there are better 6-speed manual gearboxes to be found than the one in the RS 265; a few in its class, as well. Upshifts are no problem, but downshifts can be a little cumbersome, especially when crossing gates; from fifth to fourth or third to second.
Most surprisingly, it was the brakes that were comfortably the weakest point in my experience. Remembering that the usually first-class boffins from Brembo have been asked to do the stopping duties, I expected better. Some cars are over-assisted at first, but they will carry on stopping (see most Volkswagen Group cars). But not in the RS 265. Some cars, namely the Porsche Cayman R, have poor initial bite, but as you increase the pressure on the pedal the more things are brought back into check. But not in the RS 265.
You’ll be unlikely to get yourself into trouble, unless you really fluff it, but you’ll definitely discover everything the brakes have got to give. Which is a shame, because in every other way you can drive this car at 7/10ths and still have a blast. It’s just that, even with a bit left up your sleeve, you’ll probably have a few moments where you could do with better braking performance.
It would be remiss not to mention torque steer. As noted, there’s up to 360Nm being delivered to those front wheels and, on the limit, I didn’t notice even the slightest trace of torque steer. However, at more gentle speeds, and with half to three quarter throttle applied, there are a few moments where you will feel a slight tug at the wheel. This is not one of my complaints by the way, more an observation worth noting.
So, back to the relatively mundane duty of reporting what the Megane RS 265 would be like as a daily driver. At sensible speeds the car is easy to drive and the vision from the small rear window is surprisingly good. In town, as well, the ride quality provides no cause for complaint. It’s a Renault Sport Megane, remember, so you’ve left any desire for a plush ride back at the dealer when you handed over your cash.
The Trophy 808, and a few others in the RS 265 range, come with a feature called Renault Sport Monitor. It’s a smallish screen in the upper dash, with a crude resolution, that provides instantaneous telemetry; oil temp, air intake temp, brake pressure, torque, power and the like. A gimmick for sure, but an incredibly useful one. Likewise the tyre pressure monitor, which provides on-the-fly readings for all four tyres.
Even with the lofty expectations built up by all the positive reviews that have gone before this one, the Renault Megane RS 265 Trophy 808 delivered. I cannot walk away and say, yeah, but it’s just not that good. It is that good.
I can see why a car like the Golf GTI might win a direct comparison, if the terms of reference are broad. The Golf is more practical and has a nicer interior, meaning some would find it a more user-friendly proposition. But if you’re a hot hatch fan—actually, even if you’re not, if you just love driving—you simply have to find a way to get some time behind the wheel of a Megane RS 265.
If that means buying one for yourself, congratulations, you’ve just landed yourself one of the most rewarding cars money can buy.