If you’re going to hit some twisty British back lanes on a cold, crisp and dry driving day, then there are far worse options than this Arctic White Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup. It’s the Cup chassis, so it’s stiffer, gets better brakes, a limited slip differential, and a little button on the dashboard that really opens up the turbo taps! Yours from £24,245.
Hot hatch fans will already have heard of the Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup; one of the finest affordable fast cars on the market. But, more recently it’s come up against cheaper (by around £3 – 4k) competition from the new Ford Focus ST. The Megane is a little faster, a touch more hardcore-edged than the Focus, but it is dearer. Let me tell you now that they are both great cars, and this isn’t a face-to-face review between the two – if you’re in the market for a pocket rocket then you should definitely drive them both, even though the Renault is much closer to replacement than the ST. So, more about the 265.
This is the Cup chassis, which I personally would go for all day long. I mean, who doesn’t want stiffer springs and dampers, a firmer front anti-roll bar, grooved brake discs (for better hard-driving performance) and a limited slip differential? I do! If you like to feel hardcore every time you drive then the 265 Cup will be right up your street. Or should I say track day?
Close the driver’s door and it feels light, nestle into the gorgeous Carbon Grey Recaro bucket seat and it feels tight, clasp the leather-bound sports steering wheel and it feels right. Locked and loaded and ready to rock, without even hitting the start button. And that’s after you’ve drooled at its fat ‘n’ low body over vicious-looking 18-inch ‘Tibor’ matt-black alloys. If the standard Megane looks a little bit ‘meh’, the Renaultsport variant looks a lot ‘wahey!’
Finger the 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine into life and there’s a reassuring thrum; pootle around town and nothing much happens. Yes, it feels stiff and flat around roundabouts with a nice point ‘n’ go front end, and the low-down torque of the turbo’d engine and easy-shift 6-speed manual gearbox mean it’s easy to drive. Even the clutch is gentle. The Brembo brakes are sharp and very powerful mind and the merest dab in town will have the old lady behind you starring wide-eye’d at your fast approaching rear bumper. So strong. But, you’ll want these mighty anchors when you start to cane the Cup on the back lanes.
Turn the DSC system off and the engine pops from 247bhp to 261bhp via a higher turbo boost map. The throttle response sharpens, and there’s a bit more bark from the back box. OK, so no 2-litre turbocharged engine is ever going to have that much character, like a high-screaming naturally aspirated engine, but turbos are way more efficient and make awesome torque nice and early in the revs, where an N/A motor needs to be constantly thrashed. That’s fine until you see the fuel bills. I drove the 265 Cup HARD and still saw 30mpg on the dash read out. A Civic Type-R would’ve hit 20mpg. That’s why the next Civic Type-R will be turbocharged. So, the engine here isn’t that ‘interesting’, but it charges harder than a (Red) bull and will take you to 62mph in just 6 seconds. It’ll light those 235mm Michelin Pilot Sport 2 front tyres up with ease, too…
I wasn’t that mad on the gearbox and gearshifter. The ‘box, while nicely arranged for ratios, didn’t always feel as precise as I like, and while the jazzy gold stitching on the shifter looked cool, it started to dig into my palm after a while. This would annoy me if I owned the car. However, I loved the Cup chassis, the Brembo brakes and the pinpoint steering.
This car is very firm, but still rides the bumps well, and when you toss it into a corner it’s flatter than a steamrolled pancake. If she did push her nose a bit, a gentle lift off the gas popped the rear end round – in a predictable fashion – and that nose was instantly back on track. Now, those big Brembo brakes are pure braking porn, but under full haul up I wasn’t totally happy with the 265’s stability, in that it did get squirmy. Saying that, it’s a car that talks to you – yes, cheesy sounding, I know – but it always does the same thing in the same situation. Predictable then, if a little wild.
So, mean-looking, bloody rapid, and a little saucy and squirmy in rally-style situations. For me, that makes the Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup seriously good for a bit of hot hatch-style hoonery. A definite test drive recommendation.
By Dan Anslow