So you’ve bought a Volvo XC60, and can now ferry your family about in unrivalled practicality and comfort. Great – you’ve sorted out Monday through Friday’s driving demands. But what about the weekend, when the wife and kids are out, and dad wants a bit of fun? Surely that’s an instance that happens far too often – dad, stranded with a big Volvo, in need of a bit of driving fun.
We caught up with iCar Asia’s Chief Information Officer, Joey Caisse, passed him the keys to the 2013 Renault Megane RS265, and sent him off to find out if the hot-hatch has what it takes to be a fun weekend racer for dad, whilst being a car he could drive to work every day as well.
Joey Caisse, on the Renault Megane RS265:
Powerful. Fast. Effortless. That was the feeling as I ripped out of the parking lot after just being handed the keys. The front-wheel-drive 2013 Renault Megane RS265 is powered by a 265hp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, and it doesn’t waste any time.
As you’d expect, the interior is fairly sparse and there isn’t much to get to know inside. But that’s okay, because you won’t be looking at the yellow stitching in the upholstery or fiddling with the cruise control. Most of your attention will be on dashed white lines turning into little dots or the incredible G-forces imposed on your body as you break into a corner at the last second. This is truly a driver’s car, and the Renault Megane RS265 clearly sets the standard in its class again.
If there was one thing to say about the hot hatch: it’s fast. It’s really fast. Unleashing the power can be done at any time – off the line or when you are moving up a few more positions before the passing lane ends. 0-100km/h can be achieved in just under six seconds. Once the revs get above 4500rpm, the engine sounds like an angry wasp. It is a challenge to resist the urge to shift into the next gear and do it again. And again. And again. This truly wonderful experience is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. It just never gets old.
For a front-wheel drive car, it handles superbly. I have long been accustomed to anticipate the turbo boost and then the understeer. Not so with the Megane. Only once did the limited-slip differential give me the feeling I was bring being pulled by a team of spooked stallions. It was only for a moment and before I knew it, I could have sworn it wasn’t even there. I tip my hat to the French designers for putting this much power behind the front wheels, and keeping the driver in full control at any speed, and at any RPM.
Coming into a corner hot? Not a problem! It comes equipped with large 340mm vented and slotted disc brakes and Brembo calipers to grip - they look great against the matt black 18-inch rims! Michelin provides the traction and does not disappoint. You never feel the car lean into a corner and, while braking hard, the car is every bit as responsive as you’d expect from something costing significantly more.
The Megane cockpit experience is a highlight. The leather steering wheel has points of reference at 10 and 2 o’clock positions so you know where the wheel is in relation to the tyres. They not only make you feel more in tune with the car, they make a perfect grip. The electric-assist steering transmits quite a bit of feel when you need to absolutely be sure you are in control. Steering is fluid, effortless, and responsive. Taking a series of curves or darting in and out of traffic is a mere wave of the hand. From one end of the range to center, and even at a standstill, you seem to know the direction the car is going to move next.
Visibility isn’t bad either – with a quick shoulder check the driver can see out small triangle windows giving visibility into any would-be blind spots. The soft-touch plastics are nothing spectacular but don’t detract from the basic look and feel. From a short distance you might even mistake them for leather. You never feel like you have to fiddle with any buttons because there just aren't that many, which is nice. The climate control does a good job of coping with changing conditions inside and out, allowing the visual focus to be the road, not the console.
The grey and black colour scheme are offset by the racing yellow stitching and seatbelts (the colour is officially named “Jaune Sirius”) without looking like a 14-year-old designed it. The simple instrumentation leans back into the dash giving you a feeling of forward motion and the aluminium polished gas, brake, and clutch pedals look great too. The manual gearshift indicating six gears in the forward direction feels good in your hand and shifts with ease.
With the doors very wide and long, it is easy to get in and out. The six-way adjustable Recaro buckets hold you in place around the tightest turns. They are comfortable too, far surpassing expectation. After five hours of driving in both the city and the country, it was still just as comfortable as when I began the drive. The cloth seats have a good feel with great lower back support. The back seat is easy to get into as well. Some have said the ride is a bit firm, but I’d say this is a track car, and it is exactly what you’d want.
Inside, the noise level is okay, though the mp3/Bluetooth/USB/integrated sound system leaves a lot to be desired. I suspect if you are buying this car, the radio is not what you are interested in hearing. Pairing my phone took about 60 seconds, and I didn’t even need to look at the manual to do it. For those of you who are interested in the radio manual, be sure to get a cup of coffee because it is nearly as thick as the other book in the glove box about how to operate the rest of the car.
The boot is spacious and the rear seats fold down, allowing you to easily chuck in your golf clubs with plenty of room to spare.
The suspension is stiff, but still acceptable for a daily driver. I would even go so far as to say my significant other wouldn’t even complain over a reasonable distance. That being said, the suspension really shines in the corners when you get aggressive.
For accessories, out of the box you’ll get a keyless start system, automatic folding wing mirrors, auto wipers, Bi-Xenon automatic headlights, and LED daytime running lights – all of which really make the Megane look outstanding.
No matter if you are driving up rainforest mountain twisties, through the chaos of urban highways, or taking it out on track days, the Renault Megane RS265 will be at home. It is a great all-rounder in tight turns, explosive short bursts, and even long straights. I cannot recommend this car enough. It is an absolute pleasure to drive, and something you could use every day. The performance, comfort, accessories, and styling are all top notch. For the money, this is the car to beat.