2021 Renault Megane RS 300 EDC review
Just like it’s harder, sharper Trophy sibling, the entry-level version of Renault’s recently updated Mégane RS has been shorn of its six-speed manual gearbox.
A modest hike in power and torque from the base Megane RS’s 1.8-litre four-pot petrol engine is something of a consolation, though; as is the arrival of new headlight and tail-light designs, an improved infotainment system and a redesigned instrument display. That motor now puts out 221kW and 420Nm instead of the 205kW and 390Nm it made previously.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual. You still get four-wheel steering and a set of rally-style hydraulic suspension bump stops. However, the firmer, more aggressive Cup chassis is now available on pricier Trophy models only so this revised Mégane RS 300 makes do with the softer Sport chassis set-up.
What’s it like?
It undoubtedly remains the more usable Mégane RS. Where the Trophy can feel almost unrelentingly edgy and unforgiving on bumpier stretches of road, the base car breathes a bit more freely. It still feels meaningfully taut and controlled in its body movements when you’re travelling with a bit of pace on, but I’d wager you wouldn’t find yourself scrabbling for the keys to literally anything else when faced with a simple trip to the shops.
This is good news for those who plan on driving it every day – which most people undoubtedly will. The trade-off is that in gaining this extra level of pliancy and ride refinement, you lose a good deal of the bite that makes the Trophy models so exciting when the weather’s fine and you’re actually in the mood for a proper thrash. By opting for the RS 300, not only do you forgo the stiffer Cup chassis, but you also miss out on a limited-slip differential, beefier brakes and an active sports exhaust.
You do notice this in tighter, more technical corners. Tip it in and the Renault’s four-wheel steering still makes it feel really agile and willing to rotate, but it just doesn’t sink its teeth in with the frenzied eagerness I remember from the earlier Cup chassis car.
The 1.8-litre engine remains as boosty as ever, and on slippery roads, it can spin its front wheels quite freely when that lump of torque arrives. A lighter touch on the throttle can be handy here. Anything too brutal and you can coax a violent amount of axle tramp out of the Renault.
The six-speed dual-clutch ’box is reasonably well mannered when left to its own devices, but it can be the slightest bit sluggish in its responses when you’re really on it and shifting manually. I was never a massive fan of Renault’s manual transmission, but the greater tactility of a three-pedal set-up certainly suits the character of this car far better.
There are a couple of weird ergonomic issues, too. The paddles, for instance, are too short to use comfortably with your hands on the wheel at a quarter to three. If you scroll through the drive modes via the button on the centre console, you lose whatever you had displayed on the infotainment screen previously. There’s also not quite enough reach adjustment in the steering column, so you have to perch over the pedals if you want to bring the wheel in close to your chest. Nothing major in the grand scheme of things, but together they frustrate.
It wouldn’t be at the top of my list if I was in the market for a hot hatch. It might be more liveable with than its Trophy sibling, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be anywhere near as thrilling when the conditions were perfect and the roads were clear.
Some might appreciate that more sensible balance and there’s certainly merit in taking such an approach. But other hot hatches are just as usable day to day, yet arguably even more exciting, involving and dynamically accomplished than the Mégane. The excellent Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus ST spring to mind, to name but two.
Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1798cc, turbocharged, petrol
Transmission: 6-spd dual-clutch automatic
Power: 221 kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 420 Nm at 3200rpm
Driveline layout: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Top speed: 254kmh
Kerb weight (DIN) 1443kg
Fuel economy 34mpg
Rivals: Volkswagen Golf GTI Ford Focus ST