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Is the Megane RenaultSport your Cup of tea? Image by Renault.

Is the Megane RenaultSport your Cup of tea?
Whilst the Germans may lay claims to inventing the GTi, it is their next door neighbours that have evolved and furthered the breed.

 



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The French have a history of making great hot hatches. Whilst the Germans may lay claims to inventing the GTi, it is their next door neighbours that have evolved and furthered the breed. In the early '90s Renault released the Clio small hatch, with a range topping 16v hot hatch perched at the top of the range. This then sprouted the Renault Clio Williams, a more focused and capable limited edition derivative that to this day is oft credited with being the best hot hatch ever made.

Renault's current line-up still features class leading hot hatches under the RenaultSport tag including the outgoing Renault Clio that remains the enthusiast's choice in the small hatch market. Its bigger brother the Megane is no slouch either, and it too has been breathed on with the result you see here, the Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup.

With a mouthful of a name like that the car had better be good! It certainly looks the part, the individualistic Megane's basic form lending itself well to the necessary tweaks required of a sporting offshoot. The heavily sculpted front bumper that accommodates fog lights and grilles is particularly well integrated with the complementing rear arrangement with twin central exit tail pipes equally good looking; this derivative also features some of those dark finished spokey alloys that we have a particular soft spot for.

If the exterior is something of a success, the cockpit is a little bit of a disappointment. In all honesty the basic interior of the standard Renault Megane is acceptable but here, at nearly 19,000, and very much in the premium hatch sector, it is found a little wanting. Blame the old German rivals for raising the bar. Compared to a Ford Focus ST or Vauxhall Astra VXR the interior looks a little plain, compare it to a VW Golf GTi and you wonder whether you read the relative price tags correctly. Quality aside the interior functions well, with the part leather seats being comfortable and supportive, if a little high in their positioning.

The Cup specification brings with it a host of detail changes to the already finely honed Megane 225 chassis. These include retuned dampers and stiffer springs (front increased by 25%, rear by 75%), upgraded 235/40 tyres wrapped around special lightweight 18-inch anthracite wheels, which in turn house upgraded Brembo brakes that have new drilled discs and an enlarged master cylinder with the Brake Assist feature deleted. As you would hope of a driver-focussed car, the ESP can be turned off as well. All of these changes are aimed to increase the RenaultSport Megane's already high levels of ability.

Grip is huge as you'd expect and the turn-in and handling balance is impressive. The switchable ESP allows one to drive the car as you want to without unnecessary nannying and the removal of the Brake Assist similarly allows the driver to modulate the brakes more aggressively or smoothly, reaping the benefits of that Brembo set up. The steering has been modified to increase feel and weight as well but remains the weakest link in the driving experience.

The 225 in the name is unsurprisingly linked to the output of the engine. The two litre turbocharged four pot is not only powerful, but courtesy of variable valve timing, boasts a broad flat torque curve that enables the Megane to exhibit class leading all out pace, as well as Honda Civic Type-R humbling in-gear performance that hauls the Megane out of corners with real purpose and allows for easy and effortless overtaking. Zero to sixty mph in 6 seconds, 100mph in 16 and a near 150mph maximum are all impressive figures. Sadly, the 'shift quality does not match the Civic, Golf of Focus.

On our favourite roads the Megane had two distinct characters; on smooth and flat surfaces it shows devastating pace that only the cream of the current crop of hatches would hope to match. On our bumpier routes the stiffer suspension ultimately lacked the absorbency needed to maintain swift progress. It was unfortunate that during our time with the Cup the roads were never truly dry, limiting just how much the chassis could be exploited. The potential is clear to be seen, and felt through the backside, but the exact depths of ability remained largely unchartered. Nevertheless the car is an engaging drive and was certainly fun.

Overall the Cup is an enthusiast's car, Renault isn't making that many and I'm sure they'll have no problem finding sufficient buyers for this harder core Megane. For me, the stiffened suspension isn't ideally suited to the roads I prefer to drive on but I'm sure it would excel on track or where roads are nice and smooth. Ultimately a Golf GTi would be a more appropriate everyday car, but for those rare track days or favourite road blasts the RenaultSport Megane Cup would be a top choice.

Dave Jenkins - 3 Feb 2006









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2005 Renault Sport Megane 225 specifications: (Cup)
Price: 18,600 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 147mph
Combined economy: 32.1mpg
Emissions: 209g/km
Full technical specifications

2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault.2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault.2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault.2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault. 


2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault.
 

2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault.
 

2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault.
 

2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by Renault.
 

2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2005 Megane RenaultSport 225 Cup. Image by James Jenkins.
 






 

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