2019 Renault Megane R.S.

I stand at the edge of Y.K. Almoayed’s Renault showroom driveway anxious with anticipation. I’ve been waiting for this one for a very long time. As the car pulls up I’m relieved to see that it’s the right color: Volcanic Yellow, a kind of hue that looks befitting with the Renault Megane R.S. It took engineers two years to put this third-gen hot hatch machine together, so I know it’s only fair to remain patient. This is, after all, Renault’s answer to the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus RS, which, unfortunately (or should I say fortunately for Renault) is not available in our region. But why am I so excited over this French pocket rocket? To put it simply, this car is all about fun, and also because I know that Renault Sport has gone to town with this latest version, incorporating a host of new tech aimed at delivering the sharpest and most engaging driving experience.

But before we get to the dynamic experience, let’s talk about the looks because this car is definitely a good-looker. Renault has made some serious exterior upgraded compared to the Megane GT we drove last year. It has these beautiful, wide front and rear fenders, an angry front bumper with F1 inspired aero blades, a set of checkered-flag fog lights (that also act as cornering lights), 19-inch two-tone brushed wheels and the flat underbody that channels air to a true-to-life functional rear diffuser (try finding this in a Volkswagen Golf R). It’s definitely exciting to look at, and it’s no different on the inside. Once nestled into the cabin of the Megane R.S, you realise that it’s a really nice place to do the business of driving. Fitted with snug sporty seats wrapped in Alcantara and a chunky steering wheel, the R.S’s sporting intentions are clearly visible but in a way counterbalanced with a sense of daily functionality in mind. An excellent 12.3-inch infotainment system dominates the center console, speaking of which, built into the infotainment system is Renault Sport’s new R.S. Monitor system which I like. What it does is provide you with an array of telemetry information from wheel slip to tyre temperatures to torque curves. However, during my test-drive, I did find it a bit laggy and unresponsive at times but not to the point where it would grind my gears, and in a car like this, I doubt you’d let this bother you.

After settling in and pressing the start button, you’re greeted by a spirited, but not too loud rumble as the R.S. comes to life. Under the hood is a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine which gives you 276bhp and slaps you with 288lb-ft of torque from just 2,400rpm, all of which goes through the front wheels. Bear in mind that the R.S weighs in at just 1,400-something-kgs so when that torque comes in, you feel it. Our sample Megane R.S. came in the “Sport Chassis” form which is opted for everyday road use and is equipped with the latest version of Renault Sport’s six-speed dual-clutch transmission. However, a manual 6-speed is offered in “Cup Chassis” model, which yet again, is not available in our region for now. On the move, the steering on the Megane R.S feels nicely weighted which really comes into its own as you speed up. It’s sharpened up with Renault’s trick 4Control four-wheel-steer system, which we first sampled on the Megane GT last year. The 4CONTROL works by varying the angle of the rear wheels as the fronts steer. Turn the wheels under 80kph, and the rears will pivot in the opposite direction to the front by 2.7 degrees. This in result gives the rear a more lively feeling on corner entry. Turn at speeds higher than 80kph and the rears will follow the fronts by up to a single degree which results in increased stability. Switch to Sport or Race mode, and the car sharpens up its act. You will quickly notice how the engine note gets higher, the suspension stiffens up, and the throttle response gets sharper. Throw it in a bend, and the well-weighted steering keeps everything in place without trying to fight you regardless of speed. The ride quality is great too because the suspension unit has received a trick compression-stop system in the shocks that effectively gives you a “shock absorber within a shock absorber”.

The Renault Megane R.S is undeniably a joy-filled little hot-hatch. Perhaps the more tactile six-speed manual would feel more engaging to drive, but even with a six-speed automatic, it feels like an everyday man’s (or woman’s) hot Megane, helping you to enjoy yourself without having you run out of breath. For a price tag that starts at just BD14,000 mixed with the amount of driver-focused tech you get, it’s hard not to want one...and I want one!

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