TG Garage

Life with Topgear’s Renault Megane RS 280 Cup: update #4

My last month with our Megane R.S Cup. Though the car is due to leave the revolving TopGear garage in April, I’ll be handing it over to the rest of the team where I’m sure that new 5-door practicality will meld easily with Avon’s family life, the 6-speed manual gearbox will undoubtedly thrill our youngest member of the team while the oldest might get a little misty eyed about earlier versions – even I did at times. But that’s the story for them to tell.

I remember driving the facelifted Golf R around this time last year and thinking there’s not a more boring fast hatch on the market. But the Megane R.S Cup, well that’s like Netflix’s latest Bandersnatch movie – a choose your own ending. Be the hero, be the villain. Stay cool or go on the rampage. Just make your own story whereas the Golf never deviated from the script.

But the Megane isn’t ready to be honoured as the segment’s best, not if intuitive ergonomics are high on your appreciation list. I’ll cite one example; the phonebook’s keypad disappears from view as soon as you enter the first letter which is fine if you happen to be calling the AA or BA (so forth) but an incident of distraction occurs if the second letter of the name is far down the alphabet – in which case you’re likely to be calling AA recovery from the accident you’ve just had. Our gripes continue with the touchscreen’s poor choice of colours and diluted vibrancy while those used to an interface built around multi-tab windows will detest the arduous backpedalling through menus.

Now it would be a youthful myopic view of the front wheel drive turbo hatch if I claimed these bells and whistles were incongruous to the very focussed purpose of a hot hatch. Rather than saying can’t keep up with modern times, the overall presentation and execution is not as polished as it needs to be in this hallowed company. To be fair, R-Link never has been.

I came into this test knowing it would be polarising. Renault’s edgiest hatch has not rehearsed all the answers but rather demands that you pose the right questions. A car which desists comparisons because it approaches the hot hatch conundrum from new angles, happily throwing a spanner into the cogs of conventional thinking. Some things however are unforgivable and unintuitive ergonomics around the touchscreen is one of them.

Yet measure a car by the amount it will be missed and with my arms figuratively outstretched fingertips to fingertips I say, ‘by this much’. It doesn’t always get it right but you end up savouring those moments when it does far more intently than you do in another hot hatch. Over to you Francisco Nwamba, your wild ride is up next. Andrew Leopold

  • 1798cc, 4cyl turbo petrol, FWD, 205kW, 390Nm
  • 7.2l/100km, 163g/km CO2
  • 0-100km/h in 5.8secs, 255km/h
  • 1429kg
  • Tester’s notes: Old school and new school. Sometimes primary school
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