Flying

Frenchman

The Renault Megane, as a standalone, is technically an A-to-B accountant’s favourite. But to cater us maniacs who live and breathe carbon dioxide everyday with an odd affection towards the smell of burning rubber, the French marque is here to give us the bewildering Renault Megane RS265 Sport. And this is why it’s here to stay with us.

Words and Photography by KEEGAN DORAI

f you remember the days of good glory where Napoleon boasted a gripping fist of power by expanding the French empire. Relentlessly taking over territories within the borders of modern-day Italy, Switzerland, Spain; and even threatening other surrounding nations with war. It was an ego-trip, in which resulted him losing out terribly when he thought invading Mother Russia makes sense.

Soon, all ambitions of expanding the great empire came to a grinding halt when they set foot on Russian soil. Moscow was practically there, but due to massive manpower losses while marching in, they’ve suffered too much. It wasn’t technically Russia’s army who did all of the job. But what thought Napoleon and his men a life-changing lesson was the bitterly-harsh Russian winter. He knew this was hopeless — so a withdrawal was place in due course.

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Nonetheless this is no history lesson so lets cut it short; Napoleon lost his growing empire, France regained its original borders, and those who were once exiled, returned to rule a new French Kingdom. This is how it functioned for the French people. They believe in changes and by being bold at the same time in spite of going through certain chapters that bogged them down to the duct.

It’s no difference when it comes to cars made by them as well. At one point, Renault made the little 4 hatchback. It is so reliable that it even continue on life within the edges of the Sahara desert till today. They were plain and pretty much straightforward, made out of bits so simple that you can even mend it with a rock or cactus within sight.

Yes, it is still being driven by many in Morocco, which is unsurprisingly an ex-French colony. Handed down by generations with a broken odometer and no service history but what matters the most that it still started up amidst the dusty surroundings. In contrary, it was sold alongside the utterly terrible Renault 14, which was known as ‘The Pear’ due to its fast-crumbling body that corrodes even quicker than an acid drum left out in the open.

The 14 was, in fact, the prehistorical Megane and the 4 was in essence the Clio’s grandaddy. Soon the days of sporty Renaults kicked in when the marque introduced the Renault 9 and 5. Both cars attained cult-like status. The 5 went on being a favourite for many, and the 9 was crowned Europe’s Car of The Year back in 1982.

Nonetheless, the marque decided to go all grey by the 2000’s again with the Megane. It was great for non-car people, and it was one of the safest car ever designed by them as well. But the hatch was — a one-dimensional creation, the estate being nothing more than a load lugger with the saloon only appeasing the Turks; and the convertible was a godawful gopping creation.

However, Renault Sport knew that all of this is going nowhere. And this is why they gave us the fire-breathing Megane from Renault Sport, which traces its history of more than 14 years in spicing up Renault’s sensible hatchback.

Fast-forwarding today, what we have here is the hottest Megane offered in the market — apart from the limited RS275 Trophy-R that was sold out even before it was launched locally. Yes, its not the Cup, but the slightly ‘less spicier’ Sport. Draped in a shade of black, the test car was an immediate sleeper to the untrained eye, and it wasn’t a showoff like its more powerful Trophy-R sibling. It was a doddle to be driving in one over my weekend review.

I love understated cars, and the Megane RS265 technically blends in very well in a busy street or highway in that hue. What made it even greater was its magnificent motor; where it musters out a potent 265bhp with 360Nm. That’s more than a Golf GTi and Belgium combined in total power output. Unlike its German rival as well, you can only operate it via a six-speed manual transmission, and nothing else. Joy de vivre.

And god this thing takes off the line with so much bliss. The engagement; pure class. Dynamics; sharper than scalpel. That shifter; simply sublime. On a straight road, this thing will take you up till head-buzzing speeds but will never cease away any source of assertion from you. Yes, it keeps you in check together while you’re doing the tango with the steering wheel, and that’s how communicative it is.

Raw is the precise word for this. Driving up the twisty roads of Genting was an eventful affair as you can feel every single dip from its tyres on uneven surfaces, that flex when you steer in, and that unmistakable engagement while you heel-and-toe into a sharp apex. It makes you feel like you’re actually operating a real tool, and not some dingy, computer-assisted sportscar preventing its lunatic driver from crashing off a hill.

Its the same thing inside, too. That spartan dashboard which holds an arcade of buttons lesser than you can find on a PS3 joystick, and a measly-looking media display that only shows the time and radio station. Nope, there’s no fancy gimmicks to toy or mood lighting to please Nigel Levings. All you get is a straightforward driver’s cabin with a pair of seats gripping you in place while descending through the seven steps of hell. Refinement? Well I couldn't be bothered to be honest.

Still, it is comfy enough to get you from home to office, and back again with some groceries stowed away in the boot area. The RS265 is practical nonetheless — and after all it still shares the basic architecture from its sensible and less-sportier cousin. Seating accommodation at the back is impressively adequate if you need to haul additional mates to your nearest bar joint to watch a game of football.

I can’t find a reason to fault it, in all honesty. Putting on my sensible pants on, however — the RS265 is quite a pain to drive in our terrible traffic on a daily basis, and it rides a little too firm unnecessarily when you want things to be a little normal at the wheel. But this is not a run-off-the-mill hatchback. What you’re buying into is something that will reward you in the long run, and consecutively turning you into a better driver as you get to know it more. This is your personal trainer when it comes to skilled driving.

Nonetheless, it will be the ultimate choice for those, like you and me, looking for some good motoring fun throughout seven days a week. I would rest my laurels on an easier and almost-entertaining Golf GTi for sensibility, but that void will forever remain there if you opted the RS265 out of your toy box. Now, time to try the lottery out myself, and I do hope its successor will be another revelation. Just like how great France is today.

Renault Megane RS265 Sport

Engine inline-4, 1998cc, turbocharged
Power 265bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 360Nm at 3000rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Weight N/A
Power-to-weight 185bhp/tonne
Price RM199,999

evo rating: ★★★★☆