Some previous Renaultsport products have looked rather Max Power, a boy racer image that potential customers would often generally rather avoid. Hence a look that back in 2010 was classier than anything the French brand had yet provided to the hot hatch market. Unlike many of its rivals, Renault saw no market for five doors in this sector back then, so this car was based exclusively on the three-door Megane Coupe bodystyle, though with enough styling changes to make it feel a very different product, both inside and out.
In your driveway, it'll certainly appear purposeful, with a ride height that's 20mm lower than the previous model. Park it face-out if you can. That way, enthusiast neighbours will note the larger air intake in the front bumper, complete with its F1-inspired aerodynamic front blade and optional LED daytime running lights. The sides have pronounced sills and wheelarch extensions (though they're unfortunately plastic rather than part of the sheet metal) that draw your gaze to the lovely 18 or 19" alloys, whilst at the back, an elongated spoiler and central exhaust are incorporated into a small diffuser.
At the wheel, the driving position is brilliant, aided by the fact that you can position the seat nice and low: grippy Recaro chairs were a desirable option for original buyers. A leather-trimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel has neat yellow stitching that echoes the brightly-coloured rev counter. This, like the speedo, is analogue rather than digital as in commoner Meganes from this era - and all the better for it. The headrests, dashboard and rev-counter all carry the Renaultsport logo, but it's tasteful rather than tarted up, just as you'd want for this much money.
Being based on a coupe, you won't expect this car to offer as much back seat room as boxier hatchback rivals and it doesn't. Head and legroom are just about OK for two adults on short trips, but the rising rear side windowline makes a seat here feel oppressive. Still. perhaps we shouldn't nit-pick: the original Megane Renaultsport model didn't offer any rear seats at all. The Coupe shape also irritates when it comes to backward visibility through the rear hatch - suffice it to say that the standard parking sensors are essential - but at least when you raise it, there's 344-litres of loadspace on offer, with a further 33-litres more for items you want to keep out of sight under the boot floor. If that's not enough, pushing forward the split-folding rear bench increases the total figure to 991-litres.
The Megane 265 is designed to be flogged mercilessly around a circuit and it's built extremely tough as a result. The old R26 models were favourites of track car hire companies exactly because of this rugged durability and although the 250/265-generation model was a more sophisticated thing, it still proved popular with buyers who like to dole out some punishment to their vehicles. Check for accident damage, tyres that are on their last legs and also be careful of cars that have been remapped to within a nadge of going pop. Most Megane 265 models will, when tested on a dyno, often develop a good deal more than the quoted output, so tuning them still further can quickly take you to a land of holed pistons.
(based on a 2014 Megane Renaultsport 265 - ex Vat) An air filter will be priced at around £11-£21 and an oil filter will sit in the £6 to £7 bracket. A fuel filter will be around £8-£12. Front brake pads are in the £23-£50 bracket; rear pads are in the £30-£58 bracket. The rear brake discs we came across sat in the £85 bracket but you could pay up to around £170 for a pricier brand. A radiator is about £130-£180. An ignition coil is about £26-£45. A headlamp could be anything from around £160-£265.
With the previous generation version of this car, it took Renaultsport a little time to realise that they could please all of the people all of the time, provided that they offered it in separate road and track-orientated guises. Not surprisingly, this is an approach that continued on with this model, available with a 'Sport' chassis for everyday drivers or in stiffer 'Cup' form for trackday fiends or those with no need of a chiropractor. Even in 'Sport' guise, the car is 12.5% stiffer than the sportiest standard Megane Coupe, but the 'Cup' version is 15% firmer still, with extra driving focus guaranteed by the addition of thicker anti-roll bars, tauter springs and a limited slip differential.
Under the bonnet, a casual glance at the spec sheet might suggest that little has changed over the original Renaultsport Megane model - there's a 2.0-litre turbo four cylinder unit that still could sound meatier, as before channelling over 200bhp via a 6-speed gearbox to the front wheels. Look a little closer though and the story's very different. Over 25% of the parts are changed, including the turbo, all of which released 247bhp (a further 20bhp over the hottest previous last-of-the-line Megane R26 model) and a useful boost in torque to 340Nm, though you have to stay in the top half of the rev range to properly enjoy it. Impressive, but not quite enough you might think, for this car to be a contender in the super hot hatch sector where cars like Ford's Focus RS and Volkswagen's Golf R campaign at or not far off the 300bhp mark. But stay with us. All is not as it seems.
We're often quoting the late, great Lotus founder Colin Chapman in these articles saying 'more power makes you faster down the straights; less weight makes you faster everywhere'. It applies again here. This Renault may have 53bhp less than a Focus RS from this era but it's also 160kg lighter and is more aerodynamic. As a result, its 0-60mph time is only fractionally slower at 6.0s and its 0-100mph time of 13.7s is actually faster than the Ford. The lighter body also makes the car more agile, while the aero package delivers more grip. On a track, this Megane would probably deliver the faster lap time.
But what about through the corners of your favourite B road, where a Focus's Revoknuckle suspension and a Golf R's 4Motion 4WD enable you to slingshot from curve to curve? Well, this Renault can equal or better its rivals here too, thanks both to its quick accurate steering and its strangely-named PerfoHub front suspension which dials out the unwelcome torquesteer that used to leave powerful turbo cars like this scrabbling for grip coming out of tighter bends. You'd expect the Cup model's limited slip differential to give it a big advantage here - which it does, though not by the margin we'd expected. For most drivers most of the time, the Sport version will be the better buy, still rewarding through the bends yet supple over bumps in a way that makes many needlessly stiff rivals feel, well, rather crude.
Like the Cup variant, the Sport derivative features Renaultsport Dynamic Management, a 3-stage ESP stability control system that can be switched on, off or set in a mid-mode that allows a small amount of slip before intervening. It's beautifully thought out - like much else in this package. True, this Megane may not paint a grin on your face quite as readily as some lairier rivals over the first couple of corners but over time. We'd wager that it may well satisfy you more.
Renaultsport may be a division of the Renault group, but the cars it produces are so different - and so much more rewarding - than their standard counterparts that they could be from another maker entirely. Which is refreshing in an age where so many brands' idea of creating a hot hatch is to plumb-in a bigger engine, bolt-on a body kit and jack-up the price.
Bottom line with this MK2 model Megane R.S. 265 is that for the price of a hot hatch, you get a super shopping rocket, unafraid of the fastest GTi's out there, even if they do cost vastly more. Plus all of those cars are essentially compromises between track-ready handling and road going usability: with its 'Sport' and 'Cup' model options, this RS doesn't have to be. Either way, it's brilliant fun - and that's what a car like this really should be all about.