There it is again – stuck to the back of the Audi like a piece of road tar on the bumper. Damn hot hatches – don’t they realise they’ve no right to keep up? Get back where you belong, in a McDonald’s car park.
To say the Megane 250 Cup is competent would be doing it an almighty injustice. It’s so well set up all of its 250bhp can be utilised to the full. Mostly residing in the hands of the youngest member of our RTOTY team, the Megane rapidly became a thorn in the side of the assembled supercars. With an all-black colour scheme it’s like a stealth bomber stalking us through the valleys, menacing the old boys, bullying them when really it has no right to.
The thing is, Renault knows how to make a cracking hot hatch – its back catalogue reads like a Who’s Who of motoring greats: The Clio Williams, Clio 172-200, Clio V6, Renault GT Turbo, the list goes on and on… Whether we’ll be adding the 250 Cup to that hall of fame remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt it surprised the entire RTOTY team. It’s easy to think a car like this would be forgotten among the glitterati assembled here, but when I get the chance to take the wheel for a stint from one photo location to another it’s clear this is one cracking hatch.
Boil the revs up to turbo boost point and it fires rapidly through its six ratios. There’s a pleasing rasp to the engine note too and from outside it slurps and pops on each up shift. The driving position is superb with supportive sports seats and a rally car-like set up. Despite giving away a few seconds to the fastest cars here in the dash to 60mph, the in-gear punch from the turbo-charged lump means stringing switchback after switchback together is a delight, surfing a 340Nm wave of torque to terrorise the front runners.
Renault’s engineers worked hard on improving response with the 250 Cup and it shows – 80 per cent of peak torque is available from 1,900rpm resulting in punch pretty much from the word go. And that pays dividends on these tight, twisting roads.
The Cup chassis features a limited slip diff, lower ride height, with stiffer springs and dampers – all of which serve to make the whole car handle brilliantly. Compared to these out-and-out sportscars it does feel tall in comparison, but it’s still sure-footed and enjoyable, gripping hard in corners, even in the damp. Steering feel is up there with the best of them too and the gearbox, although a little notchy, is equally impressive.
It may have been overlooked at the start, but the Megane comes as another surprise in the RTOTY line-up. The fact the man that spent the most time behind the wheel placed the £23,000 hot hatch above the likes of an Audi R8 and Aston Martin speaks volumes.
The rest of the team may have been seduced by the big guns, but everyone came away from a stint behind the wheel of the Renault with a huge grin – and for a hot hatch to impress in this company, let alone keep up, is an achievement in itself.