Half Price Hot Hatch: Renaultsport Megane 265

By 2012 Renault’s fast car division seemed unable to put a foot wrong when it came to building hot hatches. It was no surprise therefore when that year’s Renault Megane 2.0 Renaultsport 265 proved to be an instant hit, nor indeed that it continues to make a fine purchase six years on with good examples now available for around half of the original £24,825 list price. In fact, at this moment in time it might just be the most interesting Half Price Hot Hatch of them all.

To recap, the Megane 265 was based on the third generation of Megane and unlike its predecessor was sold only in three-door coupe form. It was a development of the Renaultsport Megane 250, which had been launched in 2009 with 247bhp and was already praised for its fine handling. What the 265 did was throw in a bit more firepower for the 2.0-litre engine courtesy of increased boost for the turbo and an improved intake system, first in the limited-edition 265 Trophy of 2011, and then the following year to all Renaultsport Meganes.

THE DRIVE
A 0-62mph time of 6.0 seconds is proof enough that the Megane 265 is a generously quick car by any measure, but it’s the way the power is delivered that proves to be so addictive. This is an engine that snarls and whooshes through its rev range, the strong slug of turbocharged torque causing the steering wheel to writhe gently in your hands, just enough to let you know the car is working, but not so much to ever slow progress. Admittedly, it doesn’t rev as high as the naturally aspirated Renaultsport Clio of around the same time, but it still pulls hard to its redline, and the meaty clutch and six-speed manual gearbox are a joy to use.

However, it’s the handling that really makes the Megane 265 stand out. As with other Renaultsports it was available in standard tune or as a cheaper Cup model, which sacrificed some interior equipment but gained stiffer springs and dampers, a thicker anti-roll bar, fabulous Recaro bucket seats and a limited-slip differential.

While having an even firmer ride than the standard Megane 265, the Cup cars also handle even better, the diff helping the front tyres to find unbelievable levels of traction on the way out of corners, and the whole car responding in a flash to driver inputs. Combined with strong brakes, and steering that is rich in feel and perfectly weighted it makes the Megane 265 addictively brilliant to drive on both road and track.

CHECK POINTS
If you’d like the Megane 265’s pace with enough comfort for daily use then a standard model rather than the Cup is the one to go for. Or, for something that offers both the gadgets and the poise, you’ll also find examples of the standard 265 that have then had the Cup chassis added, meaning you get extras like the limited-slip diff without sacrificing heated seats or a plusher interior.

For something even more special keep an eye out for an RB8 limited edition model (pictured above) from 2013, built to mark Red Bull’s then three Formula One constructors’ titles, for which Renault provided the engines. These come with Red Bull logos and Twilight Blue paintwork to match the Formula One car, 19-inch alloy wheels in place of the standard 18-inch rims, and Red Bull-branded mats.

The RB8 was swiftly followed by a facelift of the Megane range in 2014 (pictured below), identifiable by the larger Renault badge on the nose and the standard fitment of the company’s R-Link infotainment system inside the car. At the same time the pure Cup model was dropped, but buyers could still add the Cup suspension to the standard car as an optional extra.

Or, for the ultimate in fast Meganes Renault also produced an even more powerful 275 version of the engine in a couple of trim levels from 2014, although these are still a little way from falling into half price hot hatch territory.

Regardless which you choose, the Megane’s three-door layout does mean space for anybody sitting in the rear is compromised, while the heavy controls and firm ride mean it’s nothing like as easy to live with on a daily basis as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. But then it is equally true to say that on the right road the Megane is by far the more engaging of the two cars to drive, so it just depends on your priorities.

Aside from what should be the obligatory hot hatch checks of ensuring a car hasn’t been abused or crashed, has a complete service record and is wearing decent tyres (if a previous owner has skimped here it makes you wonder where else corners might have been cut), there are a few other points to consider. For example, look for wear on the Recaro seats, listen for any strange noises from the dash and if the car makes any knocking sounds from the front then the suspension will need attention too.

Another big cost is the cambelt, which needs replacing at 75,000 miles or when the car is six years old. Budget around £500 to get it done by a specialist, or more if you take the car to a Renault dealership. Road tax (or VED to give it its correct name) meanwhile should come in at £230 per year, and you can expect close to 30mpg if you don’t drive the car too hard.

As with many hot hatches, there’s a great online community around Renaultsport products, with plenty of friendly and knowledgeable owners ready to offer advice. If there’s something you’re unsure about, or you simply need to hear again exactly why the 265 is one of the all-time great hot hatches, such clubs and forums can be a great place to start.

FAST FACTS
Renault Megane 2.0 Renaultsport 265
Built: 2012-2015
Power: 261bhp @ 5,500rpm/266lb ft @ 3,000rpm
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds
Top speed: 158mph
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