Used car buying guide: Renault Mégane RS

1 year, 5 months ago - 3 January 2023, autocar
Used car buying guide: Renault Mégane RS
A rewarding, playful, rev-hungry turbocharged hot hatch full of surprises, but are any of them bad?

The hot-hatchback hall of fame is sure to have a fair few Renaults in it, one of them being the Mk2 Mégane RS (confusingly based on the Mk3 Mégane). 

This fast and fun three-door arrived on UK shores in 2010 and spawned a plethora of variants, to the point that you can easily get in a muddle trying to differentiate them. 

At the beginning, there was the RS 250, which packs a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, giving you 247bhp to play with. This was joined by a Cup version that gained some go-faster goodies, including a limited-slip differential and the stiffer, lighter Cup chassis (which was also available as an optional extra on the standard model). 

But much like David Fincher, Renault wanted to do many more takes. In 2011, it came out with the RS 265 Trophy. Unsurprisingly, this has 261bhp and even more track-focused bits and bobs, including special Bridgestone Potenza tyres.

Only 50 ever came to the UK after it had broken the front-wheel-drive lap record at the Nürburgring. Its time was 8min 7.97sec, putting it ahead of the Ferrari 360 Modena and V8-engined Audi RS4. 

Then for 2012 came a facelift, a small power bump, an even faster Cup model and more. Indeed, we could probably go on forever. 

What we’re sure you really want to know, though, is how awesome this hot hatch is to drive. Even the original RS 250 is mega, with its 0-62mph time of 6.1sec. Power is best accessed by a heavy right foot and lots of revs, because that’s this turbo unit’s preferred state. 

After said flooring, you will be blessed with enthralling speed and sound. It massively rewards keen drivers. Grip is plentiful, and the steering is well-weighted and offers good feedback. 

The ride is aggressive, though, especially on Cup-equipped cars. That’s the price you pay for such a high standard of handling. 

For an even harsher set-up (the harshest, in fact), look no further than the RS 275 Trophy-R. This was designed for track use, so its Öhlins suspension isn’t forgiving in the slightest. You will be bounced and thrown around on a rough B-road. While some will call this annoying, others will call it the hardcore edge of one of the most exciting hot hatches ever made. 

Like the RS 265 Trophy that came before it, the RS 275 Trophy-R raised the bar for front-wheel-drive cars at the Nürburgring. In 2014, it set a time of 7min 54.36sec. To add to its already legendary status, Renault only ever brought 30 examples to the UK, making it a rare (and thus expensive) creation. 

 In 2016, the second generation of the Renault Mégane RS said farewell, being followed two years later by the fivedoor RS 280 Sport, RS 280 Cup and RS 300 Trophy. 

The Mk2 certainly had a good run, setting two Nürburgring lap records and thrilling drivers on both public roads and tracks. 

There are a good number of hot hatches that are much more practical and relaxing than this Mégane RS, but few are so quick and so entertaining for the money.

What we said then
13 January 2010: “Even in Cup form, this is a more mature, less brutish hot hatch than the old R26. And on initial inspection, it’s easy to confuse this maturity for a lack of soul. But that would be a mistake. Because get it on the right road (or better still a track) and the maturity melts away to reveal a hot hatch that is intimate, confidence inspiring and exceptionally talented.”

An expert's view
Matthew Ashmore, Select Motorsport: “It really does a great job of keeping alive the RS spirit – the kind you get with some of the older, rawer models – while offering some comfort and good low-down torque to help with everyday driving. This is the main attraction to these cars, because they make good daily-drivers. And with a few light modifications, they go extremely well on track. We work with them most days, taking them from standard road cars to modified track/race cars. Cambelts are pretty labour-intensive and it really pays to take them to a garage that’s familiar with them. It’s all too common to see timing issues resulting in lower power and economy/efficiency.”

Buyer beware

Engine: Check the cambelt and water pump were changed when the car turned six years old or hit 75,000 miles. An RS needs 5W-40 fully synthetic oil, and make sure you look for oil leaks around the rocker and sump covers. 

Transmission: The gearbox can suffer from noisy bearings, which is a costly issue to fix. On cars with more 60,000 miles, the dual-mass flywheel can develop a faint clicking or tapping. If you hear it, be warned that it only gets worse. Interior: Make sure the underfloor storage cubbies aren’t damp. Look for any splits and cracks in the driver’s seat bolsters. And when you start the car, check that the warning lights go out. 

Suspension: The anti-roll-bar drop links can wear and the rubber top-mount bushes can split. The former can be identified by a slight knock. These are minor issues compared with worn lower swivel joints, signalled by a slight knocking noise that can turn into cracking on full lock. This will render the car undriveable, because the bottom of the suspension will try to pull itself outwards under acceleration and inwards under braking. 

Brakes and tyres: Examine the edges of the discs for heavy lipping. With the front wheels at full lock, check the tyres’ inner shoulders for excessive wear. It’s best if the tyres are from a premium brand. 

Body: Check the windscreen scuttle drains for blockages. The rear wheel arches attract stone chips and require attention before corrosion sets in.

Also worth knowing
For the 2012 facelift, Renault upped the power of the standard Mégane RS to 261bhp. However, this figure is only accessible when you press the ESP button; you have 247bhp in the car’s default mode. Holding down the ESP button turns off the stability aids. If you’re looking at buying a facelifted Megané RS, it’s worth checking this all works when you go for a test drive. 

For Formula 1 fans, there was the Red Bull RB8 limited edition, which marked the Renault-engined team’s 2012 title wins with Sebastian Vettel.

How much to spend
£6000–£7999: Early RS 250s with around 100,000 miles on them, most sold privately. Their conditions are questionable.

£8000–£10,999: More RS 250s but some with the Cup chassis, as well as some fully fledged Cup cars. Mileages dip towards 50,000 at the top end of this budget.

£11,000–£15,999: Mostly RS 265s; some RS 250s with mileages below 50,000. Conditions are respectable and there are more independent dealers selling them.

£16,000–£19,999: A couple of RS 265 Trophys, plus some RS 275 Cup-S cars.

£20,000-£35,000: We could only find one Trophy-R for sale, and it’s listed for £34,625.

One we found

2015 Renault Mégane RS 275 Cup-S, 16,800 miles, £18,995: The RS 275 Cup-S is a more roadfocused alternative to the RS 275 Trophy-R. The Öhlins suspension and Akrapovic exhaust were optional (this car has both) and more than 30 were made, but they’re still not common.

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