My next new car – option 3 – RS Megane

Renault Sport Megane

I’m buying a new car at the end of this week and I have a few options to choose from. Option 1 is an Alfa Romeo GTV6. Option 2 is a Saab 9-3 Viggen.

And now option 3… a Renault Sport Megane.

——

RENAULT SPORT MEGANE

Pro:

  • Performance by Renault’s F1 boffins built-in, from the factory
  • Most modern option – reliability and parts access
  • Incredible value for your second-hand dollar
  • Exceptionally good community developing for RS cars
  • Funky looks

Con:

  • Most expensive option of the three
  • Uninspiring interior
  • Takes me outside of my regular car community

Picture: Flickr

Renault are building themselves a serious reputation in the hot hatch market and it’s all down to their Renault Sport range of vehicles. Australians have latched on to this, too, as the land downunder is now Renault Sport’s third biggest market in the world. There’s a growing online and club community developing for these cars and the Saab owners reading this will appreciate what that can mean in terms of the ownership experience.

So what about this Megane?

The styling is divisive, but I really like the bum. It’s not the most practical hatch in the world, but it’s still got some versatility to it. The fact that you can fit a mountain bike in the back should give you an idea of the size.

What’s more important is the stuff under the skin.

How about a 2-litre turbo (in a hatch body style) that makes around 225hp and 310Nm of torque? If that sounds familiar to a Saab fan, it’s because those numbers are very close to Viggen numbers. The bonus with the Megane is that a) it’s tuneable to go even higher, and b) it comes in a chassis that’s already set up in such a way as to get that power to the ground. It’s all about grip.

Garden variety RS Meganes are available for just a little more than I’d spend on a Viggen. If I were to stretch the budget a little more, a version called the F1 Team model would become available, which lifts the bar even higher. It comes standard with some special trim, four-pot Brembos, 18-inch wheels, special exhaust and an all-important limited slip differential.

A Viggen would be a lot more comfortable to live with on a day-to-day basis. But the RS Megane is the more accomplished driver, by a long shot.

The RS Megane is an outsider at this point. I know that if I choose to go this way then I’d have to go for the top spec, the F1 Team model, and I’m not sure I want to spend the extra money at this point.

On the other hand, paying a bit extra now would give me an outstanding driver’s car and it would also save me the future expense of getting another car remotely close to the Megane’s level of handling and performance.

Hmmmmm. This is not the most emotionally engaging option, that’s for sure. But the sheer technical competence alone is quite compelling.

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45 Comments

  1. Perhaps it’s because we can’t get them in the US and I’ve always had a thing for French cars, but I’d go for the Megane in a hot flash.

    Yes, it’s not a Saab and it’s not an Alfa, but I suggest that might be a good thing. You’ve ridden the Saab horse for all it’s worth and, to be candid, we’ve all been bucked (yourself included). The Alfa’s nice, but it’s slow relative to the others and prone to be on the lift more than the road (and that’s if it doesn’t rust to bits).

    How’s your French?

    1. You’re not sure if I should get the Alfa, Tim? Or you’re not sure if you said it? And when are you coming home?

  2. This is certainly where you and I diverge on the automotive enthusiast path. The boy racer just isn’t my cup o’ tea for a road car. For a track day car, maybe. To me there are simply too many compromises with a car like this. Space, versatility, comfort and styling mean something to my enjoyment of a car.

    My two cents.

  3. Someone:
    “So… what do you drive then?”

    You:
    “An Alfa…. :-D”
    “A Saab… :-D”
    “A Renault… :-/”

    I realise the Renault is probably a perfectly good car, but here in Tasmania at least, admitting you own a Renault means you’re an old, eccentric weirdo who owns a rusty Renault 12 made in 1874 that spews blue smoke and sounds like a lawn mower that’s on its last legs. It also means you have a long wispy beard and live alone on a 3/4 acre block covered in other dead Renault 12s obscured partly by long, unmoved grass. The other people in the town avoid eye contact with you and fear you’re a communist.

    Buy the Alfa. It is the coolest of the three, and it is also the rarest and in my opinion, the most desirable. Bestow it with ample love to get it and keep it in tip-top condition and it shouldn’t lose any value. If anything, GTVs in excellent condition will only get more valuable as time goes on. Keep it stock standard and simply enjoy what power it comes with.

  4. I have never driven a Megane, so I cant comment there…but it’s so ugly, I dont know if I COULD drive one…
    If you’re wanting a toy car/saturday morning/club event/track day/concours car, get the Alfa for sure. If, as I remember, the raison d’etre for the car is a GT car for weekenders with the wife and luggage, the Saab is the obvious choice here.

      1. With a Megane like that you’ll soon earn a new nickname, you can pick between Quasimodo and HumptyDumpty. πŸ˜›

  5. The Megane, no question hands down every time (and thats not because I own a Megane mines a mk3 and its a diesel).
    Image is no issue here in the UK – its a young mans car. Its a practical comfortable family car with huge speed. With the Alfa and the Viggen you will need to do work. With the RS? you can get in and go. Very very quickly.
    Do buy a set of road legal semi slicks for the summer and see how well it corners then.

  6. Oh, I get it! You’re listing some options to justify the Saab. πŸ˜‰

    No but seriously, get the Viggen.

  7. Funny reading about Renault and reliability in the same sentence. You’ll make the French proud but many others bewildered.
    Renault is a constant last when it comes to reliability at the Swedish Inspections.
    Must be a salt issue. πŸ˜‰ PSA does better though.

    Viggen or GTV6….

    1. Held the same view but it turns out from experience and the stats to be wrong. 2002 – 2005 huge reliabilty issues. 2005 on massive leaps in quality. The RS is built in the motorsport factory which massively helped quality there.
      Not just Saab that was unfairly maligned for quality!

  8. Even though the name is cool πŸ˜‰
    The Renault will be fun for a week, whilst the Viggen is fun, comfortable and something you actually can/want to drive for years. Even on long holiday trips.
    Be also prepared to race every Bimmer teen with a Megane like that…

    The older I get the less I like unreliable cars, that’s why the Alfa would be out in my book. Unless you just want to a car that sounds nice and can be towed from the other side of town?

  9. The Renault.
    You’ve done two 9-3’s and at least one Alfa already. Worst case….you don’t like it, you can sell it and buy something different, right?
    En tout cas, la Megane et super cool, comme toi.

  10. So it has come to this. A Megane. This is almost as far from a V8 cruiser (you originally wanted that, right?) as it gets. This is a semi-racing car.

    I would never even consider… or would I? How interesting a car is just depends on how much you’re interested in it, right? And as little as I know you, I know that you’ll make it the most interesting car in the world for you, if you own it.

    It would be funny to see a grown, respectable man in a boy’s car, though πŸ˜‰ No, seriously. Just drive it and then go with your gut.

    1. True, Sebastian. This is straying a bit far from the brief I outlined in the ‘automatics’ post from a few weeks ago. But I guess you could extend that to being any vehicle that it would be fun to go for a good drive in, not just a long distance cruiser like the 928 I was considering.

  11. Clio Sport Cup. Much better. Last of Series.

    I have a Megane in the family and after having done up a 12, 17, 18, and Fuego, the Clio is so much better on so many fronts. It’s lighter, turns in better, stops faster and is a true ‘kart’. Same engine but more HP per Kg to play with. A Clio is also a bit like a Tardis. Buckets of leg room for big guys.

    Mind you, an Alfetta 2L in the GTV body is another option and more reliable. Just doesn’t sound as good as the 6.

    1. Funny, but a Clio RS parked next to me in the office carpark today. In black. A definite sleeper, that one.

      My introduction to RS vehicles came via a mate with a 99Turbo who bought a Clio RS, too. He’s still got it, though doesn’t drive it too much.

  12. Choose the saab!nothing else matter!moreover a viggen one!!if i could, i buy a viggen or a turbo X so if you could buy the saab!

  13. I started to write a long comment, but realized that you’re just letting us know what your options are, and we’re ALong For the ride (so to speAk). Enjoy the dilemma – it’s not often that one gets to stress oVer such InterestinG thinGs. I greatly ENvy the position you’re in!

    1. Thanks James. It comes after several months of penance not having a car at all, so it’s fun to have some good options.

      The beauty of this situation is that whilst there might be preferable options, there really is no bad option.

      1. I hope the hidden mesSAge ABove gives you insight ;o)
        I’m in a similar situation but with less of a time constraint – I think my current Saab will be my last front wheel driven car for a while. While I will always have a certain affinity for Saab, my next car will most likely be rear wheel driven; my “Red Pill”.

      2. Swade, how about a good ‘old’ NG 9-3 (SC) Aero (V6)?
        You don’t have to do much to make it drive and perform really great. Has lot of that Viggen feel but drives better imo with a little help from your favorit tuner. If you want something a bit different go for the XWD.

        PS. I would not wants to get in a high speed accident in a small Renault or a 20 year old Alfa.

  14. As long you do not hang the RS upsidedown at a crane, it could be better than the Viggen. Otherwise, I expect the same performance as the old Clarksons BMW …
    Surprising choice that Renauls, just a bit boy-racy. If you were in your mid twenties, I would say: ‘Go for it Swade !’.
    And in that point of view, if you’re really serious about it, what about the new ones, with lot of go-faster-stipes, decals etc.: πŸ˜‰
    http://www.omniauto.it/magazine/18965/quattro-renault-mgane-rs-da-formula-1
    Even in cosmic blue, the Viggen is a highly understated car compared with those.

  15. If you’re going to go French, I think you should jump all in. Solve the issue of the car being “emotionally engaging”. Get a car with performance no modern car can compare to. Get the ultimate French driving experience. Get a 2cv.

    1. I always wanted to drive one of those. When I was in school I had an internship at a garage and one day the 2cv rolled in. Never seen a car that is that basic and floppy (!) before, but it fascinated me. Maybe someday it will be my third or fourth car… If I had the bucks to own four cars, I’d rather go with a DS, though.

  16. OK the Ronny Renault will be by far the best car to drive, no question. I quite like them myself. However, you are looking at a French car that is past its first flush of youth, and that means only one thing. Dodgy electrics. OK, two things, dodgy electrics and more dodgy electrics. If you were buying new I would say go for it, but maybe not at over 3 years old.

    I bought my ex a Megane Scenic (mini-MPV thing) years ago and while it was a great baby buggy, it was hopelessly unreliable. Every breakdown was electrical. Every fibre in my body told me not to buy it in the first place but she was set on it so I gave in. Stupid. She now drives a Honda Jazz. Soul-less, but unbreakable.

    So as I see it you now have a slightly different choice.

    1. Get the Alfa, old, great to drive, but slow and liable to break down. It will totally appeal to the petrol in your veins, but you might be walking from time to time…at least they are relatively simple to fix.
    2. Get the Renault, newish, really great to drive, quick but liable to break down. Again it will appeal to your inner Petrolhead, but you will definitely be walking at some point. And this is harder to fix due to more electronics.
    3. Get the Saab – middling in age (a bit like us!), fast but unruly, and dare I say it…potentially going to let you down too. DI, CPS, throttle body, sludge…gearbox. The most comfortable place to sit out of the three, but doesn’t move you on.

    Touch call, mate. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes…

  17. Swade,

    Good to see you buying a car with an open mind. So many people put blinders on when shopping.

    Don’t confuse roadholding with handling. The best handling car will rarely be the one that generates the most G forces, and vice versa. Handling is about driver enjoyment, feedback and grin factor. Road holding is about getting the last tenth out of your lap at any cost.

    I used to own two bikes. One was a scooter with a comfy seat and an engine made to last decades in third-world conditions. The other was a race-replica two stroke that would kick you in the backside once you got it north of 11,000 rpm.
    I sold the race-rep after I realized that the scooter put a big smile on my face, and the racer just made me feel aggressive.
    No point driving a race car on the street. It’s either as boring as a formation lap, or unnecessarily dangerous.

    I’ve never driven a Megane, let alone an RS, so I’m not directing this specifically at that car. It looks to me like a Golf with a fair bit more passion, which can’t be all bad.

    Whatever you choose should make you smile. You shouldn’t try to impress your friends and acquaintances, or to win hypothetical races that you’ll never run.

    Any V6 Alfa 147 GTAs in Australia? It seems like that car combines the best and worse of all three candidates!

  18. Pick the MeganΓ© RS!

    The problem with most enthusiast is the “12-year old syndrom”. The cars that you adore are the same cars that you loved when you were 12. Most of us have messed up references… Newer cars offer a whole different level of precision and qualities that allow them to be used on a daily basis. The problem with new cars is lack of charisma and “contact with the hardware”. The Megane is a very good compromise. I like it that you think outside the “12-year old” box.

    I’ve had a GTV6 (1983) and it is marvelous – if you have another daily drive. The quality was not good enough when it was new. The 9-3 Griffin is a better choice but… It is not as sporty as the Megane RS. However, the problem with the Megane is that you will have to drive it like a criminal to explore the true joy.

    I know I shouldn’t but… have you considered something with a VTEC-engine or the T-Sport powered Corollas and Celicas? I have the nice 192 HP Toyota engine in my Lotus Elise and it is mindblowing!

  19. The Viggen. It’s the only plausible daily driver in the group.

    The Alfa is too old and by virtue of its age alone will need too much maintenance to be a reliable daily driver. And the Renault is HIDEOUS. Not avant gardΓ©, not “divisive styling, but may appeal to some”, but hideous. And given its racing origins and boy racer aspirations, I’ll wager it has an uncomfortably harsh ride.

    The Viggen is by no means a perfect choice. Saabs of that vintage will need some mechanical TLC – but the fixes are well known, none are too terribly expensive, and once fixed it will stay fixed. If the budget is an issue, I would put off the suspension upgrades for awhile and drive it as a “normal” car. Viggen torque steer, etc., is not a problem for regular trips at or near the posted speed limit.

    You have not mentioned safety as a purchase criteria, but the Viggen is several orders of magnitude safer than the Alfa, and is likely safer than the Renault.

    1. Greg, look up Renault and safety. I have owned a Saab and am quite happy to put my kids in a Megane safety wise.
      Plenty of people live with these cars day to day. My money is on either the Saab or the Renault, but if the Viggen has been done…

      1. The safety aspect is good to know – I was only rating the Saab higher because Saabs are almost always the safest car on the road. If Renault is as focused on safety as Swade’s guest post above suggests, then as a newer car it might well be safer (newer technology, more airbags, etc.).

        I’m sure the roads in Hobart are nicer than here, but every time I hear the phrase “hot hatch” I think “ride is too harsh.”

    2. On the subject of Renault and safety, have a look at this video from Fifth Gear, a UK automotive program.

      A used Renault Modus (1.2l mini wagon) fares better than a Volvo 940 wagon in an 80 mph crash staged for the show. I was shocked when I saw this three-four years ago.

  20. Thought I’d put my related two cents here (and good to read you Swade!):

    The key to choosing to me always seems to be about having a deep understanding of exactly what you’ll use it for, as that’s what ends up defining the experience as pleasing or not. The same thing that makes Saabs great, often…

    On the other hand, if you want a change, maybe at least not the Viggen in this case. Maybe not the RS either, because of the interior … so that could be the Alfa, if it works for you?! Good luck!

  21. Gentlemen… Allow me to draw your attention to the post RedJ made on January 18th: http://www.saabsunited.com/2012/01/relax-cabin-is-japanese-for-toppola.html — to be specific, take a look at the last picture on that page.

    When I first looked at the Renault, the Toyotis was what sprang to mind. The little growth on the back of the Renault looks as if it wants to grow into something more …substantial.

    Now… I have had the pleasure of getting to know Swade over the past couple of years, and I know he is a man very confident in his sexuality. But think of your dog, Steven! Charlie would not want to be caught dead in that reverse-pimpmobile.

    A very, very, very wise man (far wiser than me) once told me “Get the Viggen Rune, you know you want to!”. Unfortunately I was young and naive, so I did not heed this man’s advice. Not that I have any regrets, but a Viggen is a Viggen.

  22. Swade,

    As you know, I’m currently on my second Viggen. Being that I live in Miami, Florida, they have both been the convertible type as I can genuinely have the top down all year round.

    However, the novelty has worn off. As amazing as a car as it is, I would go for something different the next time around. Additionally, I don’t know how long you’ve had your Viggens for, but my current one is nearing 100k miles and it hasn’t aged very well. I’ve spent too much in repairs as of late, despite being consistent with my regular maintenance.

    Then again, I guess she paid a pretty price for winning several #1 trophies at the local autocross πŸ˜‰

    A friend of my cousin’s in Spain has a 2004 RS V6 Megane in yellow. Interesting little rocket, I liked it a lot but recall how pitiful gas mileage was… wasn’t a fan of the silly side air scoop either, but that doesn’t apply for your Megane.

    Good luck!

  23. Swade – you only live once. Get what your gut wants you to buy. You can always sell a car if you get tired of it.

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