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Twin Test: Renault Megane R.S. V Honda Civic Type R

Reviews | Published:

The Megane R.S. is an all-new version of Renault’s famed hot-hatch. But can it take on the mighty Honda Civic Type R? Jack Evans finds out

The Civic and Megane battle it out for hot-hatch supremacy

What are they?

There are few things which summarise fun, exciting motoring quite like a hot hatch. Here in the UK they’re lapped up, simply because they transform even the dreariest of commutes into something a little special. We’ve got a newcomer to the segment with us today – the latest version of Renault’s Megane R.S – and it’s going up against one of the big hitters of the hot hatch world – the British-built Honda Civic Type R.

The Type R looks mean, and feels mean too
(PA)

Which one comes out on top when faced with some classic British B-roads? We’ve headed out to our favourite countryside routes to find out.

What’s new?

Let’s start with the Megane R.S. Replacing one of the most popular hot hatches is no mean feat, and Renault has thrown everything it can at the new Megane to ensure success. As such, you’ll now find four-wheel-steering included in its list of features, along with a new turbocharged powertrain. In Cup specification vehicles – like our test car – you’ll also find a lowered suspension system and a limited-slip differential on the front axle. It’s a list of tech designed to make it as capable on tight, twisty roads as possible.

The R.S. feels agile in the bends
(PA)

The Honda Civic Type R may have been around for a little while, but that makes it no less impressive. It’s famed for providing one of the very best driving experiences available from a hot hatch, and when you take a look at its list of features – powerful turbocharged engine, a snappy six-speed gearbox and expertly judged steering, to name just three – to know that this is one serious car indeed.

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What’s under the bonnet?

The Megane R.S. is powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 249bhp and 390Nm of torque driven to the front wheels via either a dual-clutch automatic gearbox or, in our test car’s case, a six-speed manual. The dart to 60mph takes just 5.6 seconds and, all in, it’ll do 158mph.

Well-judged steering allows you to point the Type R exactly where you want it
(PA)

Honda’s Civic Type R, meanwhile, weighs in with a larger 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol with 315bhp and 400Nm of torque. It matches the Renault’s 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds, but eclipses its top speed at 169mph. There’s no automatic gearbox option here; just a delightful six-speed manual.

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What’s are they like to drive?

This is where things really count. A hot hatch needs to be – above all other things – fun to drive, and if it doesn’t deliver an experience which leaves you grinning from ear to ear, then it really doesn’t cut the mustard. In that sense the Megane delivers.

The four-wheel-steering system makes it drive in quite an opposite manner to one you’d expect; turn it into a corner and you can feel it almost self-tightening around the bend, adhering to the road in such a way that you feel the tyres would come off the rim before the whole car lost traction. It’s backed by well weighted steering, and a flexible engine which feels punchy at all times. However, it struggles with imperfections in the road and can be easily dragged in the wrong direction – at times it feels like you’re fighting the car into going in a straight line.

The Megane's all-wheel-steer system aids cornering
(PA)

The Honda counters with a ride that feels more on the supple side of things, and better equipped to deal with the undulating surface of UK B-roads. It certainly inspires a little more confidence in you than the Renault. The brake pedal also has far better feel, and the brakes themselves stop in a more direct manner – which is what you want from a hot hatch. The high-speed stability if the Type R is mighty impressive too; it seems to goad you into going faster and faster, delivering an even more invigorating experience the quicker you go.

How do they look?

The Type R’s looks are certainly a love or hate affair. The large wings, deep bonnet vent and flared arches won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it helps to make the Civic stand out. Wherever you drive the car, people stop and point – and that’s not something which happens all that often to ‘regular’ cars. Others think it looks a bit vulgar and unrefined – though we sit rather firmly in the positive camp – the Type R looks great, in our eyes at least.

Large air ducts help with cooling
(PA)

Renault has toed an excellent line between dynamic styling and not too over-the-top looks. The R.S. has a range of touches which showcase it to be ‘not just another Megane’; the air ducts behind the front wheels, for instance, give it a stronger visual presence while the whole car’s wider, squatter appearance looks really rather good in the metal – particularly in the ‘Volcanic Orange’ shade of our test car.

What are they like inside?

Both cars tick a lot of the boxes you want from a hot hatch. Wide, heavily bolstered sports seats? Tick. Upgraded stereo system? Sure. Sports steering wheel? Present and correct. The fundamentals of both cars are spot-on too; the driving position in each is excellent, while there’s plenty of adjustment allowing you to get the seat exactly where you want it.

A large starter buttons gets thing going in the Type R
(PA)

Both the Civic and the Megane also give you the option to sit good and low in the car – something we see as a ‘must have’ for cars of this type.

What’s the spec like?

The Type R and the R.S. share many of the same issues when it comes to technology offerings. Each uses a large central touchscreen, but both the Renault and Honda systems fail to deliver the same ease-of-use that we’ve come to expect from rivals. It’s not that they work badly – the navigation in both cars is decent enough – it’s just that they lack the clarity that we really want. That said, actions such as connecting your phone via Bluetooth are simple enough to perform.

The Honda's infotainment system lacks the ease-of-use that we expect
(PA)

The Megane does pip the Type R when it comes to passenger capacity, and can offer seating for five rather than four too. Boot space in the R.S. is decent at 384 litres with the seats up or 1,247 with the seats folded down but it’s trumped by the Type R’s considerable 420 and 1,580 litres respectively.

Verdict

It’s tough one this. Both cars offer something special; the Megane’s four-wheel-steering gives it a sharpness in the corner that will delight many drivers, while its body control is top-notch too. The Type R, however, benefits from a wondrously balanced chassis and powerful, effective brakes.

As a daily driver, and one to stick a Cheshire cat grin on your face even on the bleakest mornings, we’ll have to give it to the Type R – it feels just that little more composed on undulating surfaces and, despite not being able to match the Megane’s five-seat capacity can offer the best overall practicality of the two which makes it more useful on a daily basis.

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