It may look to the untrained eye no more than a tarted-up Dynamique Nav version of the humble Renault Mégane, but keen motorists after a front-wheel-drive hot hatch love the RS, a car so rewarding and so thrilling that it’s the automotive equivalent of a lost weekend in Paris with Lily James.
This is the third-generation Mégane RS, and despite the emergence of several brilliant rivals in this class in the past few years, it’s still a terrific car and a great used buy. It’s five-door-only now, and the engine dropped in size from 2.0 to 1.8 litres for this version, but don’t worry: those rear doors simply make it more practical and, thanks to its large turbocharger, this car has more power than its RS 275 predecessor.
That power can be sent through a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox. You can have it in two different states of firmness, too: standard or Cup, the latter also featuring on the 300 Trophy model, where power is raised from the regular 276bhp to a mega 296bhp.
This also features upgraded brakes and a lightweight lithium ion battery to shave 18kg off the standard car. There was even a set of lighter wheels available to save a further 8kg. An even lighter, stripped-out Trophy-R version tops the RS price list.
Standard equipment on the RS is pretty generous and includes climate control, LED headlights, rear parking sensors and keyless entry. Alas, you’ll have to track down a car fitted with the optional Safety Pack Premium to get automatic emergency braking.
On the road, the RS is a peach. It’s quick, with 0-62mph in just 5.7sec in the 300 Trophy, and it can run up to 162mph. It sounds great, too, especially in its Sport or Race modes (Natural is the standard setting).
On the standard suspension, it’s firm but rides bumps and broken roads well. The Cup is even firmer and can jostle you around on give-and-take roads.
The RS steers faithfully and body control is top-notch. The handling is brilliant, the grip is sensational and the four-wheel steering is a revelation, making the car dart around with almost unseemly agility. It’s tremendous fun.
Inside, there are figure-hugging Recaro seats. Perceived quality is a little mixed, but there are plenty of sporting touches, and although the infotainment system isn’t the most modern or easiest to use, it can be bypassed via smartphone mirroring.
There’s a decent amount of space up front, and two adults will be fine in the back. The boot is a good size and well-shaped – useful for that trip to the Nürburgring.
Prices start at around £23,000 for a 2018 RS 280 model. Expect to fork out £25,000-£30,000 on a 300 Trophy or rather more than £50,000 for the stripped-out Trophy-R.
Engine Has it been chipped or flashed for more power? Are the air cleaner or exhaust OE or aftermarket? These things affect the car's value and future saleability and suggest it's been run ragged. Check it has a full service history and that the correct oil has been used and changed on the dot.
Steering Drive a few to compare feel, which should be quick and direct.
Suspension Again, drive a few to get a feel for how it should ride and handle.
Wheels Pay particular attention to the carbon-fibre wheels that come as an option on Trophy-R models. These cost £12,000 when new and will be very expensive to repair or replace.
Tyres Check the inner shoulders of the front pair for abnormal wear.
Track days Has it been tracked? Worn tyres and brakes, and engine and suspension upgrades suggest it may have been.
Interior Some owners report that the fabric upholstery 'sucks' up dirt and that leather is better.
Need to know
The official WLTP fuel economy figure for the RS 280 is 35.8mpg and a near-identical 35.3mpg for the more powerful RS 300 Trophy. If you go for one with an automatic gearbox, these figures improve.
You can buy one of two Easylife service plans from Renault, provided you do so within a year of the registration date. The least expensive is a three-year/30,000-mile schedule for £449 or a four-year/40,000-mile plan for £699.
Megane RS 280 Cup: There isn’t a huge difference in price between the standard RS and the Cup, so stick your neck out and go for an RS 280 equipped with the Cup chassis if you can find one. Great bang-for-buck potential.
Megane RS Trophy-R: Uncompromised but addictive, and jaw-droppingly expensive for good measure. Go for this hardcore version and the rear seats are removed altogether.
Ones we found
2018 Mégane RS 280 Cup, 30,000 miles, £22,995
2018 Mégane RS 300 Trophy, 12,000 miles, £24,995
2019 Mégane RS 300 Trophy, 5000 miles, £27,995
2020 Mégane RS 280, 3000 miles, £22,995