The RS 250.
The RS 250. Contributed

Appeal proves real on street

WE live on one of those streets that was once the norm in suburban Australia.

You know, where kids play until the street lights come on and parents stop on the driveway for a quick natter, a midweek cuppa or that more leisurely weekend session. Where Santa turns up to the street Christmas party on the back of a classic Ford ute, where teenage boys still unskilled on the finer points of romance throw water bombs at the teenage girls who pretend to not like it, where friendships are forged that will last a lifetime.

Every street needs a mayor and ours is a 2m basketball loving gentle giant whose “Children at play” witches hat and bellowing warning call of car coming is a fixture of most afternoons.

The RS 250’s arrival for a week-long stay generated more than a little interest with the sleek design and bright red Brembo callipers making it hard to miss.

It looked good and sounded good but would it answer the big question? Could it fit someone of above average height in comfort without him having to be a practised contortionist?

We had our answer as the mayor happily drove off up the road. The RS 250 was equal to the challenge. But who was going to yell out “car coming…”?

Comfort

Okay, so the RS 250 may fit the gentle giant in the front seat but he would have absolutely no chance at all in the back. That should definitely be the reserve of children who will be so thrilled by the yellow seatbelts that they won’t miss the view through the small triangular windows.

The front Recaro seats, edged in that yellow again, are excellent if a tad difficult to get in and out of. They are very comfortable, though and certainly come into their own at speed.

The leather racing steering and matching gear knob are a classy act, comfortable and responsive.

We were pleasantly surprised by the size of the boot which dealt efficiently with the sports bags and weekly shop.

On the road

Thrilling. Who would have thought a car that was so laidback at low speeds would be such a hoot once the needle passed three figures? Most cars perform well on the straight, it’s the bendy bits that set the better ones apart.

We put the RS through its paces in the hinterland on roads that have made much more expensive vehicles quiver.

But this little beast could hardly be faulted clutching on to corners and making light work of steep ascents with nary a sniff of understeer or body roll for that matter.

Improved traction comes courtesy of a limited slip differential and this certainly made a difference on secondary roads.

The brakes are excellent with Renault making a feature of the bright red Brembo four-piston brake callipers matched to 340mm ventilated front discs and 290mm solid rear discs.

What do you get?

This hot hatch comes with 18-inch alloys, a high quality dashboard design with carbon fibre trim, a sporty yellow colour scheme that touches the belts, seat stitching and tachometer, tyre pressure monitoring, hands-free smart key entry, Bluetooth, iPod streaming, auto headlights and wipers, speed limiter, folding mirrors, dual climate control and parking sensors.

The RS also has a full suite of safety gear including front, lateral and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD, traction control and sport-tuned electronic stability program that can be disabled.

Other contenders

Hot hatches are hot property and competition comes from Audi S3 ($69,000), BMW 135i ($74,700), Ford Focus RS ($59,900), Mazda RX-8 ($49,940), Subaru Impreza WRX STi (from $59,990), Volkswagen Golf R (from $48,490) and Nissan 370Z ($67,990).

Practicality

The huge C-pillar greatly hinders visibility, turning your head to check the blind spot is pretty hopeless so you’ll have to rely on your side mirrors.

The glovebox is a bit small, the stereo a bit tinny and there’s no place to put your coffee. The latter is probably just nit picking – a small price to pay.

Running costs

The RS 250 returns about 8.7 litres/100km depending on how you drive it, not bad when you consider the power on offer.

Funky factor

With its proud lines and flared wheel arches, the RS 250 is no shrinking violet. Sleek design, LED lights, a central exhaust pipe and rear diffuser add to the sporting feel. This car will turn heads.

The low-down

Renault is not expecting the RS 250 to be its best seller Down Under but it is a sort of ace up the sleeve reminding us in no uncertain terms of the manufacturer’s racing pedigree.

Its arrival has been greatly anticipated by followers of the badge who don’t have to be convinced about its trendsetting design, luxury features or truly sporty performance.

Others won’t need much convincing either.

Vital statistics

Model: Renault Megane RS 250.

Details: Three-door front-wheel drive hot hatch.

Transmission: Six-speed manual.

Engine: 2.0-litre petrol generating maximum power of 184kW @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 340Nm @ 3000rpm.

Performance: 0-100kmh 6.1 seconds.

Consumption: 8.7 litres/100km (combined average).

Bottom line: from $41,990.


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