At the launch of the new Renault Megane range in Portugal, Renault Sport VP of sales, marketing, and technology, Regis Fricotte, took time to discuss the future of Renault’s hot hatch contender with The Motor Report.
A new Megane RS is in the works, although it won’t appear in 2016, he said. However, with the Paris Motor Show scheduled for October 2016, expect a concept precursor to take pride of place on the Renault stand.
The Megane RS formula is also expected to shift. With no three-door model planned for the new Megane range, the RS will be forced into a five-door body. A manual transmission is also likely to be flicked in favour of a dual-clutch automatic - something that Mr Fricotte was upbeat about.
The new Megane GT has already adopted an auto-only strategy for petrol-powered variants, replacing the previous manual-only Megane GT220 with the auto-only Megane GT. Like the GT220, the GT is developed by Renault Sport as a stepping-stone to the Megane RS.
While purists may bemoan the lack of a manual and prefer a sportier three-door body, the precedent set by the Clio RS, which made a similar change in its current generation, and its acceptance in the market, is simply too strong for the brand to ignore.
“Overall we’ve done more Clio 4 RS than we’ve done Clio 3 RS, I’m sure that there would’ve been some customers for a new Clio 4 manual, but we made a different choice,” Mr Fricotte said of the change of direction.
Renault Australia’s corporate communications manager, Emily Fadeyev, confirmed that Australian sales experience with the new Clio 4 RS backed that claim.
“From a Renault Australia point of view the Clio 3 RS was selling between 60 and 80 a year, Clio 4 RS is more like 600. There’s been a substantial sales increase,” she said.
Fricotte also alluded to a new engine for the next Megane RS, but wouldn’t be drawn on what we might see under the bonnet.
With emissions compliance for the current engine difficult to achieve with Europe’s tightening future restrictions, a new powerplant will be required. Fricotte promises there’ll be an increase in power over the current model, and also indicated vehicle power and torque outputs would increase incrementaly over the life of the vehicle.
When asked if the next Megane RS would feature a 2.0 litre engine to match the current model, Mr Fricotte was less forthcoming, but it seems a reduction in capacity isn’t out of the question.
Whether a highly tuned version of the 1.6 litre four-cylinder used in the Megane GT and Clio RS is in development, or a larger 1.8 variant based off the same mechanical basics is unclear, though French rival Peugeot has proved with the 308 GTi that a 1.6 turbo is worthy of hot hatch status.
While Renault Sport enthusiasts may not like the way the new Megane RS is shaping up, the Clio RS’ sales success shows that Renault isn’t making these changes lightly and is simply responding to market demand.
We'll be keeping a close eye on which direction Renault Sport takes.