THE low-set driving position and generously, but not overly, bolstered seats are perfect no matter whether you’re tootling around town or thrashing around the track.
This Performance Car Of The Year article was first published in MOTOR Magazine January 2013.
And the electric steering really is on par with Porsche’s for feedback and natural feel.
Okay, the BRZ doesn’t have anywhere near the low-down grunt of anything else in this group, let alone in this whole competition, but the 2.0-litre boxer’s dual (port and direct) fuel injection system facilitates amazing tractability, with the ability to dig itself out of low engine speeds smoothly – albeit slowly – and then spin all the way to 7500rpm.
It’s not the most refined powerplant, and you really have to be right up the top of its powerband to get the best out of it, which means, in this prestigious company in particular, you have to work hard to keep up with anything else.
It kinda doesn’t matter in a way, because the BRZ’s precise steering, its playful lack of grip from the low rolling resistance tyres and its ability to drift like a demon more than compensate for its lack of outright performance.
The fact that it clocked the slowest lap time of 2:22.70 around SMSP was no real shock, but the variance in the judges’ rankings was ranging from a high of five to a low of nine.
Conversely, despite a fatal end to our long-term custodianship of the Trophy 8:08 RS265 when it threw a piston through the front of the engine block (just after Luffy had finished its hot lap, meaning no other judge drove it on the circuit), we clearly overlooked the Megane’s many faults.
Its ergonomics are not great, its vision terrible and reliability clearly questionable, but what the Megane does that the Focus can’t is make you feel like you’re driving a supercar.
The thrust from its 195kW 2.0-litre can be altered to suit the mood – its default setting is the old RS250’s 188kW, while the full 265-spec is on tap in ESC Sport and the throttle map can be changed from dumb-footed soft through to linear and then manic lightswitch mode – the ride is bordering on jittery and the steering is light yet as sharp as a scalpel.
Want more Classic MOTOR?
Then there are things like its wafer-thin Recaro seats, red seat belts, Brembo brakes and its androgynous style that elevates the Megane beyond just being merely a hot hatch. It’s more than all that, though; the Megane is deceptively quick on a back country blast.
And although its lap time of 2:18.50 is almost 10sec off the best of this bunch – it was, after all, 40km/h down on the M5 on the main straight – it was the fastest car bar none through the daunting high-speed Turn One as well as the tight, downhill Turn 11 hairpin, thus proving its no one-trick pony.
It is easily the most fun, charming and character-filled bum dragger on the planet. Even with a humble torsion-beam rear suspension system, it’ll lift-off oversteer as far as you want to provoke it into the apex and, with a proper limited-slip diff between the axles at the business end, you can adjust its trajectory out of the corner through the steering wheel and the throttle.
What that all equates to is that the input between man and machine feels raw, natural and well balanced. More importantly, it's not artificially synthesised, or dumbed down to cater for the lowest common dominator. We applaud, and clearly admire, that. More of it, in fact…
Overall rank: 6
Andrew Maclean - 6th: “The best bum dragger just got better… But would I own one?”
Curt Dupriez - 4th: “Achieves its aims better than many PPC rivals. Sorry we hurt you”
James Cleary - 6th: “Mini-supercar for hot hatch money. Renaultsport knows what it’s doing”
Nathan Ponchard - 5th: “Heaps of Gallic attitude matched to a sweet chassis and brilliant balance”
WARREN LUFF SAYS
“Such a fun little hot-hatch on the limit. It does everything you want. Probably a bit too much understeer when you start pushing really hard but up to nine-tenths it’s a good fun car, you can throw it around, it’s got good brakes, great chassis dynamics, the engine’s fantastic and it does everything that you want”