Renault set to be first with diesel hot-hatch

French car maker Renault is introducing Australia’s first genuine hot-hatch powered by a diesel engine in the form of the Megane RS dCi.

Renault will launch a diesel-powered version of its Megane RS hot-hatch in October.

The move to bring diesel performance to the hot-hatch market is indicative of heightened environmental awareness and an increased focus on reduced running costs.

The RenaultSport Megane RS dCi will come in five-door guise only and will be powered by a 127kW, 360NM 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.

The engine is the same unit that will debut locally on Renault’s Koleos softroader in September 2008.

Renault claims the RS dCi will complete the 0-100km/h sprint in 8.3 seconds, nearly two seconds slower than the turbocharged petrol version. But what it loses in straight-line performance, it makes up in fuel economy, sipping just 6.5 litres of diesel per 100km.

The new model is the latest in a rash of sporty diesel hatches from European makers, although the Megane RS dCi would become the first genuine hot-hatch with diesel power to reach Australia. Volkswagen sells a diesel version of its Golf GT sporty hatch but not its GTI hot-hatch.

Subaru Australia has said it is looking at introducing a diesel version of its iconic Impreza WRX, while Audi recently unveiled a A3 Clubsport hatchback concept featuring a powerful four-cylinder turbo diesel with 165kW and 400Nm.

Renault Australia communications manager Craig Smith says the diesel Megane will sit between the three-door RenaultSport model, which costs $37,990, and the five-door, which costs $42,490.

“It’s not going to be a volume seller for us but we do see a niche for it. It will attract a different type of buyer to the Renault brand,” he says.

The 2.0-litre diesel develops maximum torque of 360Nm at a low 2000rpm and maximum 127kW of power at 3750rpm. Power is put to the ground through a six-speed manual gearbox.

Under the skin, the diesel version of the Renault Megane RS has basically the same suspension set-up as the petrol RS, although the front springs have been tuned to take into account the extra weight of the diesel engine over the car’s nose. The steering has also been altered to cope with the different weight distribution.

Larger Brembo brakes and 18-inch alloy wheels complete the package.

The Megane RS dCi is part of a model reshuffle for the RenaultSport brand in Australia, which begins with the arrival of the new RenaultSport Clio 197 in July 2008.

The Clio will be pricey – about $37,000 – and will effectively replace the three-door Megane as the entry level hot hatch in the Renault range.

Smith says people will still be able to order a three-door Megane, but the company’s marketing push will be behind the Clio.

The Clio is powered by a normally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces 145kW at 7250rpm.

Renault claims the hatch will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds.

As with the Megane RS range, the Clio RS will get a unique suspension set-up. It will also have a longer wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks for greater stability.

Renault claims the Clio’s aerodynamic package has been developed in collaboration with its Formula One program.

Part of the package is an air diffuser in the rear bumper. The diffuser is designed to reduce rear-end lift and improve high-speed stability by sucking the rear of the car to the road at high speed. Renault claims the diffuser creates up to 40kg of downforce at high speeds.

The new hatches form part of a busy few months for the French brand, which has languished in relative anonymity in recent years while some of its European rivals, most notably Volkswagen, have experienced explosive sales growth.

The real weirdness, is that the Mazda3 Turbo-diesel has 360nm from it’s 2.0 in all it’s guises and hardly gets a mention anywhere..

Mazda, what are you doing to promote what might be the best kept secret in diesel hot-hatches?

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