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Renault Megane RS Trophy review: hardcore hot hatch driven


Does it come with an actual Trophy?

No. Apart from in the title. But the new Megane RS Trophy does come with a neat little package of extras over the standard Megane RS, making it somewhat different. First up, you get 300PS (296bhp-ish and up 20bhp over the standard RS) via a new ceramic ball-bearing turbo bolted to the 1.8-litre four-cylinder, and fruitier exhaust system.

Then there’s a basic aggregation of all the nice bits from the RS options list that appear as standard on the Trophy, stuff like the Cup chassis (usually £1500) which incorporates stiffer springs (up 30%), dampers (25%) and anti-roll bars (10%) and a front diff, the lighter bi-material braking system (saving nearly 2kg per corner and £900 on the standard car) and 19-inch wheels - usually a £950 option - with some Trophy-specific options like even lighter rims and a lower-mounted (by 20mm) and super-slick Alcantara sports seats. 

Of course, you get all the stuff that’s already on the RS, like 4Control four-wheel steering and hydraulic bump stops, and there’s an EDC (efficient double-clutch) gearbox if you want paddles. A gearbox which shifts faster and gets an extra 20Nm of torque from the engine than the do-it-yourself ‘box — apparently the manual can handle slightly less torque and so has been turned down, though the launch cars were manual-only, so we have no idea whether it makes much difference. 

There’s a ‘Trophy’ sticker on the front splitter-thing (Renault call the lip the ‘F1 Blade’), and the new alloys on the outside, so it’s fairly subtle visually - especially if you don’t have the car in ‘liquid yellow’ - and generally it’s a handsome hatch with an intriguing set of specifications. Renault is famously not bad at doing a front-drive hot hatch. 

Sounds a bit of a track day special though?

Well, our first experience of the Trophy was on a sodden Estoril race circuit in Portugal, and it was a bit of an eye-opener. A couple of warm laps in Sport mode and the car felt lively, flat and keen, if a bit quick to tuck the rear end in if you lifted mid-corner with some lock applied. It’s fast, nicely responsive for a turbocharged 1.8, sounds a bit naughty with all the popping and flat crackles from the exhaust on the overrun, and the steering is well-weighted, quick and accurate. These are all good things. 

Go for a slower corner, mind, and the 4Control four-wheel steering will almost cause the car to dive a little hard for an apex, and to be brutally honest, it doesn’t feel all that natural. Almost as if you’re getting snatches of oversteer. Which you aren’t. The brakes also need a decent push to get them working, and don’t offer all that much in the way of sensory overload about what the front tyres are doing. And if you switch the car into Race and therefore delete both the ESC and traction control, well, you better be ready for it. Because at speed this car likes to rotate around its centreline like a propellor.

Obviously the behaviour was exaggerated by a greasy track surface, but the Megane can adopt rear-wheel-drive angles with little provocation. I watched a couple of drivers with more skill messing around, and they were basically drifting entire corners on the lockstops. In a front drive car. You can catch it relatively easily - the steering really helps you gather things up - but it’s not for the faint-hearted, and again feels a bit wayward on purpose, rather than authentic. 

Not so great on a road then?

Very much what I was expecting. After the track bit, we took the Trophy out on rural Portuguese backroads, and I had the overriding impression that I would immediately hula-hoop myself into the nearest ditch. But that’s actually not the case: ignore Race mode and leave the Trophy in Sport, and you get a lift-off bum-tuck without the full Strictly Come Dancing pirouette. More relevantly, it’s on the road that the Megane makes the most sense, rowing along quite happily, even on very abrupt surfaces, soaking away the worst excesses of a bad B-road.

It’s not a magic carpet - you never forget this is a car with intentions, but neither will it blur vision or rattle teeth. Hit even pretty big-slash-multiple mid-corner bumps and you don’t get deflected or panicky, with those standard-fit hydraulic bumpstops slowing down the rate at which damping becomes bouncing. The diff drags you straight, there’s not a great deal of torque steer and you’ll be grinning in short order, even if the six-speed manual ‘box is nothing more than fine, with a short but slightly unsatisfying action that feels like all the moving parts are made of plastic. Less rifle bolt, more like racking the slide on a Nerf gun. Saying that, it’s a happy, fun, deliciously quick hot hatch, with enough grip/go balance to make a decent road a playground. 

Mixed messages?

Not really. The Trophy is a fine car that makes a lot of sense. It’s roughly four grand more than the standard RS, but for that you get a whole raft of kit that you actually want, and would probably option anyway. Plus, there’s that little power bump and nice exhaust, and some Trophy-specific options. It’s handsome, quick and has a few interesting quirks. But it hasn’t got the smackdown USP that lends it a recommendation without caveats. The big problem for the Trophy is that it lands in a sector full of casual brilliance, and there are some very compelling hot hatches out there; Civic Type R, VW Golf R, even Hyundai N. You’d have to really like the way Renault does things to ignore that lot. 

Price: £32,000 (approx, tbc)
Engine: 1798cc, 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-spd manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 296bhp @ 6,000rpm, 295lb ft 2,400 - 4,800rpm 
162mph max speed, 062mph in 5.7 seconds
Efficiency: 34.9mpg, 183g/km C02
Weight: 1,419kg

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