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Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy – long-term review

Getting the most out of our Megane RS on the road

Specification:
Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy
Engine:
1798cc, 4cyl turbo, FWD, 296bhp, 295lb ft
Claimed MPG:
34.4mpg, 183g/km CO2
Performance:
0–62mph in 5.7secs, 162mph
Weight:
1419kg
Price:
£31,835 OTR/£36,185 as tested/£455pcm

The new Megane R.S has a lot more going on visually, dynamically and technologically than its predecessor – so it takes a while to unpack it all. Roughly three months, I’ve found.

But me and the ol’ Megane have really starting to get on, and over the last few weeks, it’s come into its own; having shown its true hot hatch colours and rewarding me with an ever-widening smile across my cheeks.

See, a few weeks ago I was oop North – so swung past the Peak District to let the Megane off the leash. And sweet mother of Dijon mustard this thing grips. Call me a sissy, but it’s taken this long to be able to understand and trust the chassis enough to really push it.  

Up until now, I’ve found the handling to be unpredictable. But having turned down the erratic 4WS (see previous report) and conducted some – ahem – dynamic grip-based testing, I think I’ve sussed out what I’ve come to call the ‘lift-off-oh-shiiiittt-O-steer’. Well, I think I have. Famous last words, and all that. Tune in next month for when I’ve wrapped it around a tree.  

Anyway, like many older cars, to get the best of the 300 you’ve simply got to be cognisant

of the controls and mindful of your inputs. It takes all of a few corners to realise that the Megane has an incredibly mobile rear end when pushing it. Especially under hard braking. Which, may I just say, with 355mm Brembo discs (up 15mm over the previous generation), it’s very good at. But the trick is to neutralise the rear with the mechanical, limited-slip differential up front.

The Torsen unit is hyper-alert, turning the car into a truffle hog of traction as it furiously sniffs out a route of most grip. But this also means that it hunts for grip wherever it can, so scrambles around following camber, and tramlines under hard acceleration.

But this makes it part of the experience, and when you hold on you can cover ground at an astonishing pace. All to the soundtrack of the rowdy yob of an exhaust. It’s not even an Akropovic special, yet belches fury in a wonderfully spasmodic way which other hot hatches with their engineered ‘pop…pop…pop… BANG!’ don’t.

However, what really adds to the occasion is you have three pedals to dance around and a gearlever to play with. But it really is an overly lumpen and graunchy ‘box. When you’re on it, it’s like stirring a ladle through a bag of smashed crabs, leaving you craving for the precise, snickety manual of a Honda Civic Type R. Even so, the R.S. is proving to be a proper hoot of a hot hatch.

Now, if you excuse me while I put my road testers fleece away. Can we just appreciate the subtle aggression of the Megane. The flared arches. The cheeky negative camber. The deeply-trenched bi-material brakes. Yes, it’d look better if it was the three-door of old but I’m finding it to be usefully practical. But how will it fare with the impending cold, wet and mulchy leaf-lined roads? We’ll soon find out. But first it’s got a date on track at Silverstone. And not how you’d imagine. More next month.

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