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

Longtermer fight! Megane RS vs Focus ST

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

RH: The Focus ST is quite an ironic name.

OK: Why?

RH: Because it isn’t focused whatsoever. It’s distracted, if anything. It wants to please everyone: a design by committee. Whereas – in my opinion – a proper hot hatch should have a one-track mind and transport you somewhere as quickly as it can in the most engaging way, regardless of comfort. That’s why the Megane is better than the Focus ST.

OK: All cars besides a BAC Mono are a compromise. A hot hatch should be the apex of the compromise – the practicality of a family shopping trolley but a giggle to hoon. You’re just triggered because the basic Megane is way shoddier than a standard Focus and the hot version has had to try too hard to close the gap with dead-ends like rear-steer. Why didn’t they spend that money sorting the gearshift and making it ride acceptably below 90mph?

RH: I’ll give you that. The gearchange is woeful. But Renault has given drivers meaty and predictable steering. Something you can dream of. The ST’s steering is synthetic and darty. It’s too quick, yet has the rubberiness of a week-old Cheestring. And don’t get me started on your brakes.

OK: And I’ll concede the Focus’s pedals are spongy and the steering is off a stunt plane. It’s edgy, but I still think your rear-steer is more lethal than my turn-in. Good luck when it turns icy. However, I’m starting to begrudgingly realise that the Megane’s tailor-everything modes are ultimately more satisfying than Ford’s set-up, where the car’s mood swings are rigid. If I want the yobbo exhaust, and I do, it has to come with springier steering and a rattlier ride. And my trim is starting to buzz…

RH: Well, my exhaust is starting to squeak. Again. And even though I’ve got used to the French labyrinth that’s Renault’s R-Link system, it’s still frustrating to navigate – there are too many sub-menus, not enough quick returns. Ford’s Sync system is a lot sleeker and simpler. But c’mon, you’ve got to think you’d be quicker around a track in the Renault? And probably have more fun.

OK: So bored of lap time willy-measuring contests. I’m sure the Trophy’s quicker against a stopwatch. On track, I’ve heard the trolley-castor rear end makes more sense. But on the road, your bowel-bruising ride is too much for me. The Ford only tortures backsides with its ferocious seat-heaters. My personal best on max afterburner is about two minutes. 

RH: Excellent. Well, we’ve ended up slagging our cars off more than promoting them. But putting them through the wringer makes you appreciate their good traits even more. And if I had to go for one last proper drive in one, it’s the yellow one all day long. Well, that’s what I’m saying before the roads start freezing over.

What do you think?

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