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Driven: Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.

Driven: Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy
Testing the ultimate Renaultsport Mégane... well, not counting the even more hardcore Trophy-R.

 



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Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: looks, grip, steering feel, performance, noise, brilliant interior

Not so good: firm ride

Key Facts

Model tested: Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy
Pricing: £28,930 as standard; car as tested £31,325
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
Body style: three-door hatch
CO2 emissions: 174g/km
Combined economy: 37.7mpg
Top speed: 158mph
0-62mph: 6.0 seconds
Power: 275hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 3,000rpm

Our view:

Once upon a time in Renaultsport-land, the Clio was the champion of its hot hatch range. With a fizzing normally-aspirated engine, manual gearbox, lightweight body and sublime chassis, the 172-200 era of NA Clios was legendary. The same couldn't be said for the bigger hot Méganes, though; when the original turbocharged 225 came out in 2004, it received a lukewarm reception. It took two years for the convoluted badge of 230 Renault F1 Team R26 to signify a marked improvement in the car, and then that limited edition morphed into perhaps one of the finest hot hatches of all - the insane R26.R.

Today, the Clio's star has waned, dimmed by a dull forced induction engine and daft dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Yet the chassis of the Clio still shows promise, so it's not like Renaultsport has totally lost its way. And then we decided to have an extended period in the ultimate derivation of the fast Mégane (notwithstanding the unhinged and massively focused Trophy-R model, spiritual successor to the R26.R and current - at the time of writing - front-wheel drive lap record holder at the Nürburgring), one with four useable seats and a pretence of day-to-day usability, that happens to look fantastic inside and out; especially in i.d. Liquid Yellow metallic paint (a £1,300 option).

If we cut to the chase, dynamically the Mégane Renaultsport Trophy is stunning, absolutely stunning. If you value driving pleasure in any remote shape or form, you're bound to be delighted by the 275. We could devote entire paragraphs of glowing prose to every facet of its make-up - such as the beautiful steering, alive with feedback and weighted to perfection, or the brakes, which have brake bite and feel judged to perfection, or the engine noise of the F4R M874, which for a blown 2.0-litre is remarkably enticing. It is helped, of course, by the standard fit Akrapovic exhaust that overlays some naughty noises onto the coarse blare of the forced induction four-pot. Also, you could never accuse the Mégane of lacking straight-line punch - it's plenty quick enough, even in an era when many hyper hatches drop below six seconds to 62mph.

No, the brilliance - as ever from Dieppe - comes from the chassis. Specifying the Trophy automatically brings the Cup upgrades (bear with us, it makes sense), which comprise a limited-slip differential, red brake callipers (umm, these don't add anything in terms of uprated performance, but moving on...) and stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bar. The net result is a truly jaw-dropping car in dry weather conditions. Fitted with optional 19-inch Speedline Turinis clothed in Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres (£1,000), the grip the Mégane Trophy has on clean tarmac is simply phenomenal. Corners are devoured at speeds that would be borderline nuts in an all-wheel drive vehicle, but the front-wheel drive Renaultsport still has more to give. You have to really lean on it, so you can build more and more confidence in the chassis as you power along, thanks to that pinpoint steering rack and a rear end that's an active part of proceedings. And when you do, the Mégane rewards you in spades with the sort of scintillating drive supercars would envy. It's sensational, and possesses all the attributes that the Clio Renaultsport currently lacks. Come on, guys, distil a bit of this magic back into the 200. And the forthcoming Twingo RS, for that matter...

Are there flaws? Yes, but they pale into insignificance when faced with the positives. The Trophy has a firm ride; it couldn't possibly have anything else to be as sensationally good in the corners as it is. While it will seem nervous to some, it's not woefully uncomfortable when cruising so you could live with it daily, unless you have a really bad back. And you might think in excess of £31,000 is a lot of money for a Renault hatchback... which it is, in some respects, but in terms of the engineering genius you're getting for that money, we're not complaining. Some of the options you can get speak of the intensity of the Trophy package, such as £2,000 for Öhlins adjustable road and track dampers, or £1,000 for Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres designed especially for the 1,376kg 275 Trophy.

We also suspect it might be a handful in damp or wet conditions, given the firmness of the suspension and the performance-oriented rubber, but only the ham-fisted should find themselves in trouble. In short, as hot hatches go - be they lightweight, low-power legends from the 1980s, mid-engined madcaps from the '90s or the 300hp+ turbocharged monsters of the current era - the Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy stands near the very pinnacle of what is a big, big pile of cars. It puts the thrill into driving and reinvigorates your faith in Renaultsport. It's one of the greatest drivers' cars you could hope to enjoy.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus ST: not as powerful nor as quick as the Renault and not as focused either. Still an appealing car and improved no end by the 2015 revision.

SEAT Leon Cupra 280: briefly held the Nordschleife front-wheel drive lap record before the Trophy-R swiped it back, yet it still holds the distinction of being the first front-driver to go sub-eight minutes. One of the Volkswagen Group's strongest offerings, the Leon is not quite as sharp to drive as the Mégane.

Volkswagen Golf R: finally stepping out of the GTI's shadow, the current R is sublime and a hugely refined, practical way of going bloody quickly in all weathers. Not cheap; brilliant nonetheless.


Matt Robinson - 13 Oct 2014









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2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.



2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy. Image by Matt Robinson.
 






 

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