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Driven: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.

Driven: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy
Is stepping up 20hp and 10Nm the right way to go with the Renault Megane RS?

 



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Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

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Good points: it is undeniably one of the best C-segment hot hatchbacks around at the moment...

Not so good: ...but it's not THE best, the gearchange is baulky, and is the Trophy really any more engaging than the less-expensive Cup?

Key Facts

Model tested: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy
Price: Megane RS range from £27,995; Trophy from £31,835, car as tested £36,085
Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive with Torsen limited-slip differential
Body style: five-door hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 183g/km (VED Band 171-190: £855 first 12 months, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34.4mpg
Top speed: 162mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Power: 300hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 3,200rpm
Boot space: 384-1,247 litres

Our view:

This is our fault entirely. Having already driven the Renault Megane RS 280 Cup, we perhaps should have gone for the non-Cup chassis to get a different flavour of the latest hot model from the French company. But, in the end, the considerable lure of the Trophy nameplate was too much to resist, especially as the old 275 Trophy was such a magnificent car, and so we booked in a week with the 300 Trophy.

To all intents and purposes, this time around the Trophy is a 280 Cup with revised front brakes plus an additional 20hp and 10Nm on its peak outputs, hence the '300' bit of its name. The suspension, though, and the four-wheel-steering system and everything else is as per the Cup. Indeed, it's hard to even spot the Trophy apart from its Cup sibling, save for discreet 'Trophy' decals (the most obvious one sitting atop that sweeping silver detail in the front bumper) and those gorgeous Jerez 19-inch triple-tone alloys, while inside it's almost identical - the seats are pretty special Alcantara-clad/red-stitched lightweight buckets in the Trophy, although admittedly they're part of a £1,500 Recaro Sports Pack option.

Indeed, the price of the Trophy is one reason we've not marked it as high as the Cup. There may well be some dynamic benefits to picking the 300hp version of this largely excellent 1.8-litre engine, but as it only lobs 4mph onto the (wholly irrelevant, on British roads) top speed and trims a tenth from the 0-62mph time of the Cup, we can assure you that you won't discern a difference between the Cup and the Trophy Meganes on the road. You just won't. They feel the same and they even sound the same, which is odd because the Trophy is supposed to have a trick valve in its pipes that's called Dual Sound that enhances the musicality of the blown-four's exhaust. So the fact you're paying £31,835 for the Trophy, when the Cup is £29,195, means you appear to be forking out an additional £2,640 for those rims and the marginal power/torque gains alone.

This is because the two hot Meganes also drive the same, which means the Trophy is brilliant when you're hooning it fast or cruising in it at fast(ish) motorway velocities, where its damping is in the sweet spot of operation, but that ridiculously tough low-speed ride is undiminished in the RS 300. Honestly, on bumpy B-roads and around lumpen town streets, this thing is outright uncomfortable. It smooths out a little more if the asphalt surfaces are favourable, but sadly there are too few sections of those in Britain so the Trophy's ride merely starts to grate on your nerves, very quickly. Something else that bugged us on the RS 300 was the manual gearchange's throw; we thought it excellent on the 280 Cup, but our peers said it was quite the opposite. Maybe it's a car-to-car basis and it varies wildly, then, because this Trophy's shift feel was pretty awful, with a clunkiness across the gate and a grittiness as each cog engaged. Whisper it, but this might just be a driver's car that needs two pedals instead of three, as there's an EDC twin-clutch option which adds another 20Nm to the Trophy's output and which would bypass a recalcitrant gearbox.

If this review of the RS 300 sounds overly negative, it's not meant to. The Trophy is still scintillating fun when you're in the mood and the right route is unfurling in front of you, and we get on famously with hyper-agility the 4Control rear-wheel steering bestows upon the latest Renault Sport models, and we did manage to do 362 (mainly motorway) miles in the Trophy without our spine fusing into one solid mass (a best fuel economy of 38mpg, set against 35.5mpg overall, also speaks volumes about downsizing; no 300hp petrol car should be able to touch 40 to the gallon, should it?!), and the car does look utterly tremendous. No, seriously, it's aesthetically the finest hot hatch on sale right now, with those blistered arches and pugnacious stance and wide rear light clusters and honking great diffuser with a centre-mounted exhaust exit. Of course, £1,300 on Liquid Yellow metallic paint is a diabolical liberty which went towards an overall price for our test car that was the wrong side of £36,000, but you get the point; this Renault exudes all the right visual tones of menace, without being gaudily overblown.

It's just that, the RS 300's driving experience wasn't appreciably better than the cheaper 280 Cup's. Drive the Trophy in isolation and it's a four-and-a-half-star car, one of the most involving machines in its segment and something you should most definitely be considering if you're after a performance five-door, providing you can live with its rigid ride and malevolent manual transmission. Drive it in the context of the 280 Cup and you'll wonder precisely where your extra cash is going to, unless you're a fetishist who likes a splash of red on your already-bicolour alloys.

So our next Megane RS drive will have to be a case of either going much softer and cheaper, and trying the non-Cup 280, or doubling down and going full hardcore on the Trophy-R with the carbon-fibre wheels. Yep, that's the one that starts at £51,140 and rises to £72,140 for the Nürburgring Record Pack edition. Seventy-two grand. For a Renault Megane. It would need to be extraordinary to drive to justify that price, of course, although there's enough history of Renault Sport delivering sublime vehicles to suggest it might achieve such giddy heights. As it is, in respect of the 300 Trophy version of the Megane RS, then - to paraphrase Bono - we still haven't found what we're looking for with this particular hot hatchback.

Alternatives:

Honda Civic Type R: pub bores might try and tell you the Renault will be better on track than the glittering CTR, but we seriously doubt it, having driven the Type R at the Lausitz circuit. And the Honda is just superior on road, in every department - but especially for ride comfort. Only its wild looks could put buyers off.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: it's majestic as a regular hatchback, it's majestic as this swoopier Fastback model... it's quite simply a ridiculously majestic first effort at a hot hatch from a company which has precisely no track record in this department whatsoever.

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR: this is a fabulous swansong for the Mk7 performance Golf canon and it's arguably the best of the lot, being more involving than an AWD R, yet without losing the day-to-day civility of a GTI. You might want to avoid the honeycomb side graphics but that's about it.


Matt Robinson - 26 Aug 2019









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2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.

2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.2019 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Image by Renault UK.








 

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