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1 Jul, 2019 11:30am Jonathan Burn
First report: There’s nothing mellow about our bright yellow Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy
When Renault launches a new hot hatch people tend to take notice, especially if it’s painted bright yellow, like our new fleet car. The firm has a record for developing fast, affordable and entertaining performance cars, so to see if that still holds true, amid an influx of new rivals from Honda and Hyundai, I’ve just been handed the keys to the very latest one: the Mégane R.S.
The car we’ll be running over the next six months is the range-topping Mégane R.S. 300 Trophy, which is the latest model and only reached dealers in April. At almost £32,000, it’s not the cheapest hot hatch on the market, especially if you consider the entry-level RenaultSport Mégane costs £27,835.
Where does your extra money go? The Trophy brings performance upgrades such as the stiffened Cup chassis (usually a £1,500 option), reworked suspension with firmer springs and dampers, plus a limited-slip differential. Other kit includes a set of unique 19-inch alloys, a sports exhaust, beefier brakes and a leather and Alcantara steering wheel.
It brings a modest 20bhp power upgrade from the 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, which increases total output to 296bhp and 400Nm of torque. That’s all pretty standard hot hatch fare; there’s nothing in that list that you won’t find on any other competitor. But Renault’s engineers have set to work on the car’s steering and suspension set-up. The Mégane R.S. – whether you go for the entry model or top-spec Trophy – is the only car in its segment to have hydraulic compression stops and rear-wheel steering.
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The hydraulic system is like something you’d find in a rally car, where a secondary piston within the shock absorber helps to stop vibrations and rebound when driving over rough roads. The rear-wheel steering set-up – Renault calls it 4Control – is a system more common on high-end luxury cars such as the Bentley Bentayga or Audi A8. Its purpose is to help decrease a car’s turning circle at low speed and increase stability at higher speed. On the Mégane it’s been applied purely to improve the car’s agility and make it feel as nimble as possible. But given that tech is fitted to a standard Mégane R.S., do you need to spend almost £32,000 on the Trophy? That’s something we’ll discover in the coming months.
So what are my first impressions? Well, it certainly feels unlike any other hot hatch on sale. The rear-wheel steering system gives it a unique character of its own, and combined with very direct steering, it makes the car seem alert and eager. That’s great when you can slalom down a B-road, but in congested west London it can get a little tiresome.
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Still, the Alcantara-trimmed Recaro seats look great, but they are a £1,500 option. The infotainment is pretty simple to use once you’ve acclimatised to the various sub-menus, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps come as standard if you want to bypass Renault’s system.
In town you also notice the ride is a little on the firm side. The hydraulic damping system is excellent and does a good job of taking the edge off sharp road imperfections, but there’s no hiding the car’s firm set-up. The faster you go, on a motorway for example, the better it gets, so on a fast but bumpy road, the ride is less of an issue than in town.
Other small gripes include the cup-holders, which inhibit gearchanges if you use them, while people in the back have complained about a lack of foot space. It may sound like I’m nitpicking, but a hot hatch has to deliver practicality and utility well enough for it to be used everyday, along with adding a great big dollop of performance, something I’ll be exploring during my time with the car.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
4 It’s already clear Renault that has developed the hot Mégane so that it feels unlike any other rival. It has the looks right, but is it civilised enough to use everyday? That’s what we’ll be finding out.
- Model: Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy
- On fleet since: June 2019
- Price new: £31,835
- Engine: 1.8-litre 4 cyl petrol, 296bhp
- CO2/tax: 183g/km / £145
- Options: Metallic paint (£1,300), BOSE stereo (£800), reversing camera and sensors (£400), Visio system pack (£250), Recaro Sports pack (£1,500)
- Insurance: Group: 37 Quote: £540
- Mileage/mpg: 783/33.3mpg
- Any problems?: None so far