ROAD TEST: Renault Mégane RS 300 Trophy

The Trophy trim brings out the best in the Renault Mégane RS. We ponder whether it’s worth the hefty asking price…

A decade ago, if you were on the hunt for a driver-focused hatchback that sent more power than necessary to the front axle via a six-speed manual gearbox, you were spoiled for choice. Manufacturers across the globe were putting their best foot forward to challenge the segment with badges such as OPC, MPS and RS adding drama to regular family hatchbacks.

Internationally, this is still the case. Peugeot, Seat, Ford and Volkswagen (manual GTIs are no longer a local option) compete with hair-raising giant killers. If you’re looking for a hot hatch with those traditional characteristics in South Africa, you have just three choices: the Honda Civic Type R (tested in April 2018), Hyundai i30 N (tested in August 2020) and this, the Renault Mégane RS 300 Trophy.

The Trophy takes things a step forward from the RS 280 Lux and Cup but at a R160 000 premium. The new flagship adds more power to the turbocharged 1,8-litre four-cylinder engine, a set of 19-inch Jerez alloy wheels and a pair of Recaro bucket seats.

Visually, not much separates the Trophy from the Cup. Distinctive changes include the RS 300 Trophy sticker pack and the unique alloys, while the French hot hatch’s tasteful and muscular design is uninterrupted by gaudy spoilers and splitters.

Within the cabin, things are largely the same, apart from the Recaro buckets upholstered in a combination of Alcantara and leather, and positioned 20 mm lower than standard seats. This adjustment provides a more engaging driving position and, based on our measurements, 32 mm more headroom for the driver at its lowest position. The caveat is rear kneeroom has decreased by 81 mm.

Predominately plastic, the interior retains a commendable level of perceived quality with elements such as the carbon-finish strips and red accents that inspire a sense of performance. The Mégane’s least favourable piece of equipment is the dated tablet-style infotainment system which is difficult to operate.

A highlight is the aluminium pedal arrangement and chunky six-speed gear shifter; both of which foster the driver-centric experience. The clutch pedal and shift action are not the slickest in the segment; that accolade belongs to the Honda Civic Type R. The RS’s clutch seems heavy and is a challenge to modulate, while the manual gearbox is imprecise on occasion. This lack of precision means quick-shifting can sometimes become miss-shifting, which detracts from the driving enjoyment.

The performance from the engine – now uprated to 221 kW and 400 N.m (420 N.m for the EDC) – is stellar. Our tested performance figures returned a 0-100 km/h time of 5,98 seconds which is 0,56 faster than that recorded during our January 2020 Performance Shootout.
 Acknowledging that this time is 0,28 seconds slower than Renault Sport’s claimed figure, the RS 300 Trophy struggled to find grip when launching, even with the traction control set to Sport. Thanks to a handy sound indicator when you hit the redline, well-timed shifts are easy to accomplish.

In-gear acceleration through third and fourth is impressive before the performance in fifth and sixth slacks off. In top gear, the Trophy accelerates from 100-120 km/h in 4,22 seconds which does not match the Type R and i30 N. Where the Mégane’s powertrain excels is in the higher rev range; odd for a downsized engine. In both fifth and sixth gear, it clocked 2,87 and 4,06 seconds respectively from 120-140 km/h. This result is more on-par with the Type R.

On the move, the uprated engine brings new life to the Mégane’s chassis and unlocks potential that felt suppressed with just 205 kW. The louder exhaust induces smiles as it unashamedly pops and bangs when you lift off the throttle. The heightened power allows you to explore the unique 4Control four-wheel steering through fast cornering and, together with the stiff Cup chassis, provides thrilling and dynamic driving through a tight set of corners. We criticised the 4Control setup in both the 280 Lux and Cup. In the Trophy, it is less intrusive.

Despite feeling light, the electrically assisted power steering is delicate and precise. Its extreme responsiveness takes some getting used to but once you are comfortable with the quick-acting rear-wheel steering, it is rewarding and thrilling to pilot and makes quick work of tight corners in particular.

Based on the Cup chassis, the front end benefits from a Torsen limited-slip differential which – together with the effective Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres – provides encouraging grip levels on the front axle and makes high-speed cornering impressive.
Stopping power is not an issue either, thanks to the 355 mm bi-material ventilated brake discs on the front axle. The Trophy was able to score an average time of 2,86 seconds for 100-0 km/h on our test strip with the best result an impressive 2,68 seconds.

As expected, the Mégane feels stiffly sprung and drivers may be fatigued after a lengthy drive. This combined with the stiff clutch means it’s not an ideal chariot for stop-and-go driving. Yet, compared to the previous-generation RS 275 Trophy, it offers significantly improved daily usability. When the Trophy’s exhaust is silenced, NVH levels are not far removed from the 280 Cup, considering the minimal changes between the two models. The Trophy translates little wind and road noise into the cabin at cruising speeds in Comfort mode; however, engine noise persists.

TEST SUMMARY

As our test figures suggest, there’s no doubt the Renault Sport Mégane RS 300 Trophy is a phenomenal creation offering superior performance and dynamics that will give its archrival – the Honda Civic Type R – a serious run for its money. Although not the flagship Trophy-R (sadly not destined for SA) this is Renault putting its best foot forward… hard on the throttle.

The asking price of R774 900 is steep as it is outmatched by not only the Type R, but other accomplished and more powerful hot hatches, such as the soon-to-be-replaced Audi S3 Sportback, Volkswagen Golf R and BMW M135i. Ignoring all this, the RS 300 Trophy, with just seven units coming to SA, is a truly unique hot hatch that any hardcore Renault Sport devotee would love to park in their driveway. 

ROAD-TEST SCORE: 4 STARS

Test Summary

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