Renault Megane RS (2022): the long-term test verdict | CAR Magazine

Renault Megane RS (2022): the long-term test verdict

Published: 27 June 2022 Updated: 27 June 2022

► We revisit Renault’s hotshot hot hatch
► Megane RS 300 and Trophy long-term tests
► We’ve tried the hardcore one, what about the regular?

After eight months driving the Megane RS, I have one piece of advice: don’t buy one. Really, don’t.

Cough, splutter – the Renault PR person just spat out their cornflakes. But don’t worry, my full advice is: ‘Don’t buy the RS – buy the RS Trophy.’

At first glance the two cars are very similar: the same punchy 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, the same six-speed gearbox, the same body, same interior.

The RS has many, many things going for it. It has a great engine that always feels strong and in Sport mode it delivers a really satisfying turn of speed. It has a well designed interior too: I love the dashboard and all the connectivity works well. However, the sports seats are so narrow around the hips that on a long journey they feel like they are pinching me. Which leads to a wider point about comfort: the ride is very firm, jiggling the passengers around, and as a family car it didn’t really work for us.

So maybe the Megane RS is just a shameless driver’s car, designed to be enjoyed on your own. Fair enough. But here’s the fatal flaw: with 296bhp wrestling the front wheels when you try to accelerate, this car has terrible torque steer. I mean, shocking. A few times I took passengers out and demonstrated – find a stretch of back road, third gear, hold the steering wheel loose in your hands. Now, accelerate hard and the Megane will almost leap sideways, so abrupt is the sudden torque-induced swerve, and you have to grab the wheel and wrestle it to keep the car in a straight line. And this waywardness destroys any selfish, driving-home-alone pleasure.

What the RS lacks is a proper diff – a Torsen limited-slip diff, for example, just like the one you’ll find in the RS Trophy. The key upgrade from regular RS to Trophy is the Cup chassis, with firmer springs and shocks, stiffer anti-roll bars and that all-important diff. It completely transforms the car – seriously, that extra £4.5k doesn’t buy you a marginal improvement. The Cup chassis significantly, dramatically changes the RS, eliminating the torque steer, ironing out the frustrations and delivering exactly the precise, exciting, engaging drive you’re looking for. And for another £1600, you can have Recaro race seats, which are more comfortable.

So the Megane RS is a fast but flawed car. The RS Trophy is one of the best hot hatches you can buy. I know it’s easy for a car journalist to simply write, ‘Go on! Spend another £6k!’ But honestly, having lived with the regular RS, the Trophy is worth every penny.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 EDC

Price £33,555 (£36,055 as tested)
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 158mph
Efficiency 34.0 mpg (official), 28.7 mpg (tested), 187g/km CO2
Energy cost 22.1p
Miles this month 1001
Total miles 9960

Count the cost
Cost new £36,055
Part-exchange £26,822
Cost per mile 22.1p
Cost per mile including depreciation £1.25

Month 6 living with a Megane RS: slip-sliding away

With the winter roads slippery and cold, I’ve been spending more and more time in Race mode in the Megane RS 300, enjoying the ridiculously oversteery chassis.

Race mode changes the mapping for the gearchange, sharpens the throttle and turns off all the traction control systems, allowing the car to move around much more. In a straight line the torque steer is still awful, only now the writhing steering wheel is combined with some truly demonic wheelspin. But in the corners, Race mode is great: chuck the RS into a greasy roundabout and a sudden lift off the throttle will have the tail swinging round like a BMW M3 drift car.

The Renault’s four-wheel steering is playing a big role here, because the nose feels so positive, even when the surface is slithery. At higher motorway speeds, the 4Control system turns all four wheels in the same direction; but under 37mph – or 60mph in Race mode – the rear wheels turn up to 2.7º the opposite direction to the fronts, rotating the car about its axis – giving the RS a reliable and satisfying front-end bite. It is stupidly entertaining.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 EDC

Price £33,555 (£36,055 as tested)
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 158mph
Efficiency 34.0mpg (official), 28.9mpg (tested), 187g/km CO2
Energy cost 22.1p per mile
Miles this month 942
Total miles 8959

Month 5 living with a Megane RS: the view from the hot seat

In terms of functionality, graphics and styling, the bigger, 9.3-inch touchscreen that came in with the 2020 facelift is excellent. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Most of the touch points in the RS are well judged*, and the steering wheel is pleasingly chunky and good to hold. Ours has the alcantara and full grain leather option (£250).

Sadly the paddles are flawed. They stick up for finger-shifting when you’re holding the wheel at 10-to-two, but they don’t extend downwards. Hold at quarter-to-three and when you turn the wheel your fingers find only fresh air.

Our car’s seats have alcantara trim and red stitching, a £1000 option. The driver’s chair is unusually tight around the hips, even for a sports seat.

The RS button allows you to instantly change the settings from Normal to Sport. Great for a swift drive home after work: you get improved throttle response and lots of exhaust popping.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 EDC

Price £33,555 (£36,055 as tested)
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 158mph
Efficiency 34.0mpg (official), 29.2mpg (tested), 187g/km CO2
Energy cost 21.3p
Miles this month 649
Total miles 9061

Month 4 living with a Megan RS: GTI swapsies

I embarked on our long-term test of the Megane RS asking if this is a hot hatch that can be a genuine day-to-day alternative to the Golf GTI. There’s no better way to find the answer than to drive them back to back. And the answer came back loud and clear: no, not really.

Climbing into the Golf after living with the Renault, it’s like being injected with some kind of mild anaesthetic. Everything feels spongy – not slack or imprecise, just oozy and numb. It’s like having warm honey dribbled into your mouth, rather than breaking your teeth on a stick of rock. The ride, the steering, the way it tracks along the road – it feels so cushioned and controlled. Frankly, it feels grown-up.

That does come at a cost, though, because the Golf definitely lacks the raw excitement you might hope for. Let’s face it, GTI has become just another trim level rather than a distinctive ‘thing’, and they really could take the badge off the back and call it a Golf Zest or a Lux. And while the car is certainly swift, it’s not bracingly fast after the RS (at 240bhp, it is nearly 50bhp short of the Megane RS 300, after all).

I try switching from Comfort to Sport to see if that livens things up, and while it does stiffen and sharpen the car, it also makes it jumpy, unsettling the ride. A step towards the Megane’s flighty waywardness, in other words… and that doesn’t suit the GTI’s more mature character. So I go back to Comfort.

Don’t get me wrong – you can still make rapid progress in the Golf: it has great body control and the steering is precise and predictable. It can draw you in, rewarding you for a neat line through a bend, a well-judged brake-and-turn-in. It can still play the role of driver’s car, in other words – it’s just more on the level of ‘shall we take a swift couple of roundabouts on the way home from work?’ rather than ‘Let’s go to the Nürburgring!’

But compared to the Megane, the Golf has breadth. I take my daughter out in the GTI and she actually likes it and doesn’t feel sick, like she often does in the bumpy, jiggling, jarring Megane. Big thumbs-up! The Golf is a family car, then, while the Megane suddenly feels like the hot-hatch equivalent of a Caterham – amazing to drive yes, exciting when you find yourself on the right road; but ultimately selfish too.

Same colour, same price, but very different cars. To live with every day, I have to say I prefer the Golf. But maybe that’s just me.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 EDC

Price £33,555 (£36,055 as tested)
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 158mph
Efficiency 34.0mpg (official), 28.1 mpg (tested), 187g/km CO2
Energy cost 22.7p per mile
Miles this month 1044
Total miles 7598

Month 3 living with a Megane RS 300: how far is too far?

megane rs gt3

A bit unfair, comparing a £35k hot hatch to a £125k supercar, but the similarities struck me when I drove the new GT3. Both are compromised in the name of driving purity – firm seats, jiggly ride, intrusive engine noise. If you’re in the mood to thrash, these are compromises you’re happy to make; but there’s a flaw in the Megane.

Nearly 300bhp is a lot to twist through the front wheels, and without the limited-slip diff of the Trophy model the torque steer is brutal in the first three gears. So the RS is compromised in the name of driving purity – yet with that steering wheel writhing in your hands, it’s not quite pure enough.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 EDC

Price £33,555 (£36,055 as tested)
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 158mph
Efficiency 34.0mpg (official), 24.9 mpg (tested), 187g/km CO2
Energy cost 25.4p
Miles this month 595
Total miles 6554

Month 2 living with a Megane RS 300: reverts quickly to type

megane rs track day

I know, last month I said I’m going to run the Megane RS like a normal car, with a humdrum life of shopping bags and school runs. I lasted about three weeks before a chance to go on a trackday presented itself and, well – it would have been rude not to. organises what it calls grassroots trackdays, making a day at a circuit with a hot hatch more affordable. One of the ways it does that is by using less glamorous circuits like Blyton Park, an old Lincolnshire airfield.

The drive up to Blyton was a textbook example of the Megane’s weaknesses – a choppy ride and narrow, pinched seats. Of course, all that goes out the window as soon as you get on track. Pressing a small RS Drive button behind the gearshift, I scroll through the Multi Sense driving modes to Race, for the louder engine sound, the sharper throttle response, traction control fully off.

Joining the track along with a few hot hatches and a gaggle of Abarth 595s, it’s soon clear the 296bhp Megane is one of the quickest cars here. The throttle response is incredibly eager for a turbo car, and the Megane absolutely blitzes the straights with a gorgeous raspy exhaust note. The Brembo brakes are also stunning for a car in this class, and then the real fun begins in the corners. With its tightly controlled chassis and four-wheel steering, the nose of the RS will dart into a 90º bend without a hint of understeer; but if you’re happy to accompany that with a hard lift, the back end will also sway out gracefully to drift its way past the apex. It is so much fun, the only thing that stopped me was when I discovered I was absolutely eating through the soft (grippy) Bridgestones at the front. You think I was just attacking too hard? I promise you, being crossed-up and sideways in the RS is more more-ish than a packet of salt and vinegar Hula Hoops.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 EDC

Price £33,555 (£36,055 as tested)
Performance 1798cc turbo four-cyl, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 158mph
Efficiency 34.0mpg (official), 26.9mpg (tested), 187g/km CO2
Energy cost 22.1p per mile
Miles this month 1222
Total miles 5959

Month 1 living with a Megane RS 300: hello and welcome

megane rs rear cornering

Ben Barry ran a Renault Megane RS Trophy as a long-term test car (as you can see below), and was unapologetic about his approach: ‘I won’t go on too much on the humdrum stuff. This is a Trophy, after all, so its raison d’etre is driving thrills, not supermarket runs. And I promise, no trips to the tip.’

His Trophy had the stiffened Cup chassis, a manual gearbox and the Torsen limited-slip diff. But it left open the question: what if you do want to do some supermarket runs and trips to the tip? Can a Megane RS do ‘everyday sober’ as well as ‘trackday spectacular’? Can it be a genuine alternative to the default VW Golf GTI?

To find out, we’ve taken one step down the Megane range to try out the standard RS for a few months, the non-Trophy model without the diff, the track-ready chassis and the yellow paint.

Instead, our new car is finished in optional Flame Red (£660) with the 19-inch Interlagos diamond-cut alloys (£800). Inside, instead of the Trophy’s Recaro race seats, our RS has the standard sports seats, though we’ve added the optional alcantara trim with red stitching (£1000) and heating (£350). Our car also has the full leather steering wheel (£250).

Renault has now dropped the manual-gearbox option for the Trophy, so all cars come with the six-speed auto as standard. But it hasn’t messed with the 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, offering 296bhp and 310lb ft through the front wheels; the same four-wheel-steering system; and the same driving modes.

Minor styling tweaks introduced late in 2020 involve an updated front grille and full LED headlights, and the full LED rear lights apparently incorporate a ‘new signature’ – though I can’t for the life of me see the difference. There are also front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and a shark-fin antenna replacing the bee-sting on the roof.

The interior feels like it’s taken a step forwards. The centre console is now dominated by a much more modern touchscreen with really crisp graphics, and there’s now a second screen inside the binnacle.

Prices have been ‘enhanced’ along with the spec, and the standard RS is now £33,585 (within a whisker of Golf GTI Mk8 money), with the Trophy coming in at £36,995. With all our options, our car is up into Trophy money, with an as-tested price of £36,055.

Altogether, I’m looking forward to getting to know our new Megane better – including some humdrum trips to the tip.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 EDC

Price £33,585 (£36,055 as tested)
1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 158mph
34.0mpg (official), 26.9mpg (tested), 187g/km CO2
Energy cost
21.8p per mile
Miles this month
Total miles

Month 7 living with a Renault Megane RS Trophy: all about the pace

Most references to the Megane RS seem to contain an introductory caveat that Renault Sport has dropped the ball of late. Must disagree. I didn’t rate the Clio RS, but that Alpine thing they did was good, and I really quite liked Renault’s king hot hatch on first acquaintance. Now, after seven months, I’m happy to report that’s still the case, even if I do have a few caveats of my own.

To briefly recap, I’ve been running the Megane RS 300 Trophy, the middle child between regular RS and mentalist (no back seats) Trophy R. It’s the one with the stiffer Cup chassis, Brembo brakes and limited-slip differential, plus lighter wheels, a 20bhp power boost to 296bhp and a shoutier exhaust as standard.

The Recaro seats (£1500) and Liquid Yellow paint (£1300) that really made our car helped add £4250 to the £31,835 bill.

We’ve bonded over the last 8000 miles or so, and done everything from trackdays and B-roads for fun to school runs and family trips loaded with luggage mostly not for fun. To be clear, for use as broad as that, the standard model hits a sweeter spot, chiefly because of a more compliant ride where the Trophy bobs along like a karate-chop massage. Yet despite a softer chassis, the base car still feels a more serious proposition than a Golf GTI.

No doubting that the Trophy is the sharper, more focused machine, though – the more aggressively responsive front end is probably the second thing you’ll notice in the first mile, after how stiffly it rides. I also think the Trophy’s rear end feels more composed under really heavy braking, and that – less expectedly – the LSD-equipped front axle is less inclined to weave, for instance on a full-throttle overtake. The Trophy aced Rockingham race circuit, and had me whooping on back roads.

I liked the bite and feel of the Brembo brakes, the limpet-like differential on full power out of corners, and also the richness of the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine at high revs, where its 2.0 predecessor wheezed like a hairdryer – though selecting Sport mode is essential for the (artificially augmented) burbly soundtrack and to rouse the throttle from its narcoleptic standard setting. A total of 296bhp isn’t loads these days, but throw in the chassis and brakes and it becomes silly rapid. And all with a highly tolerable 30mpg or so.

Both RS and Trophy get rear-wheel steering for the first time with this generation. At first I found it a little unnatural, as if I were turning for a corner too early, but seat-time brought familiarity and an adjustment in my approach – the Megane steering has a very firm on-centre feel, then zooms off-centre and is extremely eager to ping back again. Big steering inputs can feel clumsy; gentle and measured is the trick.

Rear steering also blends with an almost exaggerated eagerness to grip hard at the front and slide at the back when you lift the throttle– I quite enjoy that, though it can feel very pointy if a fast, unfamiliar corner tightens more than expected.

The bits that haven’t been great? The gearshift is a bit crunchy (don’t be delicate, nice big downshift blip) and the pedals aren’t ideally spaced for heel-and-toe (reason number two to get the dual-clutcher), the steering could crackle with more feel, the exhaust could pipe down in Sport mode (I just want the throttle response, really), and as the miles wore on and autumn tumbled into winter, so the front end started to tug like a divining rod at a junction in the Norfolk Broads – certainly more than I remember from the previous-generation Megane.

The occasionally infuriating keyless entry and average if serviceable infotainment are both inherited from the base car, and are just as underwhelming here.

But as an interactive, exciting hot hatch that can also tolerate the daily grind? This was definitely a winning Trophy.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

Price £31,835 (£36,085 as tested) 
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 162mph 
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 26.3mpg (tested), 
183g/km CO2 
Energy cost 20.9p per mile 
Miles this month 1365
Total miles 11014

Count the cost

Cost new £36,085
Part-exchange £26,150
Cost per mile 20p
Cost per mile including depreciation £1.50

Month 6 living with a Renault Megane R.S.: fast, furious, tacky

Red revcounter is your clue that Sport mode’s engaged. It peps up throttle response and gives a much more guttural soundtrack. But the gunfire from the exhaust on the over-run is too much, with pops even when you back off from modest throttle and low speed.

Recaro seats remain a £1500 option, even on the Trophy. Love the look, the grippy fabric and how the contour of the seatback cups your torso so naturally. I’d prefer if they dropped a bit lower, though they’re 20mm lower than standard and for me a must-spec.

Megane RS ben driving

The Trophy’s rear-wheel steering felt odd at first, but I get on with it now. The steering is very firm at the top, but the Megane starts to pivot around its middle the moment you move it off-centre. I tend to ease it in to turns very gently and progressively as a result.

Megane RS front wheel

The 19-inch alloys with red flashes continue the theme of the last generation – though that car’s didn’t look this tacky. On a positive, they save 2kg per corner and get Bridgestone Potenza tyres. Nice crisp turn-in and bite, complemented by excellent Brembo brake set-up.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

Price £31,835 (£36,085 as tested) 
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 162mph 
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 30.6mpg (tested), 
183g/km CO2 
Energy cost 19.1p per mile 
Miles this month 1334
Total miles 9649

Month 5 living with a Renault Megane R.S.: tyred out

It’s partly my fault, but not all my fault. The Megane had been on Renault’s press fleet ahead of life with CAR, and when it arrived showing 3367 miles it appeared to have been enjoyed on track. I’d driven it only on the road until last month, but by 7000 miles the front end’s once crispy bite was becoming spinny and occasionally spikily understeery.

Last month’s laps at Rockingham left the fronts on the wear markers and the rears ragged. Four new 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres have restored full handling health, not only in terms of grip, but also how alert the steering feels where the worn rubber had blunted responsiveness. A timely reminder of just how crucial decent tyres are.

Megane RS tyre

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

Price £31,835 (£36,085 as tested) 
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 162mph 
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 30.6mpg (tested), 
183g/km CO2 
Energy cost 19.2p per mile 
Miles this month 1166
Total miles 8315

Month 4 living with a Renault Megane R.S.: a dream day out

Megane RS Brabham

Around this time last year, I did what I thought were my final laps of Rockingham in a track-prepped V8 BMW M3. It’s my local racetrack – I was there for its opening weekend in 2001, contested my first race there in 2008, and I’ve always enjoyed driving the infield. Rockingham was underrated, and
I was sad it was closing.

Fast forward almost a year and I get an invite to drive the new Brabham BT62, first with an instructor in the passenger seat, then with David Brabham – Le Mans winner, son of multi-F1 champion Jack Brabham and BT62 figurehead/development guru – behind the wheel. Oh, and I can bring the Megane Trophy and have some fun during any the downtime.

Guess where? Yep. Turns out Rockingham is still hosting a handful of test days each year, even if the race weekends are no more.

The Brabham is a £1.2 million track-only hypercar rival to the McLaren Senna: spaceframe chassis, carbonfibre bodywork, and a Ford Voodoo-derived naturally-aspirated 5.4-litre V8 making 700bhp, which is very healthy.

Combine the searing noise, linear delivery and response of said V8 with a 972kg dry kerbweight, fat slicks and over 1200kg of downforce and this really is a devastating track weapon. And it’s got carbon-carbon brakes too (discs and pads), offering stopping power of a magnitude I’ve never previously experienced.

I edge up and up towards the BT62’s and my own limits, gaining confidence all the time simply because there are no scary snaps or bites despite the ferociousness of it all, and then Brabham jumps in and recalibrates the possible.

Getting to the Megane’s limits is more straightforward, but even in this daunting context, the punchy little Renault still feels quick and agile and highly enjoyable to punt around Rockingham. It’s also here that the stiffened Trophy chassis comes into its own, ably keeping the body in check though the infield’s fast direction changes in particular. It gives you a brilliant, stiff base to work from, so you’re able to dig in to a front end strong on bite (both grip and Brembo brakes) and play with a rear end that’s eagerly adjusted on the throttle. Top marks too to the engine, which has a much richer top end compared with its wheezier if still exceptional predecessor.

Some complain about the Megane’s gearshift (agreed, a Civic Type R’s is better) but perhaps the biggest shortcoming relates to the wide spacing between brake and throttle – both in height and width. It makes heel-and-toe downshifts feel clumsy at best, with the looming fear that neither pedal will be properly pressed. One reason to choose the dual-clutch auto.

All in all, though, a highly enjoyable return to my local track.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

Price £31,835 (£36,085 as tested) 
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 162mph 
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 29.9mpg (tested), 
183g/km CO2 
Energy cost 18.9p per mile 
Miles this month 1126
Total miles 7149

Month 3 of our Renaultsport Megane R.S. 300 Trophy: to the Lake District!

An update on a recent family expedition to the Lake District. Our bright yellow hot hatch might be designed for acing corners and cross-country blasts, but it can do the long-distance commuter role too.

1) Try that in a Nomad

Renault Megane boot

Three-hour trek to the Lake District from the East Midlands to abandon kids with grandparents near Kendal. Not the smoothest, quietest, roomiest car for a long family trip, but you can cram plenty in the boot.

2) Get off my road

Megane interior traffic

Easy run up the A591. Loving the great throttle response, but the meaty-sounding exhaust gets a bit embarrassing during casual overtakes. Hit traffic at Windermere on sunny Friday evening. Planning an early drive tomorrow that should give me the roads to myself.

3) Misty mountain hop

Megane front 3/4

Out early to Kirkstone Pass, a great drive over the A592 in the shadow of Helvellyn, if you get to it before traffic. Megane’s rich performance, steadfast front end and mighty brakes make light work of narrow uphill climb. Murk suddenly descends, spoils things.

4) All aboard

Weather improves on downhill section towards Patterdale. Robust test for Brembo brakes – they smell but never fade. We loop back down the west side of Lake Windermere. Pretty but a bit processional. Shortcut to eastern shore near Bowness on ferry.

5) Respect is due

Megane lakelan

Drop in on Lakeland Motor Museum for lunch and to visit the Donald Campbell exhibition. He died trying to beat his own water-speed record on nearby Coniston in 1967. Well worth a look.

6) Quids in

A refill at Milnthorpe – the lower speeds of tighter B-roads and the long motorway leg have improved average mpg a chunk this month. All brimmed, we’re heading south for a slightly choppy, noisy journey down the M6. Wait… where are those children?

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

Price £31,835 (£36,085 as tested) 
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 162mph 
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 31.7mpg (tested), 
183g/km CO2
Energy cost 18.7p per mile
Miles this month 1406
Total miles 6023 

Month 2 living with a Megane R.S. 300 Trophy: rear-steer? Fine by us…

Renaultsport Megane RS 300 Trophy long-term test

I love driving harder, faster versions of hard, fast cars on press launches. We’ll razz something like this Megane RS Trophy around a racetrack, maybe take in a great European road, then toss back the keys. Brilliant! But perhaps not hugely comparable to what an owner might experience. Which is where these long-terms tests step in.

I’ve covered over 1000 miles in the Megane Trophy, doing two-hour airport trips, favourite B-roads and even the school run. No surprise that the hardcore Trophy is a gnarlier proposition than a Golf GTI, but I’m happy to say it balances true excitement with a tolerable – if never truly easy – temperament when driven more gently.

Much of this is down to the suspension set-up. All Trophy models come with the firmer Cup chassis that’s optional on a standard RS, so it can feel quite choppy – sometimes without any real benefit – on the road and there’s rowdy tyre noise, too. But I love how tightly bodyroll is gathered up, how that translates to such precise steering response, and how nailed down the front feels.

The rear end, by comparison, is fantastically extrovert, partly thanks to 4 Control rear-wheel steering that’s more pronounced in the Megane than any similar system I’ve encountered. At first it seemed too hyper, almost as if I was turning into corners too early, but now I’ve acclimatised I enjoy how seamlessly it blends with the Megane’s natural tendency to lift-off oversteer, like it’s one fluid movement that’s as natural as turning the steering wheel to point the front wheels. And because it does this at modest speeds – okay, sometimes comically low speeds – the rear end never feels like it’s suddenly letting go. It’s progressive and unintimidating.

It’s not all crazy tail-wagging, though, and it’s pretty incredible just how much urge the Trophy can keep piling on through a constant corner when you keep it tidy, say accelerating through a larger roundabout.

All this, and ride quality that’s sufficiently passenger-friendly to provoke precisely no complaints from my kids on a tricky, if gently taken, cross-country trip from the Midlands to Manchester. Suits me.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

Price £31,835 (£36,085 as tested) 
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 162mph 
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 27mpg (tested), 183g/km CO2 
Energy cost 21.6 per mile 
Miles this month 311
Total miles 3678

Best hot hatches on sale

Month 1 of our long-term test: introduction to our Renault Megane RS Trophy daily driver

Renault Megane RS Trophy long-term test

If you want your hot hatch to do everything, you buy a Volkswagen Golf GTI. If you want it to be a great hot hatch – pin-sharp handling, punchy acceleration, blatty exhaust – you buy a Renault Sport Megane. That might be an over-simplification given there’s serious opposition from Hyundai and Honda to muddy the waters these days, but Renault Sport has nailed the putting-the-smile-on-your-face aspect of hot-hatch ownership for over a decade.

Now we have six months with the new Megane RS Trophy, enough to take us through the over-eager honeymoon period and into the reality of mpg, reliability, practicality… Well, okay, I won’t go on too much on the humdrum stuff – this is a Trophy, after all, so its raison d’etre is driving thrills, not supermarket runs. And I promise, no trips to the tip. But an extended test does allow us to paint a fuller picture of life with a car we’ve only ever experienced fleetingly before. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

CAR rated the third-generation Megane RS highly when we tried it on the press launch last year. Save for big departures in the shape of a five-door-only bodyshell and rear-wheel steering, it follows a similar recipe to its brilliant predecessor with front-wheel drive, trick PerfoHub front suspension, torsion-beam rear and a four-cylinder turbo engine, downsized from 2.0 litres to 1.8 for the latest generation.

The manual gearbox also continues – maybe, like Porsche’s GT3, Renault got burned by deciding to offer only a dual-clutch ’box on the Clio RS – and while you can get a dual-clutch gearbox (for £1.7k) with launch control and multi-downchange function and a 15lb ft slug of extra torque too, the manual fights back with extra driver involvement/workload, and a manual handbrake (the auto gets an e-handbrake). 

Buyers again get to choose between the regular Sport or the firmer Cup chassis, which adds just under £2k. The Trophy we’re running takes things further. (The Trophy-R, tested in CAR August, takes them further still.) The headlines focus on a new engine tune that nudges power up from 276bhp – slightly underwhelming  in the context of the competition – to a healthier if still far from class-leading 296bhp, partly thanks to a larger turbo with ceramic bearings.

Ben Barry in his office: the view from the Megane RS 300 Trophy cabin

Trophy-spec cars also get the Cup chassis (with the Cup’s 25 per cent firmer shocks, 30 per cent stiffer springs and 10 per cent stiffer anti-roll bars), a Torsen limited-slip diff and the 19-inch wheels (not the 18s standard on Sport models), which save 2kg each. Bridgestone Potenzas are standard, as are bi-material Brembo brakes with 355mm front discs. You’ll pay from £31,835 for a Trophy, compared with £27,810 for a base RS. It’s slightly more than a basic Honda Civic Type R, and a couple of grand up on the Hyundai i30N Performance.

On top of that, our test car has £4250 of options: Liquid Yellow metallic paint (£1300); upgraded Bose stereo (£800); rear parking camera and front parking sensors (£400); and the Visio system, which includes lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition and an automatic high/low-beam function (£250). 

Even though it’s a Trophy, you don’t get the alcantara Recaro sports seats as standard – they’re part of a further £1500 upgrade. Because they look and feel so good, and they’re also 20mm lower set, you can bet that secondhand buyers won’t be interested in a car that doesn’t have them fitted.

The total for our car is £36,085: a good chunk of cash for a hot hatch. It’s already run-in, with over 3000 miles on the clock, so we’re straight down to business – and our first few drives suggest we’re in for an exciting half-year.

Logbook: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy

Price £31,835 (£36,085 as tested)
Performance 1798cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 162mph
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 27mpg (tested), 183g/km CO2
Energy cost 21.6 per mile
Miles this month 311
Total miles 3678

More real-world long-term tests by the CAR magazine team