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Our Megane RS 300 Trophy: the seven-month test

Published: 30 March 2020

► We live with Renault's latest hotshot
► Megane RS 300 Trophy long-term test
► Regular updates, warts 'n' all

Month 7 living with a Renaulg Megane R.S.: 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

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator