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ROAD TEST: Renault Mégane RS Trophy 265
Renault's stylists clearly left any feelings of shyness at the door before decorating the French brand's latest in a long line of grin-inducing hot hatchbacks. In fact they could just as well have cut some corners by simply putting a big neon sign on the roof that reads 'dice me'.
Yet their refusal to do things the simple way means that those buying the limited (to 30) edition Mégane RS Trophy 265 get to strut around with 19-inch gloss black wheels with red piping, red brake calipers and a red front 'lip' to match the red side stripes. Let's not forget the map of the Nürburgring that you'll find on the front doors.
That last bit is quite fitting as this very car flattened the Nürburgring Nordschleife in just 8m07.97 - which is a new lap record for front-wheel drive cars.
That requires both power and control.
There is certainly no shortage of the former. The Trophy edition ushers in a power upgrade for the RS range, which sees its output increase from 184kW to 195kW at 5500rpm. The only catch is that maximum power remains at the old level unless you completely deactivate the three-mode traction nanny - which is not the place where this RS is happiest.
Despite being one of the most powerful cars ever to dare shoving all of its ponies through the front wheels, you don't have to pull Bruce Lee antics with the steering wheel to prevent it from torque steering over a Sandton-high wall and into someone's lounge.
In fact, the steering interference under full throttle is minimal, which means you can fully indulge in the stupendously rapid acceleration on offer here, made all the more enjoyable by this Renault's loud and rorty exhaust note.
But don't expect such a neat rocket launch when the traction control's off. Instead, expect lots of tyre smoke. Our sister publication, Star Motoring, found this to be a problem when testing the straight line acceleration, although the 0-100km/h best time (at Gauteng altitude) was a still-respectable 6.8 seconds and the quarter mile was flattened in 14.8.
If you're not too crazy with the throttle, this RS also corners very neatly and it holds its head up high among the front-wheel drive hatch pack. It is, after all, fitted with a limited slip front diff and sports suspension.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the RS Trophy is how painless it is to live with in the daily city commuting grind.
It operates smoothly under low throttle and the pedals and gearbox allow for smooth operation. Even the ride quality's not too bad. Sure, it is on the firm side but it's not bone-jarring and it glides comfortably over most surfaces.
Interior quality has always been a strong point with the latest Mégane range, and there's no faulting the look and feel of the materials used here but the Trophy has been decked out to create a racier atmosphere than what you'll find in its tamer siblings.
Here you'll see body-hugging Recaro bucket seats and carbon-like trim but my smiling nod of approval stopped just short of those bright yellow seat belts.
Like other RS models, the Trophy also has a useful little gadget called the RS monitor. This allows you to monitor turbo pressure and oil temperature and access real-time performance figures like power and torque and even record lap times, acceleration figures and g-forces.
At a shade over 400 grand, the Trophy is at the premium end of the hot hatch spectrum, but this is also reflected in its ability.
This car has more attitude than a Jack Russell crossed with a piranha.
It's also outrageously quick for a hatchback, well-balanced by front-wheel drive standards and easy to live with in the daily grind.
Renault Mégane RS Trophy 265 (195kW) - R409 900
Audi S3 quattro(188kW) - R416 260
Mazda3 MPS(190kW) - R343 140
Subaru WRX Premium (195kW) - R429 000
VW Scirocco R (188kW) - R419 700