Tested: Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy is a hardcore hot hatch
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JOHANNESBURG - They might not be a familiar sight on the roads like the Golf GTI, but Renault’s Megane RS models have always given the hot Golf a good run for its money, and in the process they’ve become quite revered by performance hatch fans who want something a little different.
But whereas the latest generation Megane RS 280 models straddle the line between Golf GTI and R, there’s now a messiah called the RS 300 Trophy and it clearly has the latter in its sights.
But you’ll be lucky if you ever see one on the roads. Renault has brought just seven RS 300 Trophy units into South Africa, priced from R774 900, which makes it one of the most expensive hot hatches in South Africa. Even The Golf R is almost R50 000 cheaper.
But as we mentioned, Renault is not chasing volumes with this ‘Trophy’ of a car, instead it’s being positioned as a halo model for those seeking the ultimate track day experience.
It’s not a cushy everyday car, and Renault certainly isn’t pretending that it is, but I must admit that I was surprised by how comfortable it felt in everyday suburban conditions during the week I had with it recently.
Over everyday smooth surfaces the ride quality certainly wasn’t bone-jarring - in fact I found it surprisingly comfortable - but the steering certainly takes some getting used to. This car gets rather jittery over rippled or uneven surfaces, and you really have to hold onto that steering wheel. The same goes for hard acceleration - particularly if the surface is less than ideal - as this car certainly knows how to torque steer.
But it’s a bag full of fun as well, and really rewarding to drive once you find the right kind of surface and some twisty, quiet stretches to put it through its paces.
While the engine and throttle response is actually quite civilised when the car is in Comfort mode, use the RS button to dial in Sport or Race modes and you get a hardcore sensory experience, with the dual-sound exhaust valve system going into party mode to give you a true snap-crackle-pop sound track.
Flatten the pedal and it’s brutally fast (just remember to hold onto that steering wheel), with Renault claiming a 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds, which makes it one of the fastest hatches around - although of course not in the same league as the Mercedes-AMG A45. As a reminder, the RS 300 Trophy’s 1.8-litre turbopetrol engine produces 221kW and 400Nm, whereas the regular RS 280 Lux and Cup models muster 205kW and 390Nm.
As with the RS 280 versions, the RS 300 Trophy can be had with either manual or six-speed dual-clutch automated transmission. Our test car came with the manual gearbox, and it really was a solid and thunky joy to stir. I know many buyers prefer autoboxes these days, but if you’re going for a hot hatch as hands-on and hardcore as this one, you might as well keep things traditional and pure.
The chassis, of course, has been purpose-designed for track days, and thus there’s lots of fancy hardware to facilitate this, such as stiffer Cup chassis suspension and a Torsen mechanical limited slip differential. Like the RS 280 models, the Trophy also comes with Renault’s 4Control four-wheel steering system. This system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front ones at lower speeds, to make the car more agile through tight corners, and in the same direction at higher velocities with the aim of improving stability.
When tackling track days you’re going to want this car to hold you in your seat too, and that’s not a problem thanks to its grippy Alcantara-upholstered Recaro buckets.
They add just the right sense of occasion to the cabin, which apart from a few red accents and red stitching in places, looks rather ordinary. At least it’s got all the basic bells and whistles that you’d expect, including a vertical touchscreen infotainment system and dual-zone climate control.
Apart from the badging, the RS 300 Trophy doesn’t look too different from the RS 280 cup model, but you could argue that the latter already has a striking exterior styling package and if you order this car in Sirius Yellow it’s surely going to turn heads.
The Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy is an exciting and track-dedicated performance hatch, but given its non-availability, potential buyers will of course be steered to the more regular RS 280 models, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. But wouldn’t it be nice if Renault gave the 221kW engine tuning to these ‘regular’ RS models?