Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy long-term test: report 1

The latest Renault Megane RS is one of our favourite hot hatches, but how easy is it to live with?...

LT Renault Megane RS front

The car Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy Run by Steve Huntingford, editor

Why it’s here To see if this thrilling hot hatch continues to impress when you live with it every day

Needs to Combine the pace and agility we’ve come to expect from Renault Sport cars with the practicality we haven’t

List price £31,835 Target Price £30,775 Price as tested £35,435 Miles 614 Official economy 34.4mpg Test economy 24.2mpg Options fitted Recaro Sports Pack (£1500), Bose Pack (£800), Flame Red paint (£650), rear-view camera and front parking sensors (£400), Vision System (£250)

12 July – First impressions

Generally, the best hot hatches stand out because they manage to combine their strong performance and sharp handling with good everyday usability. However, the cars from Renault Sport have traditionally been exceptions: very hard to live with much of the time but so entertaining on the right road that you find yourself forgiving them.

On the surface, the latest hot version of the Renault Megane seems to follow much the same formula, eschewing adaptive suspension that can be softened at the tough of a button (now at least an option on most rivals) in order to keep weight down. And while there is a more comfort-oriented version of the car, it’s still no softy and misses out on the limited-slip differential that helps the focused Cup and Trophy variants make the most of their power.

LT Renault Megane RS Trophy alloy wheel

Those are the ones you want, then – especially given that they’re not as uncompromising as their spec sheets and Renault’s history might lead you to believe. Okay, you’d never call them anything other than firm, but when What Car? had a Trophy in for a group test and I ended up in it over a bank holiday weekend, it turned out my two-year-old daughter was still perfectly capable of falling asleep in the back.

With this critical hurdle cleared, and with the memories of how much fun the RS was at the What Car? test track fresh in my mind, I found myself making a case to my wife for us running one. And because she’s generally more prone to travel sickness when cars rock from side to side than when they thump over potholes, here we are.

Like those weekend wheels, my Megane RS is a Trophy, which means it benefits from a 20bhp power hike over lesser variants (taking the total up to 296bhp), sharpened accelerator responses and a freer-breathing exhaust that makes it sound even better. Plus, it’s no stripped-out track car; standard equipment includes sat-nav, a DAB radio, dual-zone climate control and cruise control.

LT Renault Megane RS Trophy touchscreen

Renault also offers quite a few options, many of which you can do without. However, the £1500 Recaro Sports Pack is a must in my opinion, because it adds fantastic-looking racing seats that hold you tightly in place through corners yet improve long-distance comfort. And the Bose Pack feels like good value at £800, bringing a larger and more user-friendly touchscreen infotainment system in addition to an upgraded stereo.

I’m just a couple of weeks into my time with the car, but so far it’s proving every bit as good as I remember, with the standard four-wheel steering system playing a big part. This automatically turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at speeds of up to 62mph, giving the Megane RS an incredibly tight turning circle (perfect for tackling What Car?'s tight multi-storey car park) and improving agility on winding roads.

You really do feel like the car is pivoting around you, particularly in the sort of hairpin bends that front-wheel-drive hot hatches tend to struggle with. And although this sensation can be a little disconcerting at first, the system really helps you carry speed through corners once you're used to it.

LT Renault Megane RS Trophy rear

Perhaps my biggest concern before taking delivery, given that my daily commute features plenty of stop-start city driving, was the fact I’d specified the six-speed manual gearbox that we recommend rather than the dual-clutch automatic alternative. But in reality, the clutch pedal is light enough to prevent it becoming frustrating and the gearshift action is pleasingly short, even if it’s not as slick as the Honda Civic Type R’s.

Add in the spacious interior – helped by those super-slim optional seats – well-shaped boot and five-door layout and I’m finding the Megane RS almost as easy to live with as previous long-termers, in addition to being a whole lot of fun. The question is whether my smile will remain in place as the miles rack up.

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