The ‘regular’ Megane RS has 276bhp whether you opt for the Cup chassis or not. That’s fractionally more power than the Hyundai i30N Performance can muster, but it looks rather weedy next to the big hitters in this price bracket, such as the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R. Although the Trophy gets closer to the pointy end of the pack with 296bhp, that’s still some way short of the Honda.
Acceleration isn’t just about power, of course – it’s also about weight. And there’s better news in that department; while the Mégane RS does tip the scales at more than the Civic Type R, it’s lighter than the i30N or Golf R, the latter of which has a heavy four-wheel drive system to lug around.
The Trophy shaves off a further 18kg, thanks to lighter brakes that prove exceedingly fade-resistant, and a lithium-ion battery rather than a much heavier lead acid unit. Lightweight wheels are on the options list and save another 2kg per corner.
As a result of all this, the Megane RS is no slouch (0-60mph took 5.9sec in our tests, with the Trophy managing 5.7sec), but acceleration isn’t as eye-widening as you might hope – especially in the higher gears. Instead, it’s the noises the engine makes when you’re in Sport or Race mode that are its most satisfying feature; this is one of the best-sounding hot hatches currently on sale, and the Trophy offers even more snap, crackle and pop.
On standard suspension, the Megane RS rides bumps and broken road surfaces reasonably well, even though it’s not as forgiving as the Civic Type R or Golf R.
What’s more, the four-wheel steering system that’s fitted is no gimmick, because it not only gives the RS an incredibly tight turning circle, but helps improve agility on winding roads. You really do feel like the car is pivoting around you, particularly in the sort of tight hairpins that front-wheel drive cars usually struggle with. But a word of warning: it’s a sensation you’ll either love or hate and some people find it disconcerting.
The other thing to bear in mind is there’s no limited-slip differential (LSD) to help the standard Megane RS put its power down, so you either have to be patient with your right foot or accept that a little wheelspin and the tendency of the nose to run wide of where you’re aiming it are all part of the fun.
Better to fork out a bit extra for the Cup chassis, because this brings an LSD that allows you to use much more power when accelerating out of corners, even if it can still feel like someone has hacked into the steering and is fighting you for control, due to the way the engine’s torque tugs the wheel left and right in your hands.
As for the stiffer (though not lower) suspension that the Cup chassis brings, this helps the Mégane RS control its body movements even better than the standard car through quick changes of direction, with the payoff a tendency to bounce and jostle you around when you’re not driving like there’s a tornado on your tail.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox is pleasant enough to use, if not as slick or precise as a Civic Type R’s. It makes the optional EDC twin-clutch auto seem unnecessary, although the latter is quick to respond to paddle tugs in Race mode – far more so than the EDC ’box in the cheaper Clio RS. That the Mégane RS is available with an automatic gearbox at all means it appeals to a wider section of buyers than the Civic Type R or i30N.