Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Regardless of whether you go for the regular Megane RS 300 or the Trophy version, you get the same 1.8-litre turbocharged engine pumping out 296bhp. That’s more than the Hyundai i30N and regular Volkswagen Golf GTI, albeit less than the Honda Civic Type R, let alone the bonkers Mercedes-AMG A45. The similarly priced Toyota GR Yaris (with the Circuit pack) is down on power as well, although it’s featherweight build and four-wheel drive give it the edge over the Megane RS.
Not that the Megane RS is particularly podgy; while it does tip the scales at more than the Civic Type R, it’s lighter than the i30N and AMG A-Classes, the latter of which rivals have heavy four-wheel drive to lug around.
The Trophy shaves off a further 18kg with 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; the Trophy managed 0-60mph in 5.7sec during our tests, 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.
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 also helps improve agility on winding roads, especially in Race mode. 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, especially in wet conditions.
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 Trophy, 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.
In non-Trophy form, the Megane RS rides bumps and broken road surfaces reasonably well, even though it’s not as forgiving as the Civic Type R or Volkswagen Golf R. As for the stiffer (though not lower) suspension that Trophy-spec brings, it helps the Mégane RS control its body movements even better through quick changes of direction, but the payoff is a tendency to bounce and jostle you around when you’re not driving like there’s a tornado on your tail.
Like many hot hatchbacks these days, you can only have the Megane RS with an automatic gearbox. This six-speed, dual-clutch gearbox is smooth enough in every day driving and quick to respond to manual commands, especially in Race mode. Even so, we prefer the extra layer of interaction you get from the Civic Type R and GR Yaris’s manual gearboxes.
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