Renault’s answer to the VW Golf GTI
The French brand's hot hatch has a cult following who love the car's sharp performance and flair. But there are a few trade-off that leave the Renault Megane RS Trophy appearing poor value against more established rivals.
There's no avoiding the fact that the R.S. Trophy is expensive compared with traditional rivals from Volkswagen and Ford. It costs about $15,000 more than the pair, although to be fair it is a more focused performance car. If you want a cheaper R.S., the standard Sport model costs roughly $9000 less. For the extra spend the Trophy gives you a more powerful engine (up 16kW and 30Nm), better brakes, a bespoke suspension tune, more performance-focused wheels and tyres, an active muffler and a limited slip differential. The extra power shaves just one-tenth off the 0-100km/h time and uses half a litre more (98 RON) fuel per 100km. Inside, the only visual cue you've got the Trophy version is a leather and suede sports steering wheel with red stitching. The cabin is well equipped and looks up-market. Highlights include standard satnav, an above average Bose audio system, leather seats and smartphone integration. A five-year warranty is standard but servicing costs are only capped for three
The traditional trade-off for sharp cornering has been stiff suspension that rattles the fillings over pockmarked inner city streets. In recent years, carmakers have combated this by offering multi-mode suspension setups with a "comfort" setting for the daily commute. Unlike its direct rivals, the Renault sticks with the one setting: firm. It's not crashy or jarring, but it does get jiggly over less than perfect road surfaces. The heated leather seats are comfy and supportive, with decent side support and padding, while the rest of the cabin looks and feels up-market. Rear-seat passengers have their own air vents and a decent amount of head and legroom, while the boot is also a decent size.
The current Megane hasn't been independently crash-tested in Australia but was awarded five stars by Euro NCAP back in 2015. There are six airbags, two ISOFIX anchor points in the back and a tyre pressure monitor. Driver aids include auto emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane keeping assistance and active cruise control. Big brakes and sticky tyres also help to keep things under control if the driver is testing the car's limits.
ON THE ROAD
Hot hatches are as much about theatre as they are about performance and the Trophy's active muffler delivers all the right sorts of noises when driven enthusiastically. It's strong off the mark and the excellent dual-clutch auto keeps the 1.8-litre turbo in its sweet spot for maximum drive out of corners. There's plenty of feedback from the steering and the brakes are strong, resisting fade on a long downhill stretch that included tight hairpins. It's a matter of taste, but the car's trick rear-wheel steering set-up felt unnerving at times. It's designed to deliver better turn in, but sometimes it feels as if you're going to lose the back-end.
There's no doubting the Megane's performance pedigree, but other hot hatches do a better - and less expensive - job of balancing the daily grind with a weekend blast in the country.
Volkswagen Golf GTI, from $48,990 drive-away.
Not as focused or as fast as the Trophy but much cheaper, with a classy interior and great liveability. New model coming soon.
Ford Focus ST, from about $49,000 drive-away.
Similar performance from larger 2.3-litre turbo, sharp steering and great grip through corners. Also a lot cheaper.
Hyundai i30 N, from about $45,500 drive-away.
Only comes as a manual for the time being, limiting its appeal. But our 2018 Car of the Year has a strong engine, great dynamics and sharp pricing.
RENAULT MEGANE RS TROPHY VITALS
Price: About $62,000 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: Five years, unl'td km, $1435 over three years
Engine: 1.8-litre turbo petrol, 221kW/400Nm
Safety: Not rated, six airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning, active cruise control
Originally published as Renault's answer to the VW Golf GTI