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Host of upgrades give Renault’s flagship hot hatchback the edge it needs to just stay ahead of an increasingly competitive pack

Our Verdict

Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R

Can an even sharper focus enhance an already great hot hatch?

Nic Cackett
23 July 2014

What is it?

The Renault Mégane Renaultsport has long been lauded as one of the best hot hatchbacks available. That’s not a title awarded without just cause; it is, after all, a remarkably capable and rewarding car.

Recently launched rivals like the Seat Leon Cupra 280, however, are infringing dangerously on the Renault’s territory.

Keen to hold on to its hot hatch laurels, Renault has countered the new threats with an upgraded flagship version of its Mégane Renaultsport called the 275 Trophy.

Besides a host of upgrades, including an attention-grabbing insert in the front bumper and an Akrapovič titanium exhaust system, the Trophy gets the all-important ‘Cup pack’ as standard. This adds a limited-slip differential, stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.

Renault’s engineers have also extracted another 10bhp from the Mégane’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, granting it a total of 271bhp, and widened its power and torque bands.

What's it like?

The vast majority of the revisions are designed to make the Renault keener, quicker and more engaging. As you’d expect, given Renaultsport’s expertise, those aims have been met.

What the Renault really majors on is communication and control. Despite electronically assisted steering a torrent of information is relayed to you via the comfortable Alcantara-trimmed wheel.

The throttle is also responsive and easily modulated, the clutch action painless to judge, and the brakes capable of bleeding off speed quickly and controllably.

Coupled with immense front-end grip, plenty of traction and superb body control, the resulting experience when driven at speed is utterly intoxicating.

You’re not left wanting for more power either; the turbocharged engine revs cleanly to 6800RPM in the first two gears and continues to pull hard in the higher ratios. The Trophy’s no faster to 62mph than the Renaultsport but it does feel fractionally more eager beyond 5000rpm.

The Akrapovič exhaust suitably adds to the theatre, additionally producing grin-inducing pop and bangs. In conjunction with the stiffer suspension, LSD and distinctive cosmetic changes, the resulting feel is of a notably more evocative car than the normal Renaultsport.

What further impresses is the accessibility of it all. You need not to have myriad motorsports qualifications to relish a drive in the Mégane; it’s secure, confidence inspiring and – like the smaller Fiesta ST – characterful even at slower speeds.

The Renault does admirably elsewhere. It feels mechanically durable and it’s easy to drive in a conventional fashion; you get plenty of kit, including dual-zone climate and sat-nav, usable rear seats and an adequately sized boot.

A four-year, 100,000-mile warranty adds confidence and the company’s even had the foresight to retain the option of a spare wheel for £95. So, no tearing a tyre off the rim following an optimistic corner entry and immediately being immobilised.

Those seeking a more hardcore experience can even opt for adjustable dampers and track-focused tyres; a lighter Trophy-R variant is also offered – which does away with the likes of air-con in the name of performance.

Only a few foibles, such as a predictably hectic ride on rough surfaces and the stereotypical limitations of a high-powered front-drive hot hatch, occasionally detract from the experience.

It's also annoying to find the frequently accessed Sport button, which allows you to adjust the Renault's responses and disable the stability control, tucked well out of reach to the right of the steering column.

Should I buy one?

Admittedly the faster, more efficient, modern feeling and refined Seat Leon Cupra 280 will set you back £27,210. That’s £1720 less than the Renaultsport Trophy.

Similarly the Volkswagen Golf R and BMW M135i offer more mature, polished packages that are easier to live with on a daily basis.

Many would also equally be as happy with the £3,000 cheaper standard Renaultsport; even if you wanted the Cup pack as well you'd only have to pay a further £1350.

What the Trophy compensates with is purity of focus, outright pace and sheer engagement. If you can deal with the compromises, and you simply want something that’s an absolute riot to drive, look no further.

Renault Mégane Renaultsport 275 S&S Trophy

Price £28,930; 0-62mph 6.0sec; Top speed 158mph; Economy 37.7mpg; CO2 174g/km; Kerb weight 1376kg; Engine 4cyls, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 271bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 266lb ft at 3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
14

23 July 2014
I know priorities and criteria are slightly different for hot hatches, but it still surprises me that Renault can churn out performance cars, of which many have been fabulous, yet when it comes to the mainstream cars they're based on, Renault generally struggles resulting in tedium. I'm struggling to recall when Renault last had a truly great car, yet alone a class leader. The only one that springs to mind was the first Laguna from 20 years ago. If memory serves me right, it nearly matched the Mondeo and had great handling and ride.

23 July 2014
titanium exhaust...mmm. Something for the light fingered to remove in the night !

23 July 2014
If Autocar says Megane is a riot then it sure is. Renault however sinned by side-stepping its wonderful RS agenda by offering the Clio RS with an (semi)automatic only option.

23 July 2014
As pointed out, the Seat Leon Cupra 280 is faster, more efficient, much better build quality, and cheaper. And as proven in a recent Steve Sutcliffe Autocar video, the Cupra 280 is more than a match for the even more expensive and powerful Golf R.

So when put like that, the Renault with it's cheap interior is now not such a performance bargain. It's getting old.

23 July 2014
It might be a little less fun to drive but overall the Leon is by far the better product and it looks arguably better especially with the LED headlights. It's all well and good recommending a car for it's performance, but what one must remember is that it's often based on track performance and these reviewers don't take the car home, buy it with their own money or live with it for months or years on end. Buying with my money, I would buy the Leon.

25 July 2014
Morning 3mocion. The Leon is a better product in several respects but most of those – such as its improved refinement – will prove a moot point to those considering a Renaultsport. Buyers of this kind of a car are going to be looking for a track or fast-road capable car that is exciting and engaging. Consequently it has to be reviewed in terms of its fitness for purpose. If I were considering this kind of car I wouldn't hesitate to buy one; if I were instead looking for a hot hatch that I could easily commute in then I may swing towards the Leon. I did drive the Renault for several days, however, on a variety of different roads and in different conditions, and actually found it comparatively easy to live with. The ride was, as mentioned, quite hectic on rougher country roads though.

25 July 2014
Morning Osteopathica. You are correct in that the Renault is getting on a little. It is, however, still a more engaging car to drive than the Leon Cupra – and it is aimed at a different customer, so aspects like its interior are not necessarily as critical.

24 July 2014
The Megane may be a riot to drive, but it has always looked like a dog's dinner and the facelift has not improved its looks. Also, the fact they've dropped xenon headlights from the options list, when they should arguably be standard, is a deal breaker for me.

24 July 2014
Pretty surprised by the fact that the Leon is faster than the Megane.
The old RS265 was always faster than the Leon on circuit (Nordschleife except), so i don't understand how it's possible...
Or maybe, the Leon is faster in straight line: but totally useless...

If you want a true "club racer": there is no alternative in current hatchback market to the Megane, the Leon is just a VW car: fast and polyvalent but not hardcore enough to go on circuit.

25 July 2014
Morning Rowhider. The Leon Cupra 280 went around the Nordschleife in 7m58.4sec in March, faster than the previous Mégane Renaultsport. Laurent Hurgon, the Renault Sport Technologies test driver, then used a Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R to take the Nordschleife standard for front-wheel-drive cars back from Seat. He set a lap time of 7min 54.3sec. The Leon is a very competent and quick car, and good fun to drive, but it lacks the outright driver appeal that the Mégane – has as you observe.

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