We had occasion to test the Mégane Trophy-R with a couple of user-configured states of tune dialled into its 10-way adjustable Ohlins suspension. Our on-track handling tests were conducted with it on a lower ride height and with Renault’s recommended compression and rebound settings, while most of our road impressions came courtesy of the car’s prescribed road settings.

Configured for the road, the car delivers incremental but very worthwhile improvements over a Mégane Trophy for suppleness and high-speed stability over bumps – which might well be the last thing you expect from it. Hardcore though the car may be, the budget that Renault has evidently poured into its suspension pays off handsomely by way of impressive dynamic versatility.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Flexible suspension can be tuned to your preferred style, though you’ll need access to a hydraulic lift and to pay close attention to Renault’s suspension configuration menu

Though it runs more than two degrees of negative camber at the front wheels, the car resists bump steer and tramlining quite well, remaining stable at high speeds even when dealing with uneven surfaces. While its damping is firm and its suspension apparently quite short on travel, it works with greater dexterity than in a regular Mégane RS.

Drive the car on circuit, again optimally configured for it, and it’s even flatter-feeling in its cornering manners – really crisp and stable when turning in quickly, with plenty of confidence-fostering steering feel and none of the vagueness or unpredictability that four-wheel steering gives its sibling models.

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It has very big reserves of outright lateral grip and particularly high mid-corner stability too, which allows you to carry ever-greater apex speeds. Handling adjustability seems to have been sacrificed slightly in pursuit of that high-speed plantedness, though, and so if you’re looking for instant, accessible fun from your hot hatchback or particular playfulness at the limit, the Trophy-R stands the chance of leaving you just a little bit frustrated at times.

At other times, however, this is the kind of car to render you breathless and not a little astonished that a front-driven hatchback can be driven so hard – and it’ll keep coming back lap after lap.

The Trophy-R’s Bridgestone tyres plainly aren’t as liquorish-soft or track-intended as others on the performance market. They work reasonably well on the road; their grip level doesn’t seem as dependent on outright temperature as that of, say, a Pirelli Trofeo R; and they even work quite well in the wet (deep standing water notwithstanding).

All up, they seem a very intelligent compromise for a hot hatchback – and, on dry Tarmac, they allow the Trophy-R a grip level that is at once high and long-lasting, rather than one that seems to begin deteriorating after five hard circuits.

The car is hugely stable and precise on corner entry and very predictable on exit, making it easy to drive fast. It works its Torsen front slippy diff harder under acceleration than other Mégane RSs have hitherto, getting more benefit from it and enjoying lots of traction. Brake pedal feel is excellent, and stopping power very resistant to fade.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

While stripping the Trophy-R’s interior of any meaningful sound-deadening does turn the cabin into something of an echo chamber, the effect isn’t quite as pronounced as you might expect. Of course, bigger impacts still feel somewhat amplified so that your ears are, at times, almost as prone to assault as the base of your spine, but the Renault isn’t necessarily worse than its competition in this respect. At a sustained 30mph, our sound gear measured cabin volume at 66dB – the same reading we extracted from a Civic Type R in 2017. In fact, it was only at 70mph where the Trophy-R was louder and then only marginally, with our microphone showing 73dB versus the Honda’s 72dB.

As for driving position, the Renault is fine without being outstanding, but still significantly behind the supremely cohesive Civic. You have to sit slightly bent-legged at the pedals to be within comfortable reaching distance of the gearlever, while the pedals feel a touch too highly set for comfort and aren’t ideally spaced laterally either. Heel-and-toe shifts are doable, but they come far more naturally in the Honda. And while our testers agreed the Sabelt bucket seats offer good lateral support, some felt the angle of the fixed backrest was a bit too recumbent to be ideal.

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