New Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy 2021 review

The Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy has been updated for 2021 and it's now only available with an EDC automatic gearbox

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

Verdict

The now auto-only Megane R.S. Trophy is a great hot hatch that, despite the gearbox, still immerses you in the action – but we do miss the manual. The chassis serves up huge grip and plenty of enjoyment on the right road. However, it also feels firm, fidgety and a little flighty on the wrong one. It has character, and the styling and tech tweaks have helped, but when it comes to sheer driving enjoyment and involvement, it lacks the edge to put it top of the class.

We’ve already tried the facelifted version of Renault’s regular Megane – including a PHEV – but now it’s the turn of the Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy.

We love hot hatchbacks in the UK, so this most hardcore of Meganes could be a real winner, especially given how good the French brand’s past efforts in this class have been. However, a quick look at the spec sheet reveals an issue that might hamstring the Trophy straight away: for the moment, it’s only available in EDC Efficient Dual-Clutch automatic form. Thank ever-tightening CO2 emissions laws for that.

Usually removing such a layer of interaction with a hot hatch isn’t a good thing. However, this new EDC version is sporting some clever tech, featuring launch control and a multi-downshift function that’ll change down as many ratios as possible if you pull and hold the left paddle.

Arguably, the more interesting elements of the Trophy concern the suspension and mechanicals, because this denotes the R.S. features the firmer Cup chassis, with hydraulic compression stops (for better control when the suspension is all the way through its stroke), a Torsen limited-slip differential, Brembo bi-metallic brakes and a bespoke set-up for its springs and dampers.

The Trophy also rides on 19-inch alloys and features some subtle bespoke badging, but it’s those chassis tweaks that mean you really know you’re in the range topper.

On the move it feels firm. The damping really starts to come into its own the faster you go, where the suspension is being asked to deal with more energy and the set-up therefore makes more sense.

However, it does fidget and, combined with the limited-slip differential, it can feel a bit flighty on anything other than a perfectly smooth, well-surfaced road – of which there aren’t many in the UK.

The diff does an effective enough job in finding traction, but in doing so, it can pull at the wheel; cambered roads don’t help matters. But even in wintery conditions, combined with an ESC system that smoothly cuts the power to ensure the maximum the front wheels can handle is delivered, the Trophy still romps forward.

The six-speed EDC gearbox actually makes it easier to go quickly, and it’s surprisingly good, shifting up in Sport and Race mode with snappy responses and a suitably aggressive pop from the exhaust.

Downshifts are a little more laboured, but you can live with them by planning ahead just a little bit more.

The engine is the same 296bhp 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit as before, so while launch control, the gearbox and the diff combine to give a 5.7-second 0-62mph time, it’s not as strong or as gutsy as a Honda Civic Type R’s more powerful motor. There’s 420Nm of torque on tap, but it doesn’t pull as hard as we’d like with a really gutsy character, while there is a little bit of turbo lag.

There’s also what sounds like some sound augmentation in the cabin in the sportier settings, but at least the exhaust note is authentic.

Handling has always been a Megane R.S. forte, and it still is here. Renault’s 4Control four-wheel steering system gives the car great low-speed agility, and the grip the chassis generates means you can make the most of this.

Lift off in a corner though, and the Renault will begin to tighten its line from the rear end; it’s playful, especially in Race, but just be prepared for it.

The interior is an improvement, thanks to the upgrades that the rest of the Megane range receives, centring on the 9.3-inch touchscreen (the climate controls are now separate, which is a big improvement) and a new 10-inch digital dash. Trophy models also feature sporty Alcantara trim for the bucket seats, which grip you well.

The updated front and rear lights are minor styling tweaks, but then the RenaultSport’s looks were never a problem; with its swollen wheel arches, new, deep chin spoiler with the F1-inspired front blade, and the diffuser that houses the central-exit exhaust, it looks muscular without having to resort to overblown wings and vents like its rival we mentioned before, the Civic Type R.

You could live with it every day, but the ride is borderline, even if the claimed 33.2mpg and a 434-litre boot are good.

You get LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, a BOSE stereo, all-round parking sensors and a reversing camera, cruise control, AEB and lane departure warning on top of everything else mentioned.

However, at £36,995, even with the Trophy touches and nicely pitched interior (the seats and infotainment are good, quality elsewhere acceptable), it’s an expensive car. The more powerful and crucially more capable Honda in top-spec GT trim costs £675 less.

Model:Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy EDC
Price: £36,995
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 296bhp/420Nm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 158mph
Economy/CO2: 33.2mpg/193g/km
On sale: Now

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