FIRST DRIVE | The 2019 Renault Megane RS 300 is not your everyday hot hatch
We drive Renault’s Megane RS 300 Trophy heading to SA later this year
When you get stuck behind a Volkswagen Golf TCR and a Hyundai i30 N you know you are in something rather special. Either that or the drivers of these two performance hatches should have just pulled over and walked home.
The site of this unofficial hot-hatch battle was the hill route of the Millbrook vehicle testing ground in the UK. The car trapped behind its German and Korean rivals was the new Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. Traditionally, the Megane RS has been less than friendly on public roads, but in this environment it was nothing short of excellent. This will be good news to those eagerly awaiting its arrival in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.
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Pull away and the torque steer is bad, but the Megane RS and its little brother, the Clio RS, have always had this issue. It’s almost become part of their character — like bits falling off an Alfa Romeo. Floor it and be prepared to fight really hard with the steering wheel. But then, as the revs come down, you can concentrate on attacking the corner and the Trophy gets on with the job.
Watching the two cars ahead braking early (yes, it was probably the drivers and not the cars holding me up) gave me time to appreciate the directness of the steering, the solid feel of the manual gearbox and something that is not as normal as it used to be these days: feedback from the road beneath me.
Of course, that feedback is what can sometimes make the RS feel like you are driving over an old, cobbled street, even on decent tarmac. No doubt things were more comfortable in the Hyundai and the VW but on the hill, the Megane was in its element, charging into each corner, turning in well thanks in part to Renault’s 4Control four-wheel steering system, delivering its power immediately on exit and instilling a level of confidence that is generally the preserve of pukka sports cars.
Switch the RS settings into Sport or Race mode and the exhaust gets louder and everything sharpens up. You are pushed back into the sports seats, which, by the way, will be a little narrow between the bolsters for some, and it launches forward.
There’s no EDC dual-clutch transmission here. Instead, the Trophy has a six-speed manual with short throws and a short travel distance on the clutch — it’s engineered to make you feel like a touring car driver and it does.
While feedback is excellent, it is easy to find the front wheels feeling a little light, particularly if there is any kind of crest in the corner or a switch in camber.
It can make things entertaining, involved and a little scary at times in equal measure, but it is all part of a package that is not designed to take you to the shops and back but to be driven with gusto on your favourite back road or mountain pass.
Ideally, of course, it’s designed and engineered to hit the track where the tarmac is smooth with less surface changes and where you can make the most of the power on tap.
That power is 223kW (300hp to give it its name) and 400Nm. Peak power is achieved at a high 6,000r/min, but once the wheels have scrabbled their way to the next gear change in the early gears, things are much more controlled.
Renault claims a 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds, a tenth of a second off the Golf TCR but two tenths quicker than the Golf Clubsport S.
The Renault lacks some of the comfort and premium quality in the Golf, particularly in the interior finishes where the Megane feels as though it is dating slightly in spite of its superb exterior looks. But the Trophy is not about interior plastics or even ride comfort, it’s about thoroughbred hot-hatch performance. In this regard, it ticks all the right boxes.