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
What is it?