'Why haven't I driven one of these before?' Was all I kept thinking about as I zipped around the corners in the new Megane RS Trophy loaned to me by Renault New Zealand.
The Renault Megane first started rolling off the production line in 1996 and has assumed a variety of body styles (three and five door hatchback, saloon, coupé, convertible and estate) during its (now four) generations; however, it's the multi-award-winning RS model that I really want to focus on.
Produced since 2004, the RS models take the normally mild-mannered Megane to near supercar levels and thankfully in that respect, this latest third generation Trophy facelift that I finally found myself driving is no different.
My review model came dressed in Tonic Orange. It's a car that even without its sporty good looks will stand out in any parking lot or mall.
Its design tweaks and additions have been inspired by its Renault F1 team so racetrack poven but again even if they hadn't, they look ultra cool.
Under the Megane RS's honeycomb grille is an F1 inspired blade with Trophy emblazoned on it, it aids the cooling and aerodynamics of this hot hatch and is an attractive facial feature. The headlights are tri-functional and there are a group of three lights around the fog-light area in the lower valance (very tricolor chic).
The sporty hatchback's profile boasts widened wheel arches both front and rear and lateral air extractor vents on the front wings that drag heat away from the engine bay. The 19-inch RS alloys with low profile rubber ensure you stick to the road, Brembo brakes ensure you stop on a dime and an RS skirt runs along the sils to add to that low centre of gravity design.
The rear hasn't gone unloved either - there's an elongated roofline spoiler to increase air flow, a Double Diamond RS logo, a functional lower diffuser and a central exhaust that thanks to its check valve makes all the right performance popping sounds.
The RS Megane's cockpit is a mix of unmistakable performance nods overlaid with touches of practicality. The RS custom leather steering wheel feels perfect in the hand with paddle shifters behind for those that like to take control (however the EDC Auto box is good enough for you not to need to).
Aluminium foot pedals are there to keep your feet happy and the sporty RS embroidered seats are there to ensure you stay where you are when taking corners with vigour.
It comes with a 9.3-inch touch screen with navigation, Bose Sound System and smartphone replication (the reversing camera is clear but a little bit jittery) and a new 10.2-inch customisable TFT instrument cluster, which changes configuration when you move into Sports or Race driving modes.
Under the bonnet lies a direct injection 1.8L engine which (again inspired by their F1 team) is fitted with a turbocharger with a turbine mounted on a ceramic ball bearing. It produces 221kW of power and 420Nm of torque. 0-100km/h is in 5.7 seconds (it has a launch control system) and 8L/100km in fuel-efficiency.
For my week's review I managed to put the Megane RS Trophy through its paces in terms of family use and alone time freedom, it's good on the former but excels in the latter.
There's space enough for a family of three or four and although the ride is firm (actually very firm in Sport or Race) it's non teeth loosening in normal drive.
But this is an RS so the best fun to be had is with the family ejected from the car, and some open tarmac ahead - oh and make sure there are plenty of corners.
Off the mark and in launch control you're hard pushed not to spin wheels. The new Megane RS Trophy, comes with a Torsen limited-slip mechanical differential but that really only seems to come into play when on the move. Regardless of all that, it feels quick and sporty and treble digits come at you fast.
But the best fun to be had is in the corners, the hot hatch comes with a 4CONTROL system with 4-wheel steering and hydraulic compression stops which provide just exceptional road holding and grip.
The brochure explains the 4-wheel steering as "using electronic actuators to turn the rear wheels synchronised with the front wheels'. Depending on the speed, the system may turn the rear wheels up to 2.7 degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels or can turn the rear wheels up to 1 degree in the same direction as the front wheels.
Changeover happens at 60km/h in Normal driving (all modes other than Race). The rear wheels are turned in the opposite direction to the front at up to 60km/h and makes a tighter turning circle.
When the speedo swings past 60, they turn in the same direction as the fronts to virtually extend the wheelbase for better motorway driving stability. In Race mode, changeover happens at a much higher 100 km/h, allowing tighter cornering at higher speeds".
All you need to know is that it zips around corners even in anger and there's plenty of feedback from the road below to the steering wheel too. Also, should you manage to get lost and need to turn, the 4-wheel steering system makes for a very tight turning circle.
The Renault Megane RS Trophy is an exceptional hot hatch that is amazing to drive particularly in the bends. Yes it does have some flaws, including reverse camera speed and odd places for audio controls but this a super hot hatch that you'll love to drive.
Just don't wait 17 years like I did!
Why you should:
- So much power
- 4-wheel steer
- F1 inspired goodies
Why you shouldn't:
- Some tech is slow
- Long runs may be tiresome
- People will want to race you (but you'll probably win)
What else to consider: The benchmark Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST, BMW M135i, Mercedes-AMG A35, Hyundai i30N, Honda Civic Type R.