WE SAY: RENAULT SAVES YOU THE EFFORT OF TICKING THE BOXES
Take one Renault Megane RS, add all the good bits of the options list, a fruitier exhaust and power bump to 296-ish (up 20bhp) thanks to a new ceramic-ball-bearing turbo, and you have the Trophy. Basically a handy aggregation of RS goodness without all the box-ticking.
For four grand more than the stock 280, you get the Cup chassis (usually a £1,500 option), which includes stiffer springs (30 per cent), dampers (25 per cent) and anti-roll bars (10 per cent), the lighter bi-material braking system (saving nearly 2kg per corner and usually £900), 19in wheels (a £950 option) and some other desirable bits. Then there are optional Trophyspecific items like some even lighter rims and stickier tyres, and a rather lovely set of Alcantaraswathed sports seats. It sounds like a decently thought-out range-topper.
Immediate reactions are that it looks good, purposeful and muscular without being too caricature, and that the interior is pleasant enough. It coughs up a fruity sonic hairball on start-up, feels chunky from the off, sounds amusing through the gears. It also twitches into a tight corner like a housefly, short, sharp and aggressive, quick steering accentuated by the 4Control all-wheel steer and giving the impression of a car with a much shorter wheelbase.
Lift hard with the front wheels turned even the slightest degree, and the car – at least in Race on a damp racetrack – will attempt to act like a late Eighties hot hatch and enter a corner bumfirst, although the initial shock of such easy oversteer is easily soothed by reactive steering. Quick impressions might leave you feeling that it doesn’t feel particularly natural, but really you just need to drive it a bit more: exposure eases the fear that you’re about to lift-off directly into a ditch.
On the road, it’s a different story; the Trophy rows along quite happily in Sport, even on pretty abrupt surfaces, soaking away the worst excesses. It’s not a magic carpet – you never forget this is a car with intentions, but neither will it blur vision or rattle teeth. The 6spd manual ’box is fine, with a short but slightly unsatisfying action that feels as if all the moving parts are made of plastic. Less rifle bolt, more like racking the slide on a Nerf gun. Saying that, it’s fast, fun and well sorted. The only problem is that this is a really nice hot hatch in a sector full of greats. With the Golf R, Civic Type R and Hyundai i30N in the world, you’d have to really like the way the Renault feels to ignore the competition.