A hot hatch touched with true greatness



RENAULT SPORT’S DEMISE STILL HASN’T SUNK IN. It’s the performanc­e sub-brand from the volume manufactur­er that has delivered some of the very best driver’s cars. Impressing from the get-go with the marvellous 1998 Clio 172, the hot Clios and Méganes that followed rarely missed the mark and, even when they did, RS was quick to rectify matters.

Which made selecting just one example from the prestigiou­s back catalogue harder still. Clio Trophys and Cups tug at the heartstrin­gs like few others and are impossible to ignore on every trip to the classified­s, but since the last Renault

Sport model was a Mégane that’s the page we’ve landed on here, specifical­ly the Phase 2 RS Mégane (2010-2016) that was based on the third generation of the popular hatchback.

Even more specifical­ly, we’re tempted by the facelift cars built from 2014 that gave us the 275 Trophy and Trophy-r. The latter falls outside our arbitrary £15,000 budget, but the former is on the money (in fact gen-1 cars start at around £11,00012,000 and are every bit as inspiring as their nipped and tucked younger brothers).

Renault Sport kept it simple, with a Cup chassis one of the few options available for the 275 (it was standard on the R). That brought a stiffer spring and damper set-up and a limited-slip diff and added to the already five-star performanc­e of the standard car. Combined with the punchy nature of the 2-litre turbocharg­ed four – the induction and exhaust roar as you reached the engine’s peak is supercar nape-tingling – the 275 was one of the sweetest driving experience­s you could get this side of a contempora­ry GT3.

There’s a deftness to everything the Mégane does. Its crisp steering allows for pin-point accuracy on the road; its taut body and the sharper reactions of its tweaked chassis manifest themselves not as a harsh accompanim­ent but a perfectly executed display of precision dynamics where every input is met with a clarity of action and a purity of response. The 275 Trophy felt peak Renault Sport when it was new; five years on, it remains a pinnacle of the hot hatch genre.

Stretch your finances to a Trophy-r and the Akrapovic exhaust enhances the soundtrack while the Ohlins dampers and composite coil springs apply a further level of dynamic polish, but you’ll need some good contacts to track one down and budget nearly double what you’d need for a regular Trophy. A more affordable option could be the 275 Cup-s, which had the Cup chassis as standard while leaving the R’s Ohlins and Cup 2 tyres on the options list. Ultimately, any of this trio of mega Méganes would get our vote. At a time when VW got serious about its Golf R and Ford chased headlines with the third generation of Focus RS, the Mégane 275 remained the benchmark and still does today.

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