There’s a real sense of purpose to the Renault Megane RS300 Trophy. It looks pugnacious and tense, the wheels straining the get out of ‘arches. Get in and you find yourself gripped by heavily-bolstered seats, facing a steering wheel half-clad in alcantara. The engine fires and settles into a busy burble. The steering is meaty and crisp, the ride uncompromising.
If you get into it thinking that it’s just another hot hatch, the RS300 soon leaves you in no doubt that it’s something else entirely. What this is, is perhaps the most track-focused of all hot hatchbacks, a 911 GT3 to rivals’ 911 GTS.
The RS300 comes as standard with the Cup chassis that’s optional on the RS280. Everything is stiffer – the springs by 30%, the dampers by 25% and the anti-roll bars by 10%. Other upgrades include a Torsen limited-slip differential, bi-material brake discs saving 1.8kg a corner and a lightweight battery. In all a manual RS300 is 18kg lighter than the standard RS.
An extra 20hp is liberated from the 1.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo motor, the exhaust has a valve to make it louder and the turbo has ceramic ball bearings for better response.
This is one serious piece of kit.
Which becomes apparent the moment you pile into a corner. An ultra-quick steering rack and 4Control rear-wheel-steering, slice the RS300 into apexes with precision you simply wouldn’t expect from a front-wheel-drive chassis. It’s not an entirely natural feeling, thanks to the RWS. But you soon dial into it and find yourself carrying ludicrous speed into corners. And, thanks to the LSD, you can jump on the power early and have the turbo spooled up ready to fire out of the other side.
You have to take the RS300 by the scruff of the neck to get the best from it and it takes a while to learn how to extract the best from it.
The trade-off to that pin-sharp handling is a bone-shaking ride. The seats compensate by being fantastically comfortable and supportive, but it would get wearing on a daily basis. This particular writer also found the clutch to be awkward.
Even so, the RS300’s credentials as an everyday family car are strong, with plenty of space for five and a generous boot. The interior materials are as good as you’ll find in any rival, though the large-format touchscreen infotainment system lags behind some.
There are hot hatches that are easy to live with and easy to find the limits of. The Megane RS300 Trophy isn’t one of them. But for those that take driving really seriously, the Megane RS300 Trophy is the hot hatch of choice.
Expect trackdays to be full of them.
Model tested: Renault Megane RS300 Trophy Type: Mid-size hot hatch Price: £31,835 Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol Power: 300hp Torque: 295lb/ft Transmission: 6-speed manual (6-spd dual-clutch optional) front-wheel-drive Performance: 0-62mph in 5.7secs, top speed 162mph Economy: 34.4mpg combined, Co2 emissions of 183g/km Length: 4,372mm Width: 2,058mm Height: 1,445mm Weight: 1,419kg
By Graham King