“And the one you see here is perhaps the most hardcore of hot hatchbacks. It is the Superveloce of hatchbacks. It is the Renault Sport MÃ©gane Trophy.”
If you are a true motoring enthusiast, and by true I mean someone that truly takes pleasure in driving as opposed to merely being won over by aesthetics, then you, like me, will aspire to own a performance vehicle of some variety at some stage in your life.
At this point, I could list some of the exotica that we as a collective yearn after, but such a list would take up too much space and no doubt I would leave something important off.
So, rather I will conveniently point out the one stumbling block nearly all us will face in our endeavours to find driving Nirvana â€“ is money.
Spending more on a car than what you might even consider spending on a house means to push that dream even further into the back of your mind, leaving it there, wrap it up in a bow and tag it as ‘IN YOUR DREAMS…HAHAHA!’.
Does that mean that the everyday man cannot attain a performance car without sacrificing almost every other financial purchase for the rest of his or her life? Of course not! This is why the hot hatchback was born.
The hot hatch came into existence for precisely no other reason than to deliver thrills to the man on the street…without bankrupting him.
And the one you see here is perhaps the most hardcore of hot hatchbacks. It is the Superveloce of hatchbacks. It is the Renault Sport MÃ©gane Trophy.
If you hadn’t already noticed from the attached pictures, Renault has turned the wick up on what is already a hardcore hot hatch with the ‘base’ MÃ©gane RS.
Let’s look at the details: 2.0-litre turbo with 201kW max power and torque 360Nm. 0-100kph in 6 seconds. Brakes by BREMBO. Exhaust by Akrapovic. Seats by RECARO. Renault CUP chassis. Wider front and rear wheel arches. Front and rear diffuser. Flappy paddle free, manual six-speed gearbox.
Looking for ‘man on the street’ performance? Then this is surely it.
This is probably a good time to talk about money because yes, considering the motorsport derived additions and outright performance, the MÃ©gane RS Trophy does come at a price. 450-large to be precise.
Yes, R449 900 is a lot of money any way you look at it, it’s a lot of money for any car, period. But, the MÃ©gane RS Trophy is not any hatchback and it’s not just any car for anyone.
The Trophy has one core focus, going fast, and preferably on a smooth surface such as a racetrack, it is after all endowed with a racing pedigree. The RECARO bucket seats are all-enveloping, the clutch pedal is heavy and slotting a gear home requires a definitive action, balk and it will balk back. At low speeds, the Trophy almost seems irritable, caged. It crashes and clunks and only just tolerates the boredom of a backed-up freeway for example.
However, find a clear open road, take a breath, find the appropriate gear, bury your right foot and the Trophy sets off like a freed feral cat. 201kW is always going to ask questions of a front-wheel drive car, even one which deploys a proper mechanical limited slip diff in aid of all that power melting the front wheels.
It does work, especially when you’re pushing hard through and out of a tight corner with power being metered out fairly cleanly and effectively, nor corrupting an inside wheel. But, under full-bore starts into second and third gears, even the LSD can’t properly contain the torque steer, with the Alcantara wrapped steering wheel squirming in your hands as you wrestle the Trophy to the tonne and well beyond. Flat out you’ll be 255km/h. No, I did not test that!
At higher (legal) speeds, that supremely stiff suspension settles down into its job of securing you tightly to the road. It is rock hard, make no mistake and any road imperfection is instantly translated directly towards your backside, which seemingly sits inches from the tarmac. Hit a pothole and you’ll be left wondering how much it costs to repair a 19-inch glossy black rim.
Similarly when you start pushing the Trophy hard, the clunky (at low-speeds) transmission fades into obscurity as the clutch and gear action work in unison to provide a very satisfying feeling, in a way a dual-clutch automatic gearbox can in no way match. But, the beauty of and perhaps even the demise, of the manual hot hatchback is the effort required to conquer them. Fluff a gear change and you’ll be bested to 100kmh by a regular DSG equipped Golf GTi.
But, find a quiet set of tight switchbacks, aim the Trophy at a tight apex and when you finally set up a perfectly timed, heal and toe manoeuvred downshift, I can almost guarantee you that nothing will feel better.
This car requires commitment. It doesn’t so much invite you but rather forces your involvement into the experience with an assault on your senses, from the noise to the manual gearbox, and the raw outright power from that 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.
Speaking of noise, Renault has teamed up with Slovenian exhaust specialists AkrapoviÄ and the result will please audiophiles. Thumb the starter button and the Trophy fires and settles into a wobbly burble. Rev the Trophy towards the limiter and then back off again and a range of pops and bangs exit the carbon fibre tip on the overrun.
Select RS mode (Sports mode) and the exhaust note is amplified further with an even ruder note and a wider range of belches and burps. It is a very addictive sound. It is a very addictive machine this.
Considering the hardcore, stripped-out nature of the Trophy means everything that doesn’t actively contribute to driver involvement, quite honestly, is a distraction. But, such is the marketplace which dictates that you must HAVE one and THE other – focused performance and nice to have features – and in that regard the MÃ©gane RS Trophy doesn’t disappoint.
Present and accounted for are dual front, side and curtain airbags, tyre pressure monitor, two-zone climate control, electric folding door mirrors with defrost function, radio/CD with MP3 Bluetooth, USB, AUX-in, TomTom Live navigation, Cruise control and speed limiter, automatic lights & windscreen wipers, rear parking assist, halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights.
For the serious enthusiast who has access to a racetrack, and for those who just like to geek out, the Trophy also has a RS Monitor with full 3-D race telemetry with data download functionality, meaning you can watch your boost, torque, g-force and lap times and then download and print it out and gloat/bore your friends.
Yes, okay so the base Renault MÃ©gane on which this track car for the road is built around, is starting to look and feel a bit old, and fit and finish is in no way even comparable to that of a Golf R or Audi S3. They are however R60 500 and R74 500 dearer than the RS Trophy.
They are both a full one second quicker to 100kmh, what with their robotically operated transmissions, but I know that with their sanitised four-wheel drive systems and plush interiors, they can’t come close to the Renault with regards to the seat-of-your-pant levels of driver involvement.
Let’s wrap this up
Could you live with the Trophy day-to-day? Of course, much in the same way you could live day-to-day with flip-flops as your only choice of shoe. But, in the same way, your feet might tire of the limited support they get from the very thinly cushioned flip-flops, driving this car all day every day with its super-focused nature might become as tiresome.
Flip-flops are for weekend fun, and so is the Renaultsport MÃ©gane Trophy.
Is it worth nearly half a million Rand? Well, I can tell you it is worth as much to the man on the street as a R4.2m Ferrari 488 GTB is worth to the wealthy man, and in terms of driving experience both will make you feel like a million bucks.