The best hot hatch just got better. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy.
Ten Second Review
The Megane Renaultsport 275 smashes its way to the top of the class, with 275PS, standard limited slip differential and Cup chassis, deep Recaro bucket seats and an Akrapovic exhaust which renders those drum and bass CDs redundant.
In 2011, Renaultsport brought us the Megane Renaultsport 265, a car that instantly became the driver's choice in the hot hatch sector. If you wanted a hatch that was rapid, entertaining and at home on and off track, this was the default pick. Three years later, it was still your go-to choice, but in the interim all manner of talent had popped up. Cars like the Volkswagen Golf R, the SEAT Leon Cupra 280 and the MINI JCW GP all offered convincing arguments for your signature instead, these cars often excelling in areas where the Megane wasn't quite so strong. So, by rights Renault ought to have improved the hot Megane by focusing on its weakest points and getting the biggest bang for their buck right? No. The latest version just does what it does best that little bit better.
The Megane 250 Cup was great. The 265 Trophy was brilliant and this 275 Trophy is, well, much the same. The extra 10PS comes courtesy of software tweaks to the ECU, Renault claiming that it swells torque a little more at the bottom of the curve so that you'll need to downchange less often. I should imagine most drivers will be keen to get their hands on the optional Ohlins adjustable dampers. These are adjustable through 20 clicks at the front and 30 at the rear and you can look up recommended settings for a number of different race circuits on Renault's website. Yes, they add another £2,000 to the car's price but if you're in the business of demolishing Porsche 911s on track days, that doesn't seem such a major investment. The 275 Trophy also benefits from a lightweight Akrapovic exhaust system and some grippy 18-inch Bridgestone tyres. Renault will also sell you the lightweight two-seat Trophy-R, the car that nabbed the N??rburgring front-wheel drive lap record (7m 54.3s if you're interested) and the Trophy 275 can also be fitted with that car's 19-inch wheels and even stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubberwear if required. A trick differential and the firmer springs of the Cup chassis are included. Even as standard, this car will accelerate to 62mph in 5.8 seconds and top out at 158mph.
Design and Build
The basic shape is familiar, having been with us since 2008, but it's aged well and the Renaultsport extras give it some real presence. Changes from the 265? Not a lot, really. There's still a great-looking set of 18-inch alloys as standard, gloss black and Trophy red detailing and beady LED Daytime running lights. Before you ask, yes, this car does still look best in Liquid Yellow I.d. Metallic paint. The cabin has come in for a bit of investment, with some deep Recaro buckets seats to keep you pinned through high-speed corners. Space in the back seats, especially headroom, is one area where this car is inferior to its predecessor, but otherwise there's very little cause for complaint.
Market and Model
If you're buying a car in this class, it won't have escaped your attention that things have changed quite markedly, largely thanks to BMW's M135i. That car was a game-changer, bringing 300PS+ power output to the market for less than £30,000. In response, other manufacturers have had to reposition and the Megane 275 Trophy now looks reasonably good value at £28,930. Competition is hard and fast here though, with Volkswagen's 300PS Golf R weighing in at just over £31,000 and SEAT's Leon SC Cupra 280 undercutting the Renault by around £400. If you wanted to upgrade to the Trophy-R, you'd need to budget £36,430. Still, that doesn't seem that optimistic for a car that laps a certain German race track quicker than a Ferrari F430. You'll need to be quick though. The Trophy R-s limited to 30 examples. You're advised not to sit on your hands when it comes to the Trophy 275 either, with Renault earmarking 100 cars for right-hand drive production. Despite its racy focus, you still get features like a decent stereo, rear parking sensors, climate controlled air conditioning and, yes, rear seats.
Cost of Ownership
Clearly, there's going to be an exclusivity factor helping the Megane Renaultsport Trophy 275 that ought to boost residual values, and the changes between the 265 and 275 are enough to keep customers interested. The Trophy-R is a way more focused vehicle, akin to the old Megane R26.R which is now a seriously sought-after piece of used kit. As regards other costs, the Megane doesn't do too badly there either. Should you have almost saintly restraint, you can even get some quite exceptional fuel economy figures from this engine, although the temptation to trouble the turbocharger is usually too great. Expect a 37.7 mpg combined fuel economy figure and emissions of 174g/km.
If there's one thing that unites all versions of the Renaultsport Megane, it's that it always feels as if the car has been designed by people who really know their stuff. You might not be able to lap the N??rburgring in eight minutes, but knowing that the car beneath you can gives you a warm reassurance in the generous excess engineered into its limits. It's like the watch that's waterproof to 100m when you're just snorkelling - or the winter jacket that's engineered for a whiteout in the Karakoram; something that you can confidently grow into. The improvements over the 265 include the stiffer chassis and limited slip differential which were previously part of the £1,350 Cup Chassis Pack. And tweaks to the engine's ECU to add power and improve low-end torque. The peak torque figure remains at 360Nm but there's better low down response. The standard Akrapovic exhausts system also provides a bassier aural signature. Is it worth it? Of course. The best just got noticeably better.