RE: Renault Megane 300 Trophy vs. VW Golf GTI TCR

RE: Renault Megane 300 Trophy vs. VW Golf GTI TCR

Friday 5th April

Renault Megane 300 Trophy vs. VW Golf GTI TCR

Both Renault Sport and VW have claimed the hot hatch top spot in the past - where do they stand now?



Despite occupying very similar positions in the market, the respective routes taken by the Megane Trophy and Golf TCR could hardly be more different. The Renault comes into this test with something to prove, a small Trophy raft of nipping and tucking arriving much sooner in the lifecycle than last time around, presumably after some less than glowing reports for the Megane 280. The Golf, on the other hand, is very much in the autumn of its life, seemingly here to remind all around that it's still the consummate hot hatch package. Just as it was on launch in 2013, just as it has remained ever since.

Both, though, represent a concerted shift to a more focussed brand of hot hatch. It was the commercial success of (very) fast Golfs that forced Renault Sport to gently rethink its approach to the segment, resulting in something more accommodating and a little less feral. It's fair to say that the resulting Megane hasn't proved universally popular - but it's also worth reviewing just how crucial the Trophy badge has been in the past: the Clio of 2005 was stupendous; the last generation Megane arguably even more so; and while the tweaked version of the current Clio could not fix all its ills, it was a significant improvement on what came before.

The TCR makes the motorsport connection even more explicit, and is boosted to within 20hp of a Clubsport S to emphasise the point. You can't have a manual 'box - but you do get a choice of five- and three-doors (which you don't in the Megane) and you do get the pleasure of owning what will almost certainly be the run-out version of the Mk7. And the all-encompassing talent of that model has been reiterated umpteen times over a two life cycles.


A longstanding familiarity with it means it's the Renault first up when Wales hoves into view. The Megane's reputation as a challenging car to get a wholly satisfying grip on is probably deserved, but, make no mistake, parts of the car are genuinely class-leading and the more rigorous version does nothing to dispel the notion that there are geniuses of all sorts hidden away in Dieppe. The way the Trophy rides, the exemplary way in which it deals with bumps, its flawless composure and incredible resolve, must be experienced to be believed.

At speed, it simply laps up any punishment thrown at it, those hydraulic bump stops proving their worth even when every internal instinct tells you that an oncoming combination of bump, camber and surface ought to upset it - only to find the car gliding through again. The Megane isn't aloof, either, floating over surfaces and distancing the driver; it just works, with that rare combination of plushness, authority and dexterity that Renault Sport seems to do better than any other manufacturer in its price bracket. Oh sure, the Trophy is firm around town - something that will compromise its credentials as a more usable fast Megane - but the quality at high speed seems more than worth the pay off.

The Megane has fantastic brake pedal feel and performance, too, (the bi-material Brembo discs, optional on the Cup and standard here, must be helping) sufficiently so to make the Golf feel more overservoed and artificial than usual. The mechanical limited-slip differential and PerfoHub - the latter suspension axis tech having helped Meganes for a decade now - give the Trophy a more precise, more direct and less flustered front end than the TCR, the car turning with greater conviction and delivering better traction, in spite of both being somewhat hampered by Bridgestone Potenzas.


By comparison the Golf suffers in greasy conditions where the VAQ cars always have - that split second before the system reacts undermines confidence, where a more proactive mechanical unit encourages the throttle to be chased. That the Renault's steering relays a clearer picture of what the front tyres are doing when they're being pushed only helps its cause further.

The problem? It still feels compromised, the Megane - especially when you measure it against the high bar of its maker's legendary back catalogue. It'll sound like rose-tinted nostalgia, but previous Trophy-badged models felt fantastic in a way that spoke to harmony achieved in their tuning. The feedback and handling balance - both of a fizzing, challenging sort - were key components in a transparent, traditional sense of fun that ultimately eludes the current car.

While the four-wheel steer feels less forced than it first did in a 280 Cup, in the Trophy there's still a sense of chassis agility and steering response not being entirely in sync with your intentions. Oddly again given this Megane's remit as a more accommodating hot hatch, the 4WS makes the most sense being driven hard in the Race mode, where you learn to trust the directness and incisiveness a little more. But never being entirely sure of the car's reaction isn't exactly a positive.


Elsewhere the manual gearbox is lovely to have, yet hardly shines on the Brecons thanks to a slightly notchy shift and overly large knob (insert age appropriate joke here). Throw in an awkward driving position (where the seat goes low enough but the wheel not out far enough) and that impression of a slightly disjointed car only pervades further. They don't diminish the highlights, because when the Trophy is good, it is exceptionally good. But failing to paper over its shortcomings - some of them inherited from stock, family-focussed Megane - is conspicuous because the last generation model accomplished it by endlessly harmonising with the expectations of those who bought it.

To make matters worse, the Renault's mixed bag is made to seem virtually deconstructed by a car that gels its dynamic elements into such a slick and stylish whole that it ought to wear a Brylcreem logo. It just works, to a very high bar, immediately; there's no familiarisation period, no need to attune your driving and it makes for an easygoing, easy-access hot hatch package that's jarringly distinct from the Megane.

Only at the very limits - typically the same stage where the Megane feels at is best - does the Golf seem flummoxed for those last few percentage point of finesse that the very best manage (and which we've seen, it should be said, in the Clubsport S). Otherwise it's the all-things-to-all-people hot hatch: fast, responsive, appropriately engaging, more than capable enough and really rather pleasant company - in almost all circumstances.


Does a TCR feel markedly different from a Golf GTI Performance? It's a negligible change, really, a bit quicker without being dramatically so and broadly the same to drive. Not a bad thing, because that's a damn fine car, though it does seem something of a shame that the car supposedly lent motorsport credence in the GTI range doesn't offer something a little more... engaging.

There are other areas where the Golf could be seen as coming up short in this comparison, too. The driving position perches you higher than in the Megane's Recaros, the engine note is plainer and less interesting, and the TCR overhaul hasn't made the Golf any more thrilling to look at. Perhaps not a vital concern for a Golf GTI, but arguably something badged 'Touring Car Racing' should excite a little more. The Megane, to these eyes, is much more interesting to look at.

That said, being just quite a lot like a Golf GTI does lend the TCR a few advantages: even in the Sport mode of its optional DCC dampers, the ride is not as unyielding as in the Megane, and even at the end of its life the interior makes more sense. There's also a suspicion that, despite a marginal shortfall in power output, it might still be a little quicker than the quickest Megane. Perhaps that's the seven-speed DSG effect - but it feels livelier in-gear than the Trophy, and that makes it easier to live with, too.


How to reach a definitive conclusion, then? Any objective appraisal is likely to land on Volkswagen's side of the fence because the Golf is the more complete car, and therefore the one to recommend to 80 per cent of people who ask your opinion on 'buying a hot hatch' because it possesses that uncanny ability to just sort of do everything well. Anyone expecting a quasi-racer from the TCR badge will likely be disappointed. Anyone expecting a very good medium-fast car will not.

But as enthusiasts - and representing the 20 per cent that rate thrill over contentment - the Megane takes it. There are flaws, of that there can be little doubt, but there's a greater level of intrigue, challenge and reward, too. A horses-for-courses verdict, yes - but smiles per miles is the only quota that really counts and the Trophy's count was higher. That it also produced ten times the furrowed brows of the TCR will mean that it is probably not destined for universal approval; although given the entertainment it provided in half a day - and the greater handling depth it continually hints at - it's the one we'd bank on falling in love with over time.


SPECIFICATION - VW GOLF GTI TCR
Engine:
1,984cc 4-cyl, turbo
Transmission: 7-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 290@5,400-6,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 280@1,950-5,300rpm
0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited, optionally 162mph)
Weight: 1,410kg (to EU, with 75kg driver)
CO2: 175g/km (WLTP combined)
MPG: 42.2 (NEDC correlated)
Price: £34,135

SPECIFICATION - RENAULT SPORT MEGANE 300 TROPHY
Engine:
1,798cc 4-cyl, turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 300@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,400rpm
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 162mph
Weight: 1,494kg (to EU, with 75kg driver)
CO2: 183g/km
MPG: 34.9
Price: £31,810












Author
Discussion

WJNB

Original Poster:

1,569 posts

101 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
Where's the prestige & pride in owning a French Renault?
Surely the Golf has the level of credibility & class that soars above any microscopic differences

kultsch88

80 posts

106 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
Where does the i30N sit when compared to these two?

ilovequo

709 posts

121 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
WJNB said:
Where's the prestige & pride in owning a French Renault?
Surely the Golf has the level of credibility & class that soars above any microscopic differences
Spoken like a true Golf 2.0 Tdi owner

Fittster

18,072 posts

153 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
WJNB said:
Where's the prestige & pride in owning a French Renault?
Surely the Golf has the level of credibility & class that soars above any microscopic differences
Obvious troll is obvious.

RemyMartin81D

4,572 posts

145 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
Blimey those golf seats hehe. Also haven't seen such a busy (and messy) engine in that Megane since the days of my Renault 5 GT Turbo, that said such things wouldn't bother me as I quite like the zero fks given to looks by removing some sort of engine cover in search of lightness a la 172 cup thumbup

Probably should read the article rather than just look at the pictures though hehe
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xjay1337

11,706 posts

58 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
All Renaults have incredibly ugly engine bays.

I'd have the GTI personally.

IanJ9375

792 posts

156 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
Surprised the Renault weighs as much as that in comparison to the Golf, and I think this review just reinforces the view the Type R is the fwd car to choose......if your eyes can live with it of course!

Edited by IanJ9375 on Thursday 4th April 15:04

Ali_T

3,280 posts

197 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
WJNB said:
Where's the prestige & pride in owning a French Renault?
Surely the Golf has the level of credibility & class that soars above any microscopic differences
Where's the prestige & pride in owning the single most generic, unimaginative car choice on the planet?

cerb4.5lee

11,011 posts

120 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
I'm thinking that I should really like both of these but neither seem to float my boat. The Golf is the epitome of bland(does what it says on the tin) and the Megane looks completely unfinished(even excluding the engine bay).

I'd prefer the Civic or Focus to these two.

kambites

56,249 posts

161 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
If the Megane has is even more short of steering wheel reach adjustment than the Golf, I'm not sure I could drive it at all. I struggle enough with Golfs from that point of view.

Matt Bird

1,050 posts

145 months

PH Reportery Lad

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
kultsch88 said:
Where does the i30N sit when compared to these two?
Very good question! I would say it combines the two of these quite well, being pretty well rounded but also lairy where required. Preferable to the Golf but I'd still probably rather have the Megane. Hyundai is an awful lot cheaper, though.

chow pan toon

11,253 posts

177 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
I had a cooking Megane as a hire car once and was very impressed by it. Good ride, decent performance and nicely refined.

ZX10R NIN

13,641 posts

65 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
The golf's dash looks very busy compared to the Megane, I like the look of both & would probably go for the Megane but not before trying an i30N.

pppppppppppppppp

80 posts

62 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
Well, as a happy Golf R owner I really like its understated looks and the fact that it can be a regular Golf to cart the kids around in when it wants to.

But I really do like that Megane. Yellow aside, it's a pretty well proportioned car to my eyes, although I'm not keen on the interior (or this Golf's for that matter). The stickers on the Golf don't suit it.

If I wanted a lairy car though (and I don't) I'd be heading straight to Ford.

Mutema

715 posts

90 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
Prices are wrong. VW hiked prices on 01/Apr so the starting on the TCR is now £35,305. Not hard to get those basics right.

Active75

158 posts

104 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
My local circuit near Bordeaux has just taken these Meganes on to replace their Clios and Nissan 370Z, For fun I've booked a half day with one at the end of this month.
You should visit and show me how its done PH!

wab172uk

1,249 posts

167 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
The article is incorrect regarding the Trophy's version quick release. The Trophy version was already announce, and it's release date even before the 280 went on sale.

I was in the camp of why go out and buy a brand new 280, when you know the Trophy version is 12 months away? However, I was looking forward to this new Megane. However, early reviews weren't good. I was expecting better thing from the Trophy, but the reviews seem to suggest it's a 280 with all the options and an extra 20BHP. Still not as it should be. It's a shame.

As the article concludes, 80% of people would rather pay the extra money and have a better interior, more understated looks, and a more desirable badge, with better residuals.

Both should be great cars, and the Golf really should have a manual gearbox as standard, or at least a option. With my own cash, I'd not buy either, as they both seem to miss the mark.

AJB88

3,643 posts

111 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
As a long time VW Group owner (Mainly SEAT)...

I'd buy the i30N performance pack over either of these, only golf I would have would be the Clubsport "S"

The Voice

148 posts

89 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
Both cars have appeal, but the engine bay in the Renault laugh Looks like they've just thrown a load of wire and pipe at it and hoped for the best

KPB1973

195 posts

39 months

Thursday 4th April
quotequote all
I had a crawl over a 300 Trophy in my local dealership recently. It looked fantastic in the flesh and about 2 generations 'on', in terms of design, tech and comfort from my 275 Cup S.

But I find it such a shame that the new one apparently does everything 'reasonably well' but nothing 'amazingly well'. It seems to be the polar opposite of the old one, which was flawed in so many ways - such as tech and ergonomics - but was (is!) absolutely magnificent in others.

As for the Golf...if I were after a VAG hot hatch there are 3 or 4 i'd pick over this one.