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Renault Sport Megane 300 Trophy | PH Fleet

How driving a hot hatch in a city centre can make you appreciate it even more. No, really

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, January 21, 2020

There isn't a name for it just yet, though you'll know the feeling. Let's call it automotive Stockholm syndrome. Which sort of explains itself, even if it's not quite as drastic as the real problem. Basically, even though I know the Megane has flaws, some of them maddening, I can't help but grow ever fonder of it.

I assumed that this could be attributed to me spending most of my time in it. Well, of course it seems good, I thought - I've not really driven anything else which could be called likeminded recently. And after all it's getting me around, putting a smile on my face, being useful - what's not to like?

Only that wasn't it. Last week I spent a day with a Golf R, the demise of which is being treated by some as the equivalent of losing a close relative. And yes, unlike the Megane, there weren't any daftly awkward pedals to deal with, the infotainment didn't throw any hissy fits and the ventilation controls weren't best operated with help from a passenger. But the noise is either droney (from the front) or farty (from the back), its controls feel synthetic and its all-wheel drive feels distinctly one-dimensional in this day and age. Give me the Megane's buzz - as well as its idiosyncratic flaws - any day of the week.

But therein lies a problem. The whole point of this fouth-generation Megane was to better target the Golf, because the reality is that the VW better represents the kind of hot hatch people actually purchase. Fast, subtle, unassuming and undemanding is what the buying pubic actually wants, as the R has repeatedly proved.

This Trophy may well be fast, but it hardly ticks those other boxes. Also it isn't the driver's car that the old version was, lacking its delicacy and immersive character. Plausibly, there's a stronger case for a car like the 280 Sport EDC Dan drove last month as the best representation (Trophy-R aside) of the new fast Megane. Given what he's said about that car, what I know about this one and with recent experience of the Golf, it's got to be worth a try over the outgoing Volkswagen.

Which isn't to say the Trophy is a bad car - very far from it. The problem is applying the trappings of old Renault Sport - manual gearbox, stiffer chassis, fierce diff - to a new, more mature brand. It doesn't always quite gel; the cohesiveness apparently innate to previous R.S. products simply isn't there.

But the KUB and I have still been having fun these past few weeks, with 11,000 miles ticked off and its departure looming. Having moved from south London to north London - but with a commute still to the centre of the capital - it's typically an hour comprised of traffic, width restrictors, trying not to be hit by a bus, praying that pedestrians look before they cross and swearing. Fun, it is not. But there's still joy to be had.

Everyone else might see them as speed bumps; I'd much rather view them as circuit kerbs, and revel in the Megane's ability to use its hydraulic bump stops and deal with them dismissively - even if 20mph isn't exactly the greatest test. While changing up into second would be more economical, holding the Trophy in first between traffic lights elicits all the silly noises from the exhaust, and that's fun. Finally, while the four-wheel steer does still need work, being able to twirl the wheel for mini roundabouts and not have to move your hands from 9:15 - always a good reminder that you're late - makes me feel like a rally driver. Sort of.

They're not exactly high-octane thrills, sure, but they've all helped make a thoroughly torrid journey that bit more bearable. And when CarPlay is unresponsive for yet another journey, there's a need for entertainment from somewhere. Still, as a Megane fan I would say that. It goes back at the start of next month; expect a more balanced report, including most likely the opposing views of others, in the not-too-distant future.


FACT SHEET
Car:
2019 Renault Sport Megane 300 Trophy
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: June 2019
Mileage: 10,863
List price new: £31,835 (price as standard; as tested £36,085 comprised of Liquid Yellow paint for £1,300, Bose Pack (Bose sound system with seven speakers, digital amp and sub, plus 8.7-inch touchscreen with R-Link 2), for £800, Front parking sensors and rear parking camera for £400, Visio system (Lane departure
warning, traffic sign recognition and auto high beam) for £250 and Recaro Sports Pack (Renault Sport Recaro seats with red stitching and Alcantara) for £1,500)

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