Up until very recently, there wasn't going to be a great deal of positive to say about the first full month of vicarious Trophy ownership. Handily it's been saved, but it is worth dealing with the flaws first off.
The more I drive this Megane, the more I'm convinced it was never intended to be a manual. Hardly an original viewpoint, given many seem to have voiced it, but worth discussing a bit further. The decision has been vindicated in the UK, with the vast majority of buyers for the 280 opting for it, but I'm not sure it's the best suit. The shift is far from the best, but the clutch position is awkward as well, and there's more intrusion from the dash than is really ideal. Yet brake and throttle are good. Given the Alpine uses this engine with only the dual-clutch auto, there might be some substance to the conjecture. Maybe the fallout from the auto-only Clio R.S. was noted and a manual forced through for the Megane. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to try a DCT Trophy at some point to see how different they are.
Speaking of the Alpine, a drive of both A110 and Megane on the same day did the latter no favours. Of course they're very different cars, and the hatch far cheaper than the sports coupe on a bespoke platform, but the Trophy did feel a little shown up. Where the Alpine was light, effortless and natural, the Megane felt contrived, unnecessarily hard and distant. Layouts and remits mean they'll never be similar - and that would be stupid - although it would be nice to at least have some commonalities, in the way that Porsche Cayenne brakes feel a lot like 911 ones.
Then it got more annoying. The driving position just didn't seem to suit (despite the seats being great), wheel not coming out far enough; the infotainment (that is awkward at best) froze CarPlay on a few separate occasions; and the ride just will not let up at low speed, which is far from handy when your holiday requires lots of slow trundling through country lanes.
Spending this money, the usability side of things should be important - this is grown up's hot hatch, not a Fiesta ST. And in that regard, the Megane does struggle. However, you'd also hope that any hot hatch buyers care about how their car drives, and this Megane - in certain situations - can absolutely deliver.
Once keyed into how that four-wheel steer works - in Sport mode at least, the Race exploration is to come - the way this Trophy can carve through a corner is incredible. Unlike many hot hatches it feels uncannily neutral, like weight and effort is being shared evenly throughout the car and not dominated by the front. The brakes feel great, the traction churned out by the limited-slip diff is supreme and the body control at speed, as discussed before, is just fantastic.
Tell you what it feels like (to some extent), and that's those old F2 rally cars of the late 90s. Well, from watching videos of them it does. They were busy, excitable, quite frantic front-wheel drive cars, skipping and sliding their way through stages, yet delivered enormous speed across the ground. The method and application maybe wasn't quite conventional, though the results were extraordinary. The Megane doesn't always make a lot of sense, I will concede that. But don't mistake that for missing talent.
A recent journey to Wales, not even including an interesting bit the country, showed the Megane off well. Even in appalling conditions it drew huge traction from the surface, never losing that focus and accuracy that's there in the dry. The cruise was even perfectly acceptable, too, so perhaps I'm getting used to that.
Combining a half-decent drive with positive comments from passers-by, the outrageously naughty noises it makes and the fact I've not kerbed it yet (let's see how that's doing next month), and the Megane drawbacks are almost forgotten for the moment. It's not a perfect hot hatch by any stretch of the imagination - in fact it's a right pain in the bum at points - but there are sufficient moments when I don't want to drive anything else. Let's hope there's a few more coming in the next month or two...
Car: Renault Sport Megane 300 Trophy
Run by: Matt
Last month at a glance: Brilliant, baffling, bemusing. What next?
1 / 6