If you really want to put Renault Sport’s progress in recent years to the test, is there a better way than asking an owner for their opinion? Having owned six of them in the past four years, it’s fair to say they’ve got under my skin but I still drive the newer models with my eyes wide open.
Matt and I chat almost daily about the latest Clio or Megane we’ve found in the classifieds, and I’ve been impatiently waiting to get the keys from him since HS19 KUB arrived on the fleet. With a trip to the Lake District on the cards, this was my opportunity to see if it could live up to the outgoing Megane 275 Trophy that we both adore so much.
But before the trip, and luckily for me, Matt brought it along to our Oulton Park Saturday Service; a setting where it made plenty of sense. It’s faster, more planted and inspires even greater confidence to push harder than before, yet is more forgiving at the same time. Not as demanding on the driver, but then are any new generation hatches? Matt did highlight that the brakes faded pretty quickly, which is no different to when we pitted the Megane 275 Cup-S against the FK2 Civic Type R at Blyton Park. Nothing some more-focused brake pads, braided lines and high temperature fluid wouldn’t fix, it would have been nice if they’d lasted a bit longer out of the box, though.
Loaded up for the long trek from Kent to the Lakes with my wife, and enough luggage to embarrass a large family, it’s a pleasant place to be for a long drive. The infotainment system is unintuitive and will almost certainly be frustrating on a test drive. Once you’ve got your head around it, it makes a bit more sense but it still feels slower than what it replaced. As a previous Recaro Sportster CS owner, it’s nice to see they’ve swapped the metal framed bolsters for foam, which makes getting in and out a much more pleasant experience. They’re more comfortable for a six-hour drive with the softer materials used too. The satnav was intelligent enough to take us off the motorway to avoid traffic all on its own and the headlights are a night and day improvement, quite literally. Bravo.
But let’s face it, you don’t drive a car like a Renault Sport Megane to the Lake District for a comfortable A to B journey; it’s to make the most of the roads when you’re there. The narrow crumbling roads local to me in Kent proved a bit much for the stiff ride but on the long sweeping smooth tarmac up north, it feels at home. My appetite is whetted on the A684 from Kendal to Sedbergh, winding along the hedgerows with the exhaust crackling furiously.
We were blessed with sunshine to see us north along the Kirkstone Pass to Ullswater; everything feeling so perfectly weighted apart from the awkward manual gearbox. Ironically many people overlook the Renault Sport Clio 200 EDC due to the lack of a manual, but perhaps the EDC could be the better ‘box in this car after all. Sadly the rest of the week was sopping wet and, what with being on my honeymoon, I had to admit defeat and abandon trips to the Hardknott and Wrynose passes. Bummer.
The Megane didn’t put a foot wrong until I was home from the Lakes and it was time to drive back into London. Not only did the navigation system freeze for a considerable length of time, but the engine switched off entirely in start/stop mode which left me looking a bit stupid when the traffic lights turned green and back to red before I’d been able to get it going again. Twice. Problems you just don’t expect from a brand-new car in 2019. Turns out HS19 KUB likes driving in London even less than I do. I would like to point out my six older Renault’s have been the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned.
Overall a mixed bag, then, and not quite the victory I had hoped for. But I can’t help still feeling fond of it, warts and all. It may not be as entertaining as its older sibling, but to me it looks fantastic, is fun to drive on the right roads and comfortable (enough) when not. Progress is inevitable even if it isn’t always the progress we want, but for me at least, Renault Sport hasn’t lost its mojo just yet.
Car: 2019 Renault Sport Megane 300 Trophy
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: June 2019
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)
Last month at a glance: Renault Sport hasn't lost its mojo according to PH's resident fanboy