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Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Trophy review (2011 onwards)
What - Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Trophy
Where - Leicestershire
Date - December 2011
Price - £27,820
Available - Now
Key rivals -VW Golf R, VW Scirocco R, Audi S3, SEAT Leon Cupra R, Mazda3 MPS
Summary - The Renaultsport Megane 265 Trophy isn't just a recordholder at the Nürburgring but a focused and brilliant drive on UK roads too. Another Renault hot hatch great.
Gallery: Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Trophy
Read another Renault car review
We like - a classic Renault hot hatch that's charismatic, rewarding and very exciting, collectability, sheer speed, Nürburgring record-holder kudos
We don't like - sat-nav unavailable, relative low-rev lethargy, fuel economy, only 50 coming to UK, not cheap
Renault broke the Nürburgring production car lap record for front-wheel-drive vehicles earlier this year, with a scorching lap time of eight minutes eight seconds. The production car that achieved it is now on sale in the UK - the Renaultsport Megane 265 Trophy.
With 15hp more than the standard Renaultsport 250, there's a bit more bang for your buck. However, it is the combination of tuned chassis, special Bridgestone tyres and a bit of a cut in weight that really helped the Megane be so exceptionally fast around the Nürburgring benchmark.
All this, along with strict UK supplies of 50 cars from the 500-car production total, mean the Trophy is set to be one of the most collectable Renault hot hatches ever. This should be enough to offset its heady £27,820 list price.
Offered only in yellow or black, with standard gloss black, red-trimmed 19-inch Speedline alloys (hiding red brake callipers), there's no missing the Trophy. It actually has fewer Renaultsport styling features outside, in order to save weight (an impressive 67kg), but you'd never guess it.
With unique Trophy decals, a chunky bodykit and one of the most hunkered-down, focused stances of any performance hatch on sale, its intent is blindingly clear. Does it live up to this on the road, though?
With 132.5hp per litre, this 265hp 2.0-litre motor is pretty highly tuned. It sounds like it when driven hard too, with a distinctive turbocharger rush that is a bit Darth Vader-like (taking over from a focused exhaust burble at lower revs). Fittingly so: this engine is very reliant on the higher-boost-pressure turbo to give its power.
So much so, the extra power of the engine is only really revealed at higher revs. Be lazy and the Megane can actually feel quite laggy and flat, only showing vigour above 3,000rpm (when the full 280lb ft of torque kicks in). A lifeless, short-travel accelerator adds to the dull feel at lower revs.
Keep the revs high and it is very fast though, with 0-60mph taking 6.0 seconds on to a top speed of 158mph. Rushing through the gears to achieve this is aided by a short-travel clutch and short-shift gearchange, although the latter can be a bit slack when rushed.
Really though, despite its extra power, the engine isn't the dominant force here, despite it being the most powerful road-going Renault Megane ever. Rather, it's the way the Trophy handles that really makes it special...
Ride and handling
Even by Renaultsport's award-winning standards, the Trophy is a real event. Handling is led and dominated by the front end: as in a BTCC racing car, the nose feels exceptionally pointy and hugely grippy, enabling you to feel confident when being direct and aggressive with the steering.
The basic style is: where you steer, the Megane goes immediately. The Cup chassis has trimmed all the sog and hesitation out of the drive, making it feel purposeful and sporting, but it's the ability of the front end to grip so well that really supplies the feel-good factor.
This is pure mechanical grip, with the rear, unlike as in hot hatches of old, simply following suit faithfully, even if you lift off mid-corner. Renault has got the balance spot-on - and even when you reach the edges of grip, those special Bridgestone tyres telegraph the limits of adhesion so clearly, nothing takes you by surprise.
The real excitement comes out of corners, when on power. Due to a standard limited-slip front differential, the Megane has incredible traction, allowing you to get on the power really early - but be warned, the geared-up steering wheel can also fight you on uneven roads.
It's not dramatic, and nowhere near as bad as, say, a MkI Ford Focus RS, but the Megane Trophy can still dart about under power, needing a firm hand on the steering wheel to keep it in line. Really though, the benefits are such that this only adds to the experience.
As with all Renaultsport Megane, the 'Renaultsport Dynamic Management' system is fitted. This gives three stages of ESP assist, including an all-off setting, with an intermediate 'Sport' stage that allows a bit more slip in corners without the stability control kicking in. So great is the feel from the chassis, it's a very worthwhile addition for track days (of which Trophy buyers gain free access to a clutch of Renaultsport-run events all through 2012).
As for ride quality, it's very firm and taut, with stiff springs giving it a purposeful rolling feel. The ride quality is still agreeable, though, because damping is exceptionally well judged, allowing just the right amount of higher-speed compliance while still retaining firm body control.
The Trophy's special grooved Brembo brakes have delicious feel and stopping power, but boy, do you have to work them when cold. They'll still work, of course, but when you first start out, they lack all the meaty bite they possess when warm. Still, we like this, as it's very 'motorsport'.
Seats are exceptional. The deep, hard-sided Recaros will cause painful injuries in awkward places if you drop into them incorrectly, but once you are seated within, they grip you tightly and support you brilliantly. Our only complaint is that they're a touch high.
The rest of the cabin is much better built than you may expect of a Renault - it's genuinely solid and shows VW-like quality in places - but it's also rather plain. This may be all part of the motorsport feel, but we'd like to have seen a bit more visual vim. Yellow seatbelts and trim stitching are not enough.
Again though, the fundamentals are right: the steering wheel is thick yet not over-stuffed and just the right size, with its yellow 'centre position' stitching accentuating the front wheel excitement as you can see it moving out the corner of your eye. The gearlever, dials and pedals are all lessons in clarity too.
Trophy models get a numbered plate on the centre console and the Renaultsport Monitor on-board performance tracker, but no climate control tyre pressure monitor or sat-nav, even as an option. Renault has cut back on both options and standard equipment to get the weight down and, in the process, add to the car's specialist feel.
Economy and safety
Combined average economy of 34.4mpg is pretty poor by modern standards, even for a car producing 265hp. CO2 emissions of 190g/km are extremely high too - and, judging by our test drive, things are even worse when you drive it hard...
The basic Megane is a very safe car with a five-star Euro NCAP score. To this base, much higher dynamic limits are engineered in, with more mechanical and tyre grip plus a very well sorted chassis.
MSN Cars verdict
The Renaultsport Megane Trophy 265 is a strictly limited edition hot hatch that's a classic in the making. It's focused, yes, and some may find it too intense, but for those who love hot hatches, this is a modern great. Celebrate it, for all its extreme, expertly tuned handling brilliance.
|Need to know|
|Engine, petrol||2.0-litre turbo|
|Torque (lb ft)||280|
|0-62 mph (secs)||6.0|
|Top speed (mph)||158|
|Ratings||Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Trophy|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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