First impressions: can’t beat ’em sometimes. Like when you look inside the Megane Trophy-R and see the race seats with their adjustable aluminium runners and wild red harnesses.
But look again, and second impressions start to kick in. This is a pretty bare-bones little gadget, especially at the advertised price of all but $62,000.
It’s all about appeasing the gods of power-to-weight, so there’s no sat-nav, no reversing camera, no ashtray, no climate control (in fact, no air-con at all) and not even a radio for crying out loud. But don’t fret, the radio and air-con are delete options, so you can have them in your R just for asking.
On the other hand, you do get a suede tiller and cruise control, but you’ll soon discover that the shifter obscures the starter button and the other switchgear is all over the shop like a madman’s breakfast.
But to hell with that; here is a car that will match anything for race pace at its own price-point – and most of anything else at any price. The 201kW are delivered in modern turbocharged form, with precious little lag, huge mid-range and with a noise that sounds like a Hoover on ’roids.
The real magic of the Trophy-R, however, is the clever electronic front diff which gives the thing power-down that most cars – even rear-drivers – will never match. You can get into the power so much earlier than you thought possible that it takes a few laps to actually recalibrate your brain and work out what this little frawg can do.
And it’s not just power-down – there’s a stunning amount of corner grip and, therefore, corner speed to be had. So chasing the Megane down a twisty road is not going to be easy, even in some big-dollar fast cars.
And the rest of the deal makes it all feel like a racecar, too. Not all our judges liked the gearshift, but I loved it. It reminds me of those old-school, exposed-mechanism shifters that you used to see in some racers, and it even replicates the metallic-clang sound of that same tech. The brakes are sharp and never give up, and the steering is pin-sharp accurate, talkative and alive in your hands.
The Trophy is fitted with conventional retractable seatbelts, but I reckon I’d use the harnesses every time, just for the sense of occasion they bring to the deal. And that’s a large part of the magic of this car: every drive is going to be an occasion. It’s too sharp, too fast and too much fun to be any other way.
Engine: 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo Power: 201kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 360Nm @ 3000rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Brakes: 340mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 290mm solid discs, single-piston calipers
Suspension: struts, A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
Wheels: 19 x 8.25-inch (f/r)
Tyres: 235/35 ZR19 (f/r) Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
0-100km/h: 5.80sec (9th)
0-400m: 13.90sec @ 170.02km/h (9th)
Lap Time: 1:38.3sec (6th)
Dylan Campbell: 5th
“That feeling that you just want to keep doing laps – that’s this car. It’s something special”
David Morley: 3RD
“To be frank, didn’t like the Megane RS much at first. But this one I love”
Scott Newman: 4th
“Is this the best front-driver ever? If it’s not, it’s right up there. Compromised, but worth it”
Tim Robson: 8th
“Predictable, lively, flattering and easy to punt with rewards there for the taking”
Warren Luff: 5th
“For the ultimate front-drive hot hatch, nothing comes close. Even put big rear-drive V8s to shame”
We're giving away the last great Aussie Holden V8! Enter here for your chance to win!
Get your free weekly report from the world of fast cars - subscribe to the MOTOR newsletter!