Matt Prior: how much is too much for a hot hatchback?

Renault Mégane RS Trophy-R cornering - side

Renault Mégane RS Trophy-R is an exceptional car

The new Renault Megane RS Trophy-R will likely cost a whopping £50,000 – but that’s not so shocking after you’ve driven it

A colleague – let’s call him Mark – reads a proof of the Renault Mégane RS Trophy-R review with an intake of breath and a question: “Should a hot hatchback really cost £50,000?” 

I see the point. Hot hatchbacks are meant to be sports cars for the masses, cars that bring fun down to a level that those of us with more modest means can enjoy. And enjoy often. 

On this I agree. And the Trophy-R is likely to cost £50,000 when pricing is announced, a number that isn’t notably approachable. At the same time, I don’t have quite as much of a problem it, although my eyebrows, too, might have raised when I was first told. 

But I’ve since seen the true extent of the changes, I know how long and lovingly the Trophy-R has been developed and, crucially, I know how it makes you feel when you drive it: line up every supercar on sale today and there are quite a lot of them I’d walk past to get into the Renault

And I suppose the nub of it is that the Trophy-R doesn’t feel cynically priced. I mean it is still hot and it does still have a hatch rear end. But when writing out what its rivals are for the review, I would have felt no less comfortable writing ‘Porsche 911 GT3’ instead of ‘Honda Civic Type R’, despite the Renault’s outright performance being much closer to the Honda’s than the Porsche’s. 

That’s just the kind of car it is. It’s a rare groove, designed with a niche purpose – hence only 30 will come to the UK – and a car that, I feel, has more in common with, say, a Ford Ranger Raptor or a Polestar 1 than a Ford Fiesta ST or Seat Leon Cupra. I’m not exaggerating when I think the list of best-ever front-drive cars now needs a rethink. Question is: just how high would the new Trophy-R sit? It could even make my top one. 

So maybe don’t think of the Trophy-R as a £50,000 hot hatchback. What was the rear seat space is now meant for strapping track-day tyres into, after all. How much is too much for a hot van?

Driven to distraction 

Perhaps the Trophy-R is in the top one of best front-drive cars? Perhaps. The problem with ‘best ever’ lists,  whether it’s films or books or music or cars, is that quite often they get swept up with the new and lack the context of somebody being there at the time of the older things. I’ve driven a Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1, but not until it was several decades old. And classic cars rarely feel as fresh as, I suspect, they did when they rolled off the line. 

Also, I’m talking about the best front-drive driver’s cars, not the best front-drive cars, full stop. (Traction Avant? Mini?) Every time I think about those, I’m reminded there was a sign at Longbridge, painted above the doors at the end of the Rover 75 production line, during the years when BMW owned MG Rover. ‘You are building the best front-wheel-drive car in the world,’ it read. 

A nice compliment from the owners of the time, unless you inferred an undertone. Yes, guys, you make a very good front-wheel-drive car. Very good. But, of course, not as good as the rear-wheel-drive cars we make here in Munich.

Read more

Renault Megane RS Trophy-R 2019 review​

Top 10 best hot hatches 2019

Volkswagen Golf GTI: which generation beats them all?​

Source: Autocar Online

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