Renault's upped the ante in the hot-hatch market with its new flagship Megane RS. VW Golf R drivers beware, the new 195kW Trophy edition has arrived in South Africa!The Renault name has long been synonymous with motorsport. In its 35-year involvement in Formula 1 the French automaker has had eight Grand Prix champions, the most recent of whom was Fernando Alonso.In 2007 the brand began a renaissance of sorts, at least in South Africa, to change perceptions and raise it’s profile through an entirely new line-up of models from the locally built Sandero to the Megane Renault Sport models.Now the Megane RS range has been expanded to include the limited-edition Trophy 265.TWEAKED ENGINEThe Megane RS sport was warmly received when it was launched in SA in 2010 and quickly attracted a huge following. Renault hopes to carve itself a larger slice of the local hot-hatch market as its Megane RS Trophy 265 makes its official debut, appropriately enough at the 2012 Simola Hillclimb in Knysna.The new Trophy spec will retail for R409 900 - and here’s why…The range will still feature the “base” Sport model but is bolstered by the Cup and Trophy variants which have negligible differences in power and performance though the latter has styling changes and tweaked engine and suspension.The Trophy, its name derived from its performance figure in horsepower, has a redesigned front with a tweaked grille “blade”. The model sports a new rear lip spoiler, gloss black wheels with red piping, RS valve caps and a numbered plaque. There are also several colour themes and the model looks especially striking with the new gold paint job over the typical Renault Sport bright yellow.TWEAKED TWO-LITREOverall the new model receives red piping and decals throughout to differentiate it from its siblings.Powering the Trophy is a tweaked version of the familiar two-litre, quad-valve, turbopetrol engine but with power increased from 185 to 195kW at 5500rpm and torque improved from 340 to 360Nm from 3000 to 5000rpm.Turbo pressure has been increased to 2.5 bar (up 0.2 bar) and the air intake design has been revised to service higher pressures and running temperatures. The next-generation RS Cup 265 and Sport 265 will boast similarly enhanced performance when they are launched later in 2012.The new model has a claimed fuel consumption of 8.2 litres/100 km, a reduction of 0.2/100.How does it drive? In short, magnifique!…TRULY EXCELSRenault RS engineers have this way taking the mundane, such as the Twingo, and turning it into something special - the Twingo RS. Using the already outstanding Megane RS Cup as its platform, the Trophy just gives it just that much more oomph to make an already thrilling driving experience into a white-knuckle phenomenon.Sure, it’s quick, capable of 100km in six seconds and a top speed of 254km, but it's handling and performance that truly count and this is one area, of many, in which the Trophy 265 truly excels. The Trophy now benefits from a limited-slip differential and stiffer chassis set-up activated by selecting Sport mode.Braking is superb thanks to its Brembo calipers and 340mm ventilated discs – the biggest in the hot-hatch segment.With increased stiffness and specific shock-absorbers unique to the Cup chassis, the Trophy delivers exceptional handling and cornering which is bolstered by the limited-slip differential. All of this allows drivers to exploit the car’s full potential, at least as far as handling is concerned.I felt the rev limiter peaked far too early at times, being milliseconds after the “appropriate gear change” chime. It always feels like you could push it just a little further but are hamstrung by the limiter which, despite its awesome sound, robs you of valuable speed.This can be somewhat mitigated through a car monitor that can tailor the car to your driving style.DESERVES RESPECTThe Trophy’s suspension allows you to be a lot more adventurous through the twisties knowing that the car’s tech will have you gripping the road and in control. If you truly have a death wish you could hold in the Sport button which deactivates all the driving aides for a breathtaking experience - if you know what you’re doing or a quick trip to hospital if you don’t.Keep it for the track, guys.The Megane RS may not have the street-cred given to GTI owners but it still deserves respect.The RS 265 Trophy has leather Recaro seats and Renault’s data-logging system. The monitor records performance and displays a range of mechanical parameters that includes lap times, a feature owners will appreciate on track days.The RS monitor enables drivers to modify the mapping of the accelerator pedal and five settings are available with the Sport mode selected - linear, normal, snow, sport and extreme.RECORD-BREAKERThe limited-edition model completed Germany’s Nurburgring circuit in eight minutes and eight seconds, setting the fastest lap time yet for a hot hatch. To put this in perspective, the Megane RS trumped the Audi TT RS (8min09), BMW 1-Series M Coupe (8min12) and the Golf R (8min23).The previous record was held by the Megane Renaultsport R26.R which completed the lap in 8min17 in June 23, 2008.If you’d like to get your hands on this monster hatch you’d best contact your nearest Renault dealership as soon as possible. The French automaker will only ship 30 to SA and there are no plans for more. Dual airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control are standard across the Mégane RS range.SA naysayers will, of course, be dubious about the Megane RS weighing in against the hugely popular Golf GTI. Not to mention the stigma that dogs the brand about quality and reliability. Those wary of Renault products may have been justified back then but the “new’ Renault has changed and improved in leaps and bounds – just check the current Synnovate ratings. PRICESRenault Mégane RS Sport - R359 900Renault Mégane RS Cup - R399 900Renault Mégane RS Trophy - R409 900All models are covered by a five-year or 100 000km service plan and five-year or 150 000km warranty.