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Renault Megane R26 Car Review | January 25, 2007

Driven January 2007

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As well as sporting one of the longest names of any car currently on sale, the Renault Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26 has also had a somewhat winding route to its launch.

Are you ready for this? First off, Renault launched the Renaultsport 225 in 2004, which wasn't universally liked; then came the Trophy version to cure those problems, which was meant to be a limited edition; that then turned into a Cup spec, which was available on a more permanent basis, which has just been updated and is still available along with the ordinary 225 (also updated in 2005) and now this R26. Breathe.

The R26 might be the last of the line, although Renault insiders are hinting that one more ultra-hot Megane might appear before it's replaced in 2009, but it's also far and away the most convincing so far. The main reason for this is that Renault has finally injected some decent engineering into the Megane.

Underneath, you'll find stiffer suspension all round, plus thicker anti-roll bars and tweaked steering, but the key difference from the Cup version is the limited-slip diff you get on the R26. This is well worth the £900 premium you pay over the Megane Cup, because it makes the car so hardcore, so crisp.

Front end bite is extremely impressive and even with extremely committed driving, you never see the traction control light blinking in the dash. This is a car that you can really press on in. The LSD is a mechanical device that can transfer torque to the wheel with more traction during cornering, lessening understeer. To the point where, accelerating halfway around a bend, the R26's nose actually tightens the line.

The beauty of all this is that the R26 has got more power (up from 222bhp to 227bhp) without any torque steer issues. It tracks straight and true. With a new exhaust system that's beefed up the noise considerably, the combination of all these alterations is a car that's genuinely fun to drive, and seriously quick too. Quite how it's related to the ordinary and dull Megane 225 beats me.

Any criticisms? Well, we'd steer clear of the rather naff optional stickers, and the ride could do with being more compliant. It doesn't make the car as uncontrollable as the Seat Leon Cupra, but it could get pretty tiring on UK roads. Overall, though, this is the Megane of choice. Perhaps even the hot hatch of choice.

Piers Ward

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