If you thought the old Renault Mégane was dead and buried, think again! Although the new car is arriving in showrooms,the French firm has asked its Renaultsport division to give the outgoing model a fitting send-off - and this is the result!
The R26.R is based on the turbocharged Mégane R26, and it promises to be one of the fastest front-wheel-drive hatchbacks money can buy.
A quick glance is enough to tell you that this is no ordinary hot hatch. The R26.R comes with a bare carbon fibre bonnet to reduce weight, whilethe rear windows are now made of plastic and the back seats have been tossed in the bin, along with the radio and air-conditioning.
This diet has seen the weight drop off, and the 123kg saving makes an enormous difference. Strap yourself into the figure-hugging seats, and the noise from the turbocharged engine reverberates around the stripped-out cabin. With the optional roll cage fitted, it feels like a no-frillsracing carfrom behind the wheel.
The engine and gearbox are both unchanged, but a clever limited-slip differential provides incredible traction. And grip from the cut-slick tyres is also astonishing.
On the track you can carry amazing speed through bends and get back on the power far earlier than you think possible. Body roll is almost absent and the brakes resist fade well.
Of course, there is a trade- off for all this performance -and in the case of the Mégane it's comfort. The suspension struggles to iron out even the smallest of bumps.
With the two-seater cabin's restrictive harnesses and lack of refinement, the R26.R is unashamedly compromised on the road. But if you want a street-legal car that can deliver trackday thrills, the hot Mégane is the best in the business. With only 230 models coming to UK dealers, it will be rare, too.
Rival: Vauxhall Astra VXR Nürburgring
Limited-run Astra is more common than the Mégane, and not as focused. View it as a styling exercise, rather than a tuned hot hatch.
* Price: £23,815
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 230bhp
* Torque: 309Nm
* 0-62mph: 6.0 seconds
* Econ/CO2: 33.2mpg/199g/km
* Standard equipment: Limited-slip diff, carbon fibre bonnet, bucket seats with racing harnesses, polycarbonate rear windows
* On sale: Now