Megane GTI blasts in

16 Oct, 2008 11:39am Sam Hardy

Renault guns for Golf GTI and Focus ST with storming hot hatch.

Things are really hotting up at Renault. Following the launch of the three-door Mégane at the Paris Motor Show last week, Auto Express can reveal work has already begun in earnest on a flagship Renaultsport version to replace the outgoing R26.

It’s set to hit showrooms in a year’s time with a price tag of around £20,000. The fiery hot hatchback will take on the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST in a sector that’s proved hugely successful for the French manufacturer in recent years.

We caught the performance three-door virtually undisguised at the Nürburgring race circuit in Germany – and our exclusive illustrations show how the finished model will look.

At first glance, the prototype – which was spied undergoing testing – resembles the regular three-door Mégane. Study it closely, however, and there’s a central tailpipe – a trademark of Renaultsport editions – while the wheels, tyres and brakes are much larger than on the standard model. The final car will have very aggressive styling with a deep front spoiler, lots of air intakes and a full bodykit with plastic inserts.

Under the bonnet, the car will stick with the current R26’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, producing at least 230bhp. The new Mégane weighs less than the outgoing model in standard guise, and the hot hatch will use ultra-light materials to
shed even more pounds.

That should lead to a 150mph top speed and a 0-60mph time of less than six seconds, plus better economy and emissions than the R26. A clever electronically controlled differential will help maximise the front-wheel-drive car’s
traction; the weight reduction will benefit handling, too.

Building on the dynamic advances made on the regular Mégane, and with better agility and grip, the new car should be fun to drive. Inside, there will be racing-style bucket seats and brightly coloured trim with metal inserts. Although the three-door will be the bigger seller, a five-door is rumoured.

So is a replacement for the current 175bhp dCi diesel, with even better economy and emissions. The company has a long history of producing special editions, so a Cup version is also expected.

The Renaultsport Mégane is set to make its official world debut at March’s Geneva Motor Show, before going on sale in the UK next autumn.

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