Renaultsport Megane F1 Team

Renault's celebrating its latest F1 victory with a special edition Megane - the F1 Team. But just how special is it?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Although it lacks the Clio Williams' revolutionary step forward in handling, the Megane F1 Team is still sure to be a hit with motorsport fans. But the flagship model has only cosmetic up-grades over the Cup, making the cheaper car better value. We only wish the F1 engineers had been let loose on the Megane to see just how good it could be...

Winning a Formula One world championship is expensive. Renault has invested millions in its motorsport programme which, once again, bore fruit and put the manufacturer at the top of the F1 league in 2005. But how does that help the French firm to sell cars?

Aside from the publicity and engineering development, racing success resulted in performance fans getting one of the best hot hatches of the Nineties in the Clio Williams. And, to celebrate its latest victory, Renault has launched a second F1 spin-off.

The Megane F1 Team special edition is based on the Cup version of Renaultsport's hottest hatch, with a few none-too-subtle additions including stripes on the bodywork and a plaque on the dash. Less impressive are the stickers on the rear windows, as they are mounted on the outside of the car and are sure to tempt passing souvenir collectors.

Designers have finished the look with black alloy wheels and door mirrors, plus figure-hugging blue Recaro seats inside. The overall effect is far from discreet - even the front wings get F1 branding above the indicator repeaters! But surely the real work has gone on under the F1 Team special's body?

Unfortunately not. Despite its name, the model has received no mechanical upgrades or modifications. It's all stock Cup spec parts, but that does at least include stiffened suspension and big Brembo brakes. And even though the engineers haven't been given a chance to make any improvements, the flagship Megane is an entertaining drive. It lacks the refinement and all-round abilities of Volkswagen's Golf GTI, but it has a finely balanced chassis and always feels nimble.

The 222bhp powerplant is strong in any gear, with instant turbocharged throttle response making this a formidable performance car. When it comes to straight-line pace, few hot hatch fans will want much more. What they might crave, however, is extra comfort. The seats are supportive but firm, and the hard ride is better suited to B-roads than urban potholes.

So will the F1 Team be a collector's item? Probably, but buyers have to pay an extra £900 for the privilege. Renault's best performance compact family hatchback is still the Megane Cup.

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