Renault Megane

Renault's tweaks have made the Megane a genuine hot hatch contender

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The R26 is a massive improvement over the standard Cup model. The limited-slip diff makes a huge difference, while the ride is more comfortable. Renault’s tweaks have made the Mégane a genuine hot hatch contender.

As Formula One champion for a second consecutive year, Renault has plenty to celebrate. Flying the flag for its motorsport success, the hottest Mégane has been revised to pay tribute.

Although past Renaultsport Méganes have always offered strong performance, they have never been able to match the class leaders in terms of ride and handling. But Renault is hoping to change that with the launch of its latest hot hatch flagship.

According to the firm, the lengthily-named Renaultsport Mégane 230 F1 Team R26 is the most potent and driver-focused version yet. It's based on the Cup model, and the styling tweaks make the most of the Mégane's sharp lines, while the 18-inch anthracite alloys and matching door mirrors finish the look. Stickers on the bumpers, door and roof are a no-cost option.

But the big news is the introduction of a limited-slip differential, and the results are impressive. The system makes a huge difference to the car's dynamics - engine power is transferred to the road in a more consistent and predictable manner, and there's none of the torque steer that plagued the R26's predecessor. It's more comfortable, too.

The improvement is most noticeable on twisting roads. Where the previous car would lose power through wheelspin, the new model is much more composed. It turns in precisely and corners well, but while the steering is responsive, it still lacks feel. As a result, the driving experience is not as involving as that of rivals such as the VW Golf GTI. The Renault's 2.0-litre turbocharged powerplant has been boosted to 227bhp, but it's the low-down torque which is most impressive.

Throttle response is instant, and there is virtually no turbo lag. At £19,570, the F1 R26 is £900 more than the 225 Cup, which is still available. But unlike the previous F1 model, there will be no limit on the number of orders taken between now and next summer - and it's certainly worth the extra money.

This Mégane is a much more polished hot hatch - but still delivers intoxicating performance.

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