Renault Megane Goes Seriously Hardcore – but Sales are Sliding Fast

By Andy Bannister

07.23.2008

The craziest-ever version of Renault’s Focus-sized Megane hatchback, the track-focused R26.R, has been unveiled in Europe, at a time when interest in the standard car is seriously on the wane.

Revealed for the first time at this week’s British International Motor Show, just 450 units will be available globally, each with a numbered plaque. More than half will be coming to the UK market, which has a surprisingly big appetite for the most extreme hot hatchbacks.

The stripped-out R62.R is based on an already-available RenaultSport version of the three-door version of the Megane hatch. The latest version comes with an impressive pedigree, having just set a new record lap time at Germany’s legendary Nürburgring racing circuit of 8 minutes 17 seconds – the best ever for a front-wheel-drive production car.

The R26.R, built at the specialist Alpine factory in Dieppe, France, features a turbocharged 2.0-litre 227bhp four-cylinder engine with a power-to-weight ratio of 189bhp per tonne. It can hit 62mph in just 6.2 seconds.

The extremely light weight for this class of car is achieved by some pretty drastic weight saving measures. The R26.R has polycarbonate windows, Sabelt bucket seats with five-point harnesses, a carbonfibre bonnet and a titanium exhaust system.

It also loses its sound deadening, carpets and its passenger and curtain airbags, rear wipers, heated rear window, climate control, radio, front fog lamps and many other items the factory’s engineers consider mere “fripperies”. Oh, and the rear seats are dispensed with entirely.

Buyers will also be able to specify a competition-grade roll cage, race compound tyres and either red or black 18-inch alloys. And if the car doesn’t look distinctive enough with those in place, it is also smothered in decals.

Despite its track emphasis the R26.R will be totally road-legal although with such power delivered through the front wheels it is likely to be quite a handful to drive on the highway.

RenaultSport, the company’s performance division, also makes notably fast versions of the smaller Clio and Twingo hatchbacks, and has carved a niche for itself which is largely at odds with the crash-friendly family image cultivated by the mainstream Renault brand in Europe.

The Megane is one of Europe’s most distinctive family cars in styling terms, with the singular – some would say downright ugly – appearance of the hatchback models being cheekily highlighted in a successful TV commercial featuring the Groove Armada song “Shakin’ That Ass”.

However, demand for the Megane and its Scenic mid-size MPV sister has recently faded fast in the wake of newer competition, notably Peugeot’s latest 308. As Renault cuts Megane production, French arch-rival Peugeot is hiring extra workers as it struggles to keep up with demand.

To redress this balance a “radical” new-look Megane is promised to debut this autumn.

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Author: Andy Bannister

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1 Comment

  1. (sigh) It’s not that I want to buy a Renault Megane pocket-rocket so much, but I would like to have the option of buying one, or buying a hot Peugeot hatch or a hot Alfa Romeo hatch, etc. But I don’t have that option here in the good ol’ US of A.

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