Renault Megane R26R attacks Nurburgring

December 19th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Renault’s ultimate hot hatch attempts a fast flying lap at the ‘Ring.

Renault Megane Renaultsport F1 Team R26 2007 Review

February 2nd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Renault Megane Renaultsport F1 Team R26 2007 fq

It was a controversial season for Formula 1 last year. A rookie genius pipped at the post by a blond robot that never smiles; allegations of spying, with a huge penalty against one team that had another’s material, but not the other team that did. And it’s the other team (Renault) that supplied the car I’m thrashing about in today: the Megane Renaultsport F1 Team R26.

Apart from the badges and livery it’s about as far from Formula 1 as Pope Alexander is from Chuck Norris. Sure, you get a plaque near the handbrake that gives the build number and some truly hideous stickers on the outside to remind you that Alonso might have even heard of this model, but the only Fernando you’re likely to have in the car with you is when playing Abba. Renault is hoping for a revival of its fortunes with the arrival of its flagship sporty hot hatch to New Zealand. It won’t appeal to dancing queens, but it is perfect for the professional thirty-something who is after something different to a Japanese rice rocket; something that has a bit of style and panache, doesn’t compromise on the power front, but is almost sensible.

Almost is the key word here, because you could buy the amazing Subaru WRX and have enough spare change for a holiday to watch the Rally of Wales. But you want a Euro, not a Japper, so it’s a damn good job the R26 performs brilliantly. The handling is truly fantastic, even though it feels heavy. A red-stitched line marks centre on the leather wrapped steering wheel to add a sporty touch, but the wheel sits smack in front of a sea of boring grey plastic. The radio’s readout appears on an orange LCD at the top centre of the dash, and the radio itself is the faceplate from the Clio. Kind of boring, but functional enough. Just below that is a small LCD for the climate control. In between the rev counter and speedometer is yet another LCD that displays the cruise control speed (able to be set in increments of 2kph, fuel economy, distance to empty, trip distance and average speed).

For a car with these pretensions the dashboard lets it down. So, best you focus on the road because corners can be dispatched quickly and require concentration. The suspension copes with sharp steering inputs while you are held in place in the bucket seats. These seats aren’t as deep as your usual Jap turbo, but still provide enough lateral support.

On my test route of tricky corners and traffic islands it was very, very fast and nimble with just a hint of understeer when pushed. 235/35R18 tyres help immensely. They wrap the 12-spoke mags that conceal the red Brembo callipers and sit perfectly in the wheel arches which makes the black car look fabulous, but the yellow car look a bit nose heavy.

An engineer from Jaguar once said that 220hp is the maximum that should go through the front wheels alone. This is because they have to cope with changing direction as well as pulling the car forwards, and it’s always a compromise. The R26’s 225hp (160kW) is right on the limit and you can feel it with the torque steer generated when you push hard on the drilled aluminium accelerator pedal. It’s no worse than any other front-wheel drive car, though, and I didn’t let it stop me exploring the limits. Renault has managed to create a non-offensive, woolly, boring engine tone that is no match for the XR5’s Alfa Romeo-style growl. But at least there’s no turbo whine like the XR5 has. I would suggest a new exhaust if you are serious, and that may even liberate some more horsepower.

Deceleration is as impressive as acceleration. The brakes are extremely keen and I had to adjust my heel-toe technique to avoid breaking my nose on the windscreen. The handbrake is also extreme. Its handle is like the throttle on a jet aircraft and seemed to allow more power to be applied to it.

Buy the F1 and you get 3 doors, which says that you’re young and virile with no kids. Buy the 5-door RS 225 for an extra two grand and you get leather seats and a more family friendly package.

Would I have the Renaultsport F1 Team R26 over its non-Japanese competitors — the Ford Focus XR5 and VW Golf GTI? I immediately liked the XR5 — the power, the styling, and especially the engine note. The seats are better than the Megane, and so are the dashboard, mags and general interior fitout. But despite the truly splendid engine tone the annoying turbo whistle bugged me far too much — there was no escape from it. So, the Megane R26 F1 wins out over the Ford, and it even wins out over Volkswagen’s very competent GTI despite the Golf having the DSG gearbox because there are just too many Golfs around — the Megane is more individual. The only things I really couldn’t live with on the R26 are the boring woolly engine tone and the ghastly optional stickers. Nothing an exhaust and some foresight when ordering one wouldn’t fix. My final verdict is Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!

Price: from $49,990 ($51,990 for the 5-door with leather seats)

What we like

  • Power
  • Comfort
  • Styling (in black; yellow doesn’t look so good)
  • Grip
  • Brakes
  • Handbrake — all cars should have one like this

What we don’t like

  • Lose the stickers
  • Change the exhaust
  • Low rent dashboard
  • Front-wheel drive traction issues cause torque steer

Words Darren Cottingham, photos Brad Lord

Safety and Security

Five Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

Survival safety passenger cell with front and rear crumple zones

Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with understeer control Sports-tuned

ABS brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) S

Driver and front passenger adaptive SRS airbags

Driver and passenger lateral SRS airbags

Side SRS curtain airbags (cabin length)

Anti-submarining airbags for front seats

Programmed Restraint System (PRS)

Front/outer rear seatbelt pretensioners

Load force limiters in front seatbelts

3 rear 3-point lap-sash seatbelts

ISOFIX child seat mounting points

Side impact bars and honey combed padding in doors

Fuel cut-off in event of impact

Remote central locking

Door open and fasten seatbelt indicators

Electric front windows (One touch and anti-pinch)

Electric variable power assisted steering

Light sensitive automatic headlights

‘See me home’ function headlights

Rain sensitive automatic wipers

‘Smart’ rear wiper

Cruise control with speed limiter

Comfort and Versatility

Upholstery Cloth – Dark charcoal with silver stitching

Leather wrap steering wheel and gear lever cover

Automatic climate control air-conditioning

Air recycling and particle filter

Air-chilled glove box

AM/FM stereo with CD and finger tip control Single CD (MP3 compatible)

‘Clean Hands’ integrated fuel filler cap

60/40 split fold rear seats

Height adjustment on driver’s seat

Lumbar adjustment on driver’s seat

Adjustable front and rear head restraints ‘Anti-whiplash’

Drilled aluminium pedals

Front and rear armrests

Under floor storage

Tinted Glass

Height and reach adjustable steering column

Steering column mounted audio controls

Renault F1 Team Plaque

Trip computer and outside temperature gauge


Electronic engine immobiliser

Keyless car with Renault card

Renault Anti-Intruder Device (RAID) automatic locking system


Body coloured bumpers, inserts and bodyside protection mouldings

Electric, foldable, heated door mirrors

Chrome door handles

Chrome double outlet exhaust

Fog lamps

Metallic paint

Renault F1 Team decals on the front, roof, sides, and rear bumpers

Wheels Renault Sport 18″ grey BeBop alloy wheels

Xenon headlights with washers

Seating Capacity

No. of seats 5


Capacity (cc): 1998

Bore x stroke (mm): 82.7 x 93

Number of cylinders/valves: 4/16

Compression ratio: 9:1

Max. power kW EEC (hp) at a speed of (rpm) 168 (230) @ 5500

Max. torque Nm at a speed of (rpm) 310 @ 3000

Acceleration 0-100km/h (secs) 6.5

Type of injection: Multipoint

Fuel: Unleaded (Premium rec.)

Induction: Intercooled Turbo

Exhaust catalyst: Euro IV


Type 6-speed Manual

Speeds (km/h) at 1000 rpm:

1st gear 9.7

2nd gear 14.71

3rd gear 20.54

4th gear 27.1

5th gear 35.33

6th gear 42.45


Type Variable Electric Power Assisted

Turning circle (m) (kerbs) 10.35



MacPherson type with L-shaped lower arm, independent steering axis and anti-sway bar


H-style rear axle and anti-sway bar


Uprated front and rear spring rates

Retuned front and rear damper settings

New Limited Slip Differential

Wheels – Tyres

Wheels 8.0 J 18

Reference tyres Michelin Pilot Sport 2 – 235/40 R18

Emergency spare wheel Steel Wheel 185/60/R17


ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) S

Front – ventilated discs (mm) Brembo® – Drilled and ventilated discs (312mm)

Rear – solid discs (mm)

Brembo® – Drilled solid discs (300mm) with red callipers

Fuel Consumption

Litres/100km combined cycle 8.5


Standard fuel tank (litres) 60

Weight (kg)

Unladen kerb weight 1355

Max. weight, unbraked trailer 650

Max. weight, braked trailer 1000

Dimensions (mm)

Overall length 4228

Overall width (including door mirrors) 1777

Overall height 1437

Front head room, seat angle 14 degrees 885

Rear head room, seat angle 14 degrees 899

Luggage Compartment Volume (litres) (with all seats up) 330


3 years/unlimited km S

3 year 24 Hour AA Roadside Assistance S

Renault 6 year anti-corrosion S

Road Tests

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