Renaultsport Megane R26.R | Spotted

15 years old in 2023, the original two seat Megane has never looked madder – or more appealing

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, 29 November 2022 / Loading comments

It isn’t very often that properly raw, seriously focused and vaguely affordable fast cars are made, so we should be forever grateful that Renault had three attempts at the two-seat Megane. It really was a fabulously loopy idea, and created a trio of superb hot hatches. But it was also hard not to feel sorry for Renault in the whole endeavour; the first one struggled to sell, yet it returned for another go, and even when the final iteration was going to cost tens of thousands more than standard it offered 30 to UK customers. Yes, the most recent Trophy R was a lot of money, but it feels like we’re going to be clamouring for that kind of car, however much it costs, in the near future. Renault deserves a whole lot of praise for its perseverance with the stripped out Megane.

Nowadays, of course, we’re used to new front-wheel drive lap records every month and drastic weight saving measures being applied to seemingly quite humble. However, back when the Megane R26.R was debuted at the London motor show in 2008, nobody had ever seen anything like it. The Mini GP was also sold without its rear bench, but it was nowhere near as severely stripped as the Megane. The Focus RS that also wowed crowds at the show was a quarter of a tonne heavier. The Megane R26.R could lap the Nordschleife in 8:08, which wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in 2022 – back then it was faster than a BMW M5.

Renault went to such extremes it was a surprise the passenger got a seat. (They were made to forego an airbag, though.) The windows were polycarbonate, loads of the soundproofing went, the Sabelt buckets saved 25kg and the options list included Toyo R888 tyres and a titanium exhaust. It was everything you’d expect of those most serious track cars, only it was a Megane. And yet it made for an even better road car than the standard R26 (in the right conditions, at least), as the reduced kerbweight allowed for slightly softer suspension at no loss to composure. The R26.R was an epic B-road experience, combining performance, involvement and the kind of chassis quality rarely seen on £25k cars.

But it wasn’t enough. In 2008 many weren’t sold on the idea of a two-seat hatchback (quite a few still aren’t), and a looming economic disaster made such an uncompromising car a tough sell. In these days of cars sold out before they’re announced, that only 160 or so R26.Rs were sold here (when 230 were allocated) remains utterly incredible. It was undoubtedly an acquired taste, and not enough people were keen.  

Amazingly enough, even with so few around – and even with rave press reviews – the Megane depreciated. In 2012 you could get one for as little as £14k. But then its fortunes turned, as Renault and the other manufacturers took front-drive supremacy more seriously and created their own hardcore hatches. Only it was the R26 that was often returned to as the benchmark for sheer entertainment, even as the lap times of later cars undercut it. And so the values began to climb…

This is one of the best R26.Rs we’ve seen in a while, having covered just 10,000 miles since 2009. It’s unmodified, which is rare to find, and although the black paint isn’t one of the most desirable colours – because it’s harder to see the carbon bonnet – this one does get the titanium exhaust, which was an expensive option new. The cambelt was changed at the start of 2021, too, which saves the new owner a big job.

As might be expected given the mileage, this R26.R presents as almost new – the front harnesses look like they’ve never been unclicked. The carbon is flawless, the wheels pristine, and the Megane lines up in the dealership next to a 4.0-litre 997 RS not looking out of place one bit. It’s just that kind of car. Sadly, the whole world knows how special the original mad Megane is now as well, not just the Nurburgring nerds, which is why one like this will now cost the best part of £50k. That said, like so many of the two-seat icons, whether front-, rear-, or four-wheel drive, that they won’t happen again is what’s keeping values strong. And if it’s an unforgettable driving experience you’re after, the Megane most certainly has that covered.


SPECIFICATION | RENAULT SPORT MEGANE R26.R

Engine: 1,998cc, inline four, turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
MPG: 33.2
CO2: 199g/km
First registered: 2009
Recorded mileage:10,000
Price new: £24,040 (before options)
Yours for: £47,995

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