When ordering a Mégane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26, do not lose heart halfway through trying to say its name and go: ‘Sod it, I’ll have a GT instead.’ If you want a hot hatch, you want an R26. The new GT, despite its punchier and more evocative name, is barely warm. Nothing wrong with that, of course, so long as you’re not expecting anything more.
Available as a low-pressure turbo petrol or a turbodiesel (163 and 148bhp respectively), it actually works better as an oil-burner, the fatter torque delivery and more relaxed demeanour suiting the GT’s comparatively soft and comfortable chassis set-up (springs 24 per cent stiffer than regular, slightly stiffer anti-roll bars, revised damping, recalibrated electric steering and 10mm lower ride height). Although the petrol turbo is quicker in absolute terms, it’s also more frustrating because it never really gets on it.
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The GT feels pleasant rather than potent, effortlessly brisk and easy to drive – the six-speed ’box in particular is a honey – but without approaching the grip and precision that make the R26 so astonishingly rapid and rewarding. That said, both ride comfort and refinement are excellent, it’s very well equipped and the fact that the GT undercuts most of its German rivals by around £2k has to count in its favour.
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1998cc, turbo|
|Max power||163bhp @ 5500rpm|
|Max torque||199lb ft @ 3250rpm|
|Top speed||137mph (claimed)|