We should have seen this coming. Along with certain other automotive niches, the classic French hot hatch has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. As recently as 2014, good 306 Rallyes were less than £2k; a 172 Clio was similar money, or only slightly more for a Cup; and VTS Saxos, though harder to find, were still dirt cheap. In fact, the Saxo (2015), 306 GTI-6 (2017) and Clio (2019) have all featured as PH Sheds in the past half a dozen years. That certainly isn't happening again anytime soon, if ever.
Why have the French fancies appreciated? Because they were fantastic hot hatches, put simply, sublime fun to drive and not all that expensive either new or used - until recently. But their occasionally frisky nature has led to a few prangs along the way; with lower numbers comes more demand and increased values.
What does this have to do with a 2006 Megane? Well, the first Renaultsport Megane looks to be joining the illustrious club founded by its forebears. Already there are cars with average mileage on offer at more money than their Megane III successors, and then there are examples like this R26. An immaculate survivor, with 23,000 miles, Recaro seats in one piece and a single owner until this year, it's for sale at £13,750.
The R26 was the foundation of the great Renaultsport Megane, which is part of the reason why it's so highly prized today. It can be easy to forget nowadays, but the Megane II R.S. didn't have the most auspicious start in life, with early 225s not really firing the imagination. Various Cups and Trophys improved things, and then the R26 - or 230 F1 Team R26, to give the car its full name, celebrating Fernando Alonso's success - really sorted the Megane out. A limited-slip differential, uprated springs and dampers, new bump stops, and unique anti-roll bars really made the Megane into what it should have been. The mid-2000s had a new hot-hatch king, a point made unequivocally clear when the R26.R arrived a couple of years later. For £20k you couldn't do better.
Then the inevitable happened, a similar fate that befell the Megane's predecessors. As the R26s depreciated, more were picked up for track projects, R26.R homages or, um, crashed. We're now at the point, moreover, where the current Megane, lovely though it is, represents a very different hot hatch to the car seen here, with five doors, an automatic gearbox and four-wheel steering. At 15 years old, the Megane R26 isn't far off being the car to buy to relive a misspent youth, in fact. And nostalgia costs...
Of course, those who really want to maximise the R26 experience will be better served by a cheaper, higher-mileage car. But what a specimen this car is, seemingly obsessed over by that solitary owner for a decade and a half. So, what do you do with it? Do cars like this stand to appreciate any more, and therefore be worth tucking away? Nobody thought a 205 GTI particularly valuable 10 years ago, remember. Or do you just get out and drive what looks a superb example of a Renault Sport great? Decisions, decisions...
SPECIFICATION | RENAULTSPORT MEGANE F1 TEAM R26
Engine: 1,998cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive, LSD
Power (hp): 230@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 229@3,000rpm
First registered: 2006
Recorded mileage: 23,319
Price new: £19,860
Yours for: £13,750
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