Renault Sport may no longer wear the hot hatch crown, but its influence on the segment remains incalculable. See Honda's most extreme take on the FK8 Civic, the recently sold-out Limited Edition, which adheres closely its French rival's rulebook in respect to creating a low volume halo hatch. The top Civic is lighter, uses bespoke dampers and gets stickier boots, which is exactly the sort of stuff that Renault used to throw at its trick Meganes back in the day. Barring one thing, that is. The Honda retains five seats.
That could be a key reason why Renault's latest Trophy-R - the one with the optional carbon rims - has so far not sold out. That, and the fact that unlike the Honda, the sublime two-seater model - even in optionless form - can't duck under the £40k mark. A combination of the Civic's continued usability, lower cost and even lower volume have likely earned it that sell out status.
Graeme Holt, the former Renault UK press relations manager that we recently spoke to, believes the success of the five-seat Clio 182 Trophy is directly related to its unaffected usability. It also helped that the three-door Trophy retailed for the equivalent of £23k in today's money. But Holt does have a point. The Megane R26.R and 275 Trophy R never felt overly expensive, yet they didn't exactly fly out of the door. So much so that Renault ended up passing several of its unsold R26.Rs for Britain - a 230-car run - to other countries. We love Renault hot hatches here, but apparently only if they've space for the kids and leave us with a bit of change in the pocket.
For the small number of top-spec Megane owners, however, this is all good news. Their cars are rare and, clearly, they're not bothered about a back bench. Those with the now legendary R26.R are arguably the most committed of the lot, it remaining a turned-up Meg with unrivalled focus. No radio, plastic rear windows, a pair of harnessed bucket seats, a half roll cage and Dieppe's finest chassis wizardry. It was and still is one of the rawest, most exciting experiences you can have on four wheels, no matter the driven axle. "The front-drive GT3", we called the £23,815 car back in 2008.
Prices have actually stabilised or perhaps even slightly dropped off a bit, with good examples on the classifieds all sat around the £20k mark. That's about ten grand less than the best examples were going for a couple of years back and smack bang on the money of today's 28,000-mile-old pick from the classifieds. We were stuck between this grey car and another similarly low-mileage black one, but the grey won us over - that, and the seller's offer of free delivery, so even those sheltering from Covid-19 can buy it. It might not have back seats, but at least it's fast, rare and fun. All for half the price of Honda's sold-out Civic.
SPECIFICATION - RENAULT MEGANE RENAULTSPORT R26.R
Engine: 1,998cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 230@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 229@3,000rpm
MPG: 33.2 (NEDC combined)
First registered: 2009
Recorded mileage: 28,000
Price new: £23,815
Yours for: £20,000