Renault continues to retain its place amongst the hot hatchback elite with this revitalised Megane R.S. The headlines include the addition of a 4Control 4-wheel steering system, plus a more powerful 1.8-litre engine putting out at least 280hp. There's a five-door bodystyle this time round and you can now get paddleshift auto transmission if you want it too. As before, standard 'Sport' and uprated 'Cup' chassis options present buyers with an interesting choice.
Much has changed here and it's all still brilliant. Under the bonnet, the world's most powerful 1.8-litre engine delivers 280hp and 390Nm of torque. You can also talk to your dealer about a top 'Trophy' version with 300bhp. Either way, you'll be able to get all that grunt onto the tarmac a little more easily this time round thanks to standard '4CONTROL' four-wheel steering that aims to ensure stability at high speeds and agility at low speeds. At high speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction, limited to a one degree angle for the rear wheels. At low speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions up to a maximum angle of 2.7 degrees. The ride's improved too, thanks to all round hydraulic bump stops that also enable optimum control of tyre-ground contact.
What else? Well the option of an Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) auto gearbox is available for the first time, alongside a manual transmission. And two different types of chassis are on offer - 'Sport' or 'Cup'. The Sport chassis provides easy sporty driving, whilst the Cup chassis offers greater, more focused performance for track and fast road use. If you favour the 'Cup' variant, you're the kind of buyer who'll probably be interested in the 'S. Monitor Expert' system that allows drivers to film their track sessions and overlay telemetry data to create augmented reality videos that can later be analysed on a provided 'R.S. Replay' website.
Some previous Renaultsport products have looked rather Max Power, a boy racer image that customers with around £30,000 to spend would generally rather avoid. Hence a look that's classier than anything the French brand has yet provided to the hot hatch market. There's a single five-door bodystyle, though with enough styling changes to make it feel a very different product, both inside and out.
In your driveway, it'll certainly appear purposeful. The front bumper incorporates a Formula 1-style blade, a wide air intake and a diamond-patterned front grille. At the side, extractor vents are located behind the front wheels. And at the back, there's an aggressive lip spoiler with body-colour vertical mountings designed to generate greater downforce. Plus there's a rear bumper incorporating a centrally-positioned exhaust pipe and a working diffuser designed to negate lift at higher speeds.
At the wheel, the driving position is brilliant, aided by the fact that you can position the seat nice and low. There are sports front seats with integrated head rests, as part of a predominantly charcoal grey cockpit with red top-stitching. Buyers get a choice of two upholsteries ('carbon fibre weave' or Alcantara) and a bespoke aluminium pedal and gear lever.
Renaultsport may be a division of the Renault group, but the cars it produces are so different - and so much more rewarding - than their standard counterparts that they could be from another maker entirely. Which is refreshing in an age where so many brands' idea of creating a hot hatch is to plumb-in a bigger engine, bolt-on a bodykit and jack-up the price.
Bottom line with this improved Megane is that for the price of a hot hatch, you get a super shopping rocket, unafraid of the fastest Gti's out there, even if they do cost up to £8,000 more. Plus all of those cars are essentially compromises between track-ready handling and roadgoing usability: with its 'Sport' and 'Cup' model options, this RS doesn't have to be. Either way, it's brilliant fun - and that's what a car like this really should be all about.Click here to find out more about our Renault Megane R.S. range