When Renault first unveiled the all-new Megane Renaultsport, its sleek coupe lines and high-class interior did more than just hint at a radical departure from the blunt-rumped, hit-'em-first-ask-questions-later hot hatch it was designed to replace.
More stylish than brutish
As it turns out, those visual clues were absolutely spot-on. More refined, more comfortable and a whole lot less bawdy, it seems Renault has eschewed a fight with sledgehammer competitors such as the Ford Focus RS in favour of a dust-up with fashionistas from the Volkswagen Scirocco and Alfa Romeo Brera camp.
With its handsome lines, subtle bodykit and butch big alloy wheels, the Megane certainly looks swish enough to ruffle the feathers of those pretty-boy rivals, and with 247bhp on tap from the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine it also has the power to blow them into the weeds.
Dignified under pressure
Unlike some tyre-torturing front-wheel-drive sports models, the Renaultsport's power arrives in a smooth, linear fashion and is so well controlled by a trick front suspension arrangement that absolutely nothing gets wasted.
Even when you're mercilessly flogging the engine for all its worth away from the mark, there's little protest from the front wheels. Instead, they simply dig in and go, firing the car to 62mph in just 6.1sec and scorching on to a top speed of 156mph.
The car also feels effortlessly at ease even when you're tearing its heart out down a favourite stretch of twisty road.
Renault has an almost signature approach to chassis for its sportiest models, which are notable for their short-travel, smoothly reacting springs and dampers, and phenomenal levels of grip. As a result, the Renaultsport positively bristles with feel and balanced precision.
Plump for the Cup version, with stiffer springs and limited slip differential, and the results are even more dramatic on the twisty stuff, but the trade-off is a rather bouncy ride over rougher surfaces.
The price is right
Further evidence of Renaultsport's new-found caring, sharing side comes in the guise of it highly competitive pricing and lavish specifications.
Even the Cup a relative pauper at £21,995 comes with sports seats, a leather-bound steering wheel, air-conditioning, cruise control, an MP3 compliant CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, eight airbags and a three-mode ESP system.
Rear parking sensors also come as standard just as well because one black mark for the Megane is its rear visibility, which is nothing short of atrocious.
A Renaultsport for grown ups. We love it.