Renault's latest Megane RS is the hottest-looking sports hatch in town
Dressed to kill: Renault's latest Megane RS The Renault Megane RS is powered by a beefy 1.8-litre turbo engine that is mated to a dual clutch transmission. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The third-generation Renault Megane RS has everything to make it a winner.

In the looks department, it pips all other hot hatches on the market, a feat the French make has replicated throughout its stable. The cabin is just as dramatic, with deep bucket seats, Alcantara-lined steering wheel complete with big shift paddles, metallic pedals, and an infotainment system that doubles as a race monitor.

The car is powered by a beefy 1.8-litre turbo engine that puts out 280hp and 390Nm of torque, mated to a dual clutch transmission. Together, they make the RS reach 100kmh in 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 255kmh.

It comes with launch control, rear-wheel steer, multi-gear downshifting, and rally-inspired dampers with hydraulic compression stops, which takes the edge out of harsher humps.

And each time you get behind the wheel, the car greets you with a mix of a big cat's roar and the simulated heartbeat that is suspiciously similar to what you hear at the end of an Audi ad.

Like a teenager out to impress on a first date, the car ticks all the boxes in the "what you should have in a hot hatch list". Well, except for a handbrake, which has been replaced by an electronic lever for convenience.

Yet, the driving experience does not live up to the expectation raised by all its wonderful gear.

Its steering is very sharp, almost to the point of being twitchy, but lacks feedback. Its brakes (with Brembo front calipers) are effective, but they squeak at low speeds and the pedal lacks a consistent feel.

Its dual-clutch gearbox, although the most versatile and user-friendly gearbox to be found in an RS, is a mite short on sizzle. On the go, the car still has a strong hint of the tall gears Renault is fond of.

There is no faulting the car's dynamic abilities however. Its stout chassis withstands all manner of abuse, and the bucket seat holds you firmly in place.

And those dampers work well, allowing you to sail over speed bumps with less stress and discomfort than in any other similarly low-slung car.

The unusual thing about the new RS is that it is useable on public roads in Race mode. In many other cars of its calibre, Race mode is too highly strung a mode, and best reserved for the track.

In the RS, even when traction control is off, the car feels very composed and well-behaved. In fact, you could even say it feels a bit more natural in this state of drive.

In both Race and Sport modes, the exhaust makes a uniquely sporty tune - a percussion reminiscent of old muscle cars, before exhaust after-treatments muffled flow.

It sounds a tad synthetic and repetitive, but it is still a refreshing change from the others.

This time round, the RS is a family-friendly five-door. With a wheelbase of 2,670mm, it offers ample room in the second row. It is equipped with Isofix child-seat anchorage, blind-spot detection and six airbags.

Comparatively, the car sits between the hyper-ventilating Honda Civic Type R and gentlemanly Volkswagen Golf R. It is, however, better-looking than both of these cars.