Renault's Megane RS clocks a 5.8-second century sprint and 250kmh top speed with a 1.8-litre engine
Renault's Megane RS returns, with the beefiest engine ever The Renault Megane RS is still a practical family hatchback for five, which also impresses on the race track. PHOTOS: LIONEL SEAH

Renault's third-generation Megane RS shares the same 1.8-litre turbo found in the Alpine A110 sports car. But in the RS, the output goes up to 280hp (from 252hp) and 390Nm (from 320Nm).

That is 15hp and 30Nm more than what the previous Megane RS 2.0 had. And for the first time in an RS, there is a six-speed Getrag dual-clutch transmission, which helps the car hit the century mark in 5.8 seconds.

The car has rear-wheel steering, which endows it with an almost neutral turn-in, and the mildest of understeer - quite uncanny for a front-wheel-drive hot hatch.

The front axle gets electronic torque vectoring and 355mm Brembo brakes (an additional 15mm over the previous RS).

Like all modern performance cars, the RS comes with drive modes - Comfort, Neutral, Sport, Race and Perso. Comfort is an eco-tuned gait unsuitable for a hot hatch. Neutral is ideal for daily commuting.

For a quicker response, weightier steering and a more vocal exhaust, choose Sport.

In Race mode, the car is more boisterous. But as all the car's electronic stability aids are switched off in this mode, it is best left for track days. Perso refers to personalised settings and allows you to customise the degree of sportiness in the car's various functions.

Sport and Race modes allow the left paddle to be held, for quick multi-gear down-shifting. Or should you be in a naughty mood, Launch Control is just a touchscreen tap away, complete with squirmy steering as 390Nm of torque rushes to the front axle.

The car's seemingly rudimentary front independent strut and rear torsion beam axle suspension is fitted out with rally-inspired bump-stop hydraulic compression dampers. They effectively cushion the RS over speed bumps, potholes and rough roads - without compromising on body control.

Amazingly, the car is as comfy as a touring car, despite its ultra-low profile 19-inch tyres.

On open highways, the RS takes to high-speed cruising with resolute composure. The cabin is reasonably quiet up to 120kmh, when wind noise starts to intrude.

At the Jerez race circuit, I ride with Renault Sport driver Laurent Hurgon at the helm of an RS Cup manual. This track-tuned version gets a lowered and stiffened chassis, with mechanical limited-slip differential and lighter Brembo brakes.

It drives the car flat out, deftly carving each chicane with surgical precision and nonchalant ease. It gives a hint of what the Megane RS could be capable of.

But even if you have no intention to drive like Hurgon, the RS is a practical family hatchback for five, with the cargo-carrying flexibility of a 60:40 split folding rear-seat.