IT'S a tough old world in the family hatchback premiership but Renault takes the game to the opposition with the new Megane bringing style, economy and performance at a new level.
First seen 20 years ago and with global sale exceeding 6.6 million the Megane has been a popular, if sometimes unexciting, option.
My prediction is that the new version will win over private buyers in droves.
With styling which grabs the eye immediately the 25-model line up with six trim versions starts at £16,600 rising to £25,500 for the range-topping Renault Sport-mastered GT Nav.
It is available with two petrol and two diesel powertrains. Emissions start at 96gm/km. Expect to see a hybrid next year and a sports tourer in the autumn.
Initially the most striking external feature is permanent full LED lighting back and front. Miss this coming and you really should change your glasses.
Good looks are one thing but Renault has worked hard improving technologies, mainly centred around a large touchscreen, the sort of size makers are beginning to accept is good sense.
It carries R-LINK 2 connectivity systems with a pinch and zoom function. All the usual suspects are here from navigation to vehicle monitoring.
Quality improvements have added true refinement to the ride. Acoustics are improved, seats offer greater support and everywhere the cabin is as soft-touch as a doting dad.
Ease of driving has not been forgotten. Adaptive cruise control, active braking, lane departure and other alerts, traffic sign recognition and hands free parking all add to safety and usability.
Two versions were available to drive in a range of conditions Dynamique S Nav dCi 110 and the 205 bhp GT Nav.
The diesel Dynamique represents an ideal family choice at £20,400 with a long list of equipment although tasty morsels like the hands free parking and safety pack will cost you more. Sign recognition, parking sensors, camera and automatic beam dipping are standard.
It's no racing car at 11.3 seconds to 62mph but highly practical and manoeuvrable in traffic.
However, budget interest will focus on zero tax and claimed combined mpg of 76.4mpg.
Even at this level there is hands free entry and TomTom navigation.
The GT Nav is an entirely different animal. Extras like the safety pack and hands free parking, along with fancy upholstery can push the price to over £28k but regular fixtures and fittings are generous.
It is an inspired performer with the 1600cc petrol engine hitting 62mph in 7.2 seconds while still capable of averaging 47mpg. That gives you a hot hatch with a very ordinary £130 a year tax bill.
Over a serpentine County Durham moorland route the GT was great fun through a DSG paddle-shift gearbox. If you love to drive, drive this. Four wheel steering is a unique feature and overall the Renault Sport set up offers grip with responsive steering.
It is not unfair to say this is Megane as before. The new version should be right up there on you must-see list if you are changing the family car.