WITH worldwide sales of more than 6.5 million in its 20 years on the road, the Renault Megane could hardly be described as an also-ran in the hatchback market.
Much of the personality and fun of previous models (who remembers shaking their ass to the controversial TV advert for the 2003 version?) was eroded, however, in the much more reserved third-generation car.
As of summer this year, though, the Megane very much has its sparkle back - with an all-new incarnation boasting stylish and distinctive looks as well as a much more upmarket interior packed with plenty of tech, especially in higher grade trims.
Building on the success of the revamped Clio and launches of the Captur and Kadjar crossovers, the new Megane displays all the brash confidence that the French car maker has rediscovered of late.
Longer and lower than its predecessor, with sculpted character lines along the flanks, it has a distinctly road-hugging, sporty stance and dynamic profile.
At the front a larger Renault diamond sits on a bolder grille which is flanked by striking C-shaped daytime running lights. The rear signature lights, though, are even more eye catching - wrapping around the indicator and reversing lamps and stretching across the tailgate.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but for me this is now one of the best looking motors in the family hatchback class.
And the improvements don't stop with the exterior. The cabin of the new Megane is a much more pleasant place to be - with plenty of soft-touch materials and impressive finish quality.
What really lifts the interior on the Dynamique S Nav version and all grades above, is the 8.7-inch portrait-oriented touch screen which dominates the control panel.
This looks and works like a tablet computer, with pinch and swipe gestures and a variety of home screens, and features digital radio, Bluetooth, USB and AUX sockets, voice control and a range vehicle applications.
At the end of each journey it'll even tell you whether you've been driving nicely or not - much like the other half tutting away in the passenger seat - via one of the apps included, which critiques your acceleration, gear changing and anticipation, giving them a star-rating out of five, as well as rating your overall performance out of 100.
The best score I managed was 56 - suggesting that I should possibly spend a little time digesting some of the tips you can read by clicking on the eco-coaching tab at the bottom of the screen!
You can choose between five drive mode settings - neutral, comfort, eco, sport and perso - via the screen, which also alters the shade of the ambient lighting and the colour and style of the seven-inch TFT instrument display.
Whichever mode you choose though, performance is steady rather than spectacular with the 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine that this car featured.
It pulls well enough and is remarkably quiet for a diesel, but you'll find yourself reaching for the six-speed manual transmission if you want to make rapid progress.
That said, a well-balanced chassis, the low driving position and solid grip levels with good body control combine to offer a stable and comfortable drive and the light steering makes manoeuvring in town very simple.
The focus of this power pack is very much efficiency and economy, with a claimed 76.4 miles per gallon on average and road-tax beating carbon emissions of just 96g/km sure to make it a popular choice for budget-conscious families and business buyers alike.
A turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol and 1.6-litre turbodiesel offer slightly more spritely performance but if you carve real speed then you'll need to go for the the range-topping GT model, which gets a 145mph 205ps turbocharged petrol powerplant developed by Renault Sport - although expect a sharp rise in running costs.