I’VE always been a fan of French cars. Although regular models have not traditionally been as good as their rivals, they’ve always been unique and a more interesting choice in a world of monotonous hatchbacks.

Cars like Citroen’s original DS, the 2CV and C6 immediately spring to mind, while Renault’s back catalogue brims with brilliant-but-flawed creations. ‘Style over substance’ is a term often associated with cars from across the English Channel, but having a quirky design simply doesn’t cut it in 2019 given the amount of competition there is. It’s especially true in the new Megane’s sector as there’s competition in the form of the Ford Focus, Seat Leon and VW Golf, all of which are consummate professionals and subsequently lapped up by families.

But they’re not exactly exciting, are they? There’s a gap in the market for the Megane to win sales and, predictably, it’s intriguing from the off.

It looks great through my eyes as there’s the swooping front headlights which cleverly incorporate the daytime running lights, the prominent Renault diamond badge and the striking rear lights which look like nothing else on the road. That’s always been the case, though, but it’s inside where the new Megane feels a cut above all of its forebears which fell woefully short of the high standards set by VW and its subsidiaries.

The interior, headlined by a sleek 8.7-inch tablet-style touchscreen, looks great and dominates the view ahead. It’s quite easy to use, too, although most of its essential functions are housed inside it. Annoyingly that includes the heating controls, but on the whole it’s a good system. The driving position is much better than Meganes of old and although there’s plastic on most surfaces, it’s not the horrendous stuff used in previous versions and on the whole feels plush.

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This car - the 1.5-litre petrol - has 140bhp and although that figure is quite small in a family-sized hatchback, thankfully there’s a turbocharger which conjures up much-needed torque and improves efficiency to a claimed 50.4mpg. Although an automatic gearbox is an option, the standard six-speed manual is a great match for the Megane and its short-throw action feels brilliant to use - reminiscent of a Renaultsport Megan R26 which I used to own.

The new Megane doesn’t offer as much front leg or head room as the best in the class, but there’s still enough space available. Driver and passenger get lots of storage options, including carpeted door bins - always handy to stop items annoyingly slipping about. You also get two cup holders in the centre console, a cubby under the front armrest, and another below the steering wheel. The tray in front of the gearlever has USB and 12v sockets, making it handy for mobile phones.

The steering, which is now electrically-assisted as opposed to hydraulic systems used before, doesn’t give much feedback but the handling is neat and there’s nothing to moan about. Drivers can access a sportier setting but in truth - like most pointless sport buttons - it does little other than compromise the ride.

For a smidge over £18,000, Renault’s cleverly priced its new Megane so it undercuts all of its main rivals, but done so without scrimping on all-important standard spec. It’s better than ever and its much-improved interior is sure to win customers from its competitors.