RENAULTSPORT, to me at least, represented just about the final word when it came to hot hatch magnificence throughout my childhood and into my adult years - no other performance arm created cars like the ones they’ve done, time and time again.

Think back to the two versions of the crazy Clio V6, for example. They plucked a humble supermini from obscurity, pulled out its rear seats and shoehorned a 3.0-litre V6 where children once sat. If that doesn’t get you hooked on a brand, what will? No-one else would do something as outlandish as that, but they came back for a second pop and I’ve been doe-eyed ever since.

But it’s not just the rear-wheel-drive V6s and indeed they weren’t even my favourite in Renaultsport’s illustrious line-up. That accolade goes to the Clio 182 Trophy - a car I owned for three-and-a-bit years - with its trick Sachs dampers nicked from touring cars and fitted as standard to the 500 little balls of Capsicum Red joy. I was always a hot hatch fan but that car cemented everything I now know about them; it became a true yard stick, one that I’ll always remember as an all-time great because of it was cheap, cheerful and utterly phenomenal to drive, alive with a buzzing, must-please-its-driver energy that coursed through its Recaro seat and dinky 16-inch Speedline Turinis.

Reviewing cars means I’ve been truly spoilt with what I’ve driven and hot hatches - chiefly recent Honda Civic Type Rs - have completely moved the game on with their ability and power outputs. The Trophy’s 182bhp is quite literally nothing in today’s age of 300bhp-plus leviathans which, unfortunately, come with an equally ballooned price. However, given Renaultsport’s no longer producing its hot Clios and Meganes, one car in its range always intrigued me.

That car is the Clio 220 Trophy, a successor in name to my beloved 182, but far removed from the mark two given it’s turbocharged, has five doors and is fitted with a semi-automatic, twin-clutch gearbox. That recipe irked Renaultsport die hards, but dig a little deeper and the magic’s just a scratch from the surface. It’s that good, I even bought one…

It’s a looker, of that there’s no doubt. In its Glacier White hue - a true Renaultsport favourite over the years - it has curves in all the necessary places and looks like it means business. The 18-inch wheels, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4s, are tucked right up into its arches, the chequered flag-style fog lights can’t not look sporty and the optional Akrapovic exhaust out back immediately shows it’s a serious bit of kit. Open the driver’s door and you’re met with a pair of chunky, RS-badged seats which after the disappointment of not seeing a set of hip-hugging Recaros, actually prove to be incredibly supportive and manage to achieve a near-perfect driving position.

Up ahead the RS badging continues on the steering wheel and two aluminium paddles - huge compared to semi-auto hot hatches from Germany - poke out behind. While it’s much different from its predecessor in the powertrain department, it’s most definitely a much-improved proposition inside.

Thumb the starter motor and your ears pick up the purposeful noise from the Akrapovic. It’s loud for a 1.6-litre turbo, but a lot of that is to do with the exhaust - without that option, it’d no doubt sound like a household appliance. Move the gear selector to ‘D’ and you’ll notice a few things straight away: firstly, it’ll never offer the same refinement as an alternative gearbox from Audi or VW and when cold, it’s a grumpy thing - it’s not smooth, it’s not easy and in truth it feels archaic.

However, once warmed through, it'll shift through its six speeds with no drama and of course manual mode is only a flick away. When you do take control, you can click the ‘RS Mode’ button near the handbrake. One press gives you ‘Sport’, but keep it depressed for a second longer and that turns off the traction and - essentially - it quickens the shifts. This is when the gearbox really starts to shine; those elongated paddles feel great to the touch and, thankfully, they’re mounted to the steering column and not the steering wheel, so they’re always there. You’re never fumbling around for a 10p-sized version as you would in a fast Golf, for instance. On full throttle, the blips sound fantastic when combined with the exhaust.

The 220 Trophy is one of those cars that manages to achieve a rare thing that’s reserved for only the best: it feels special within a few corners. You don’t need to even go fast to revel in the process of it all. Its steering reacts instantly to your input, the Michelins grip and it dances round corners just like the 182 of yesteryear did - on a tricky, narrow road, the 220 is a masterpiece and as with every great hot hatch it possesses the ability to bloody cars’ noses which are worth several times more. Although it goes without a limited-slip differential, if you didn’t know that fact you’d swear it had one as its cornering prowess is top-drawer quality.

Zero to 60mph sprints in front-wheel-drive hot hatches aren’t ever going to set the world alight given what’s asked of two tyres, but a 6.3-second dash is more than acceptable, as is its 146mph top speed. However it’s its handling that’s the absolute star of the show and if anything, the gearbox - especially when it’s in its raciest setting - adds an extra piece to the overall puzzle. Would I prefer a manual? Of course, but dismissing a 220 Trophy because it goes without would be a mistake because when you’re on it, it works extremely well and miraculously becomes a key part of the process.

It’s a sad sign of the times that Renaultsport products are no more - their market’s limited, always has been in truth, but especially so now given worldwide governments’ ridiculous thirst for electric power and manufacturers being lambasted for producing cars for enthusiasts who simply love the thrill of driving something well-sorted that’s not characterless. They made their last car - a Megane - last year before pulling the shutters down on the hallowed workplace where exceptional machines were once made. Luckily for us, we can tap into the back catalogue - their greatest hits - and we should be thankful for that because Renaultsport produced many masterpieces over the years, including the 220 Trophy, which does live up to the 182 Trophy in its own way.

Long live the hot hatch.