Back in 2004, the folk at Renault Sport probably wouldn’t have surmised how successful its plan to enter the hot hatch market with the Renault Megane would turn out to be, or how it would define many moments for the car and the particular segment. Fifteen years on, there seems to be no let up to the pace from the Dieppe outfit.

We take a look at the Megane RS’ evolution. The expansion into the territory with the model came about following significant traction gained with enthusiasts through the RS and V6 iterations of the second-gen Clio. In 2003, the pioneering Megane RS I was unveiled at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show. Based on the second-gen Megane hatch, the car arrived into the market the following year, debuting in both three- and five-door forms.

While the body-style may have been blocky, the performance was not – powered by a F4RT 2.0 litre turbocharged mill offering 225 PS and 300 Nm, the RS 225 had a 0-100 km/h time of 6.5 seconds and a 240 km/h top speed. The next year saw a Trophy version – equipped with a more radical Sport chassis – coming about.

A RS F1 Team edition – also with 225 PS – was next, but it was the subsequent model, built to commemorate the brand’s F1 World Championship constructors and drivers’ titles, that made the biggest impression for many from that generation. The Renault Sport 230 Renault F1 Team R26, to give the car its full mouthful of a moniker, left an indelible mark on those who managed to get behind the wheel of one – fans include our own Danny Tan, who says it’s his favourite Megane RS.

The sign-off model for the Megane RS I was the limited-edition R26.R, the R suffix standing for Radical. Like the standard R26, output was rated at 230 PS and 310 Nm, but the Nurburgring production FWD record-setter was a staggering 123 kg lighter, courtesy of the removal of many bits, including the rear seats, audio system and much of the soundproofing.

The second-gen Megane RS II – which was based on the third-gen Megane hatch – premiered in 2009, making its market debut a year later. The RS 250 made its Malaysian debut in Cup form in 2010, and became the model that ignited the RS movement here – the F4RT 2.0 litre powertrain remained present, but had by now gained extra output to 250 PS and 340 Nm.

There were no shortage of editions and special variants in the years to come, including a RS 250 Cup Special Edition that arrived in Malaysia in 2012. Given the penchant for higher outputs, it wasn’t long before this was bumped up to 265 PS through the RS 265 (which was sold in Malaysia in pre-facelift Cup and facelifted Sport and Cup forms) and then the RS 265 Trophy version (which made its Malaysian debut in May 2013), the latter becoming setting the second Nurburgring record for the Megane RS.

Next came the RS Collection 2012, followed by the Megane RS Red Bull Racing RB7 and RB8 variants in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Another RS Collection version came about in 2014, and the horsepower race added another 10 PS to the car a year later, when the RS 275 Trophy came on to the scene.

Next up was the RS 275 Trophy-R. The latter – of which a limited-run of 10 units was sold in Malaysia – helped the brand achieve its third record on the ‘Ring, dipping under eight-minute mark in the process.

In all, more than 53,000 examples of the first two generations of the Megane RS were sold in Europe as well as in markets such as Japan, Australia, South Africa and of course, Malaysia. The third-generation Megane RS, which is based on the Megane IV platform and revealed in 2017, looks set to continue the trend.

Despite the switch to a smaller 1.8 litre displacement, output has increased to 280 PS and 390 Nm, and the switch to a five-door format offers greater flexibility without any sacrifice in speed and driving fun. The RS 280 – with a Cup chassis – was recently launched in Malaysia in both six-speed manual and Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic transmission forms, offering even more choice for hot hatch enthusiasts.

Highlights on the new Megane RS include rally-style four hydraulic compression bump stops for better handling, along with a Torsen limited-slip differential. The hydraulic compression bump stops filter out disruptions, provides additional damping and eliminates the effects of rebound, enabling optimum control of tyre-ground contact.

The front suspension has also been completely redesigned with an independent steering axis for improved precision, while the standard-fit 4Control four-wheel steering system helps provide better agility.

Stopping power comes courtesy of red-painted Brembo brake calipers that act on bi-material (aluminium/cast iron) discs, which measure 355 mm at the front, or 15 mm more than the previous-generation car. For the EDC-equipped model, Multi-Change Down and Launch Control functions are available in Sport and Race modes, the former allowing drivers to shift down by several gears by pressing and holding down the left-hand shift paddle.

Price-wise, the Megane RS with the manual gearbox retails at RM279,888 on-the-road without insurance, while the EDC-equipped version is RM20,000 more at RM299,888. These prices include a three-year or 100,000km warranty, whichever comes first.

GALLERY: Renault Megane RS 280 Cup manual and EDC

GALLERY: Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy-R

GALLERY: Renault Megane RS 265 Cup

GALLERY: Renault Megane 230 Renault F1 Team R26