Get in and light the yellow touchpaper...Sean O'Grady finds out how Renault marks its F1 prowess

Another week, another special-edition French hot hatch. Lucky me. Last time, I was charmed by Citroën's relatively mild but very stylish "C4 by Loeb", celebrating Sébastien's and Citroën's success in the World Rally Championship. Only partly sated, I'm now confronted with Renault's full-on Mégane.

This one seeks to trumpet Renault's success in Formula One. Obviously, French car companies enjoy crowing about their motorsport achievements. They spend all that money and they'd like a little of it back in publicity terms. Can't blame them, really.

The Mégane is a thoroughbred, so I suppose it's only right that it has the sort of name you'd normally see on a Kennel Club certificate: the Renault Mégane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26 Limited Edition. Try getting all that on the registration document.

Anyway, "confronted" is the right word for an encounter with this vehicle. There's yellow, and there's Renault hot-hatch "Liquid Yellow". I knew I'd seen this screwball shade somewhere before, and I know where; on the old Clio Renaultsport V6, the one that was so mental they put the engine in the boot and turned Nicole's shopping hatch into a two-seater missile. This Mégane's a bit crazy, too.

Let's see: 225bhp, about 10 per cent more than a Golf GTI; a limited slip differential, although it's front-wheel drive only; stiffer springs and suspension; modified exhaust; six-speed gearbox; huge Brembo brakes; high-revving 2.0-litre petrol engine with 16 bouncing valves, and a turbocharger, naturally.

All that translates into a car that's a little too hot for my tastes. I'm a wimp, and I actually like traction control and antilock brakes and electronic stability control and all the modern devices that keep one out of trouble. I'm not the type to press the button that turns all that kit off, or certainly not at the Mégane's 147mph top speed.

I concede that you might wonder why carmakers design ever more potent cars and then fit lots of computer gadgetry that stops the driver exploring their full potential. You want to go mad, and they encourage you by boasting about all that horsepower, but as soon as you decide to let rip, some microchip under the bonnet poops the party.

The idea of the Mégane's limited slip differential is that it's a different way to keep you out of ditches. It's mechanical, so it's more appealing than a chip; you can build a relationship with it. It works, up to a point.

This is "the most driver focused hot Mégane yet", according to Renault. It's got lovely hugging Recaro seats and it looks striking. It's a bit of a handful, though. There are much easier drives on offer for £19,570, not least the Golf GTI. I mean, how badly do you need to join in with all this French chauvinism?

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