Ever get a Christmas card that you can’t, for the life of you, work out who it’s from? Chances are this year it’s from Renault.

You might not have heard from the carmaker for a few years but that’s because it’s been a bit busy completely overhauling its entire range by introducing a new Twingo, Captur and Kadjar. The French brand finally has a range of desirable cars, with low running costs, with one exception: the poor old Megane.

Where once we couldn’t get enough of the pert hatch, today Renault struggles to shift 9000 cars in the UK, down from the 43,000 it sold in 2005.

It’s not that we became bored of the French Ford Focus, it’s just its residuals of below 20% in some cases made it a terrible ownership proposition. But that all changes, says Renault, when the all-new car is launched in July.

To build excitement for its arrival, BusinessCar was given an early drive (hence the lack of ‘equipment’ and ‘trims’ information, right) to see how the new Megane shapes up.

Longer, wider and lower than the model it replaces, the new Renault hatch shares its looks with the handsome Laguna-replacing Talisman saloon, which is not available in right-hand drive.

Inside, the good news continues. Quality is off the scale beside the hard plastics that plagued the old car. It’s also hard not to be impressed by a huge portrait-mounted 8.7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that the more expensive models get.

Thanks to its larger proportions, space is also improved, and the boot is now huge for the class, although rear passenger space is still tight.

Under the bonnet there’s the choice of 100hp or 130hp 1.2-litre turbo petrols or a more muscular 205hp 1.6-litre turbo that powers the sporty GT. On the diesel side, there’s 90hp and 110hp 1.5s and a 1.6-litre with either 130hp or 165hp.

We drove the 130hp 1.6 diesel with the six-speed manual that can sprint to 62mph in 10 seconds and average 70.6mpg. The engine is a bit noisy, but willing, while the drive is far better than the old car with more precise, linear steering response. The ride, on 17-inch wheels, can get busy over rough surfaces, and a Golf or Focus still offers a better ride and handling compromise.

Wind noise, around the door mirrors, was also audible, but otherwise the Renault is quiet and comfortable at speed.

Plenty of new technology has also been introduced, including autonomous emergency braking, but until specs and prices are fixed it’s difficult to judge value and, more importantly, costs.

Renault’s confident that the likes of Cap will give its hatch a significant residual value uplift.

That’s good because the Megane is shaping up to be a very competent all-rounder in a dazzling, capable class of cars. However, if it falters on costs, Renault will continue to be forgotten about come Christmas.

Renault Megane dCi 130 5dr

Model price range £tbc
Fuel consumption 70.6mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 103/km (20%)
BIK 20/40% per month £67/£133*
Warranty 4yrs/100,000mls
Boot space (min/max) 434/1247 litres
Engine size/power 1598cc/130hp
* estimated