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Power for the masses: Renault is eager to expand its lineup of performance cars

Renault is open to the idea of adding more models to its performance-focused, Renault Sport-branded lineup, but it warns the expansion will be carried out in an extremely careful manner in order to avoid diluting the sub-division’s image.

“We will call something a Renault Sport if we believe it’s really worth calling it a Renault Sport … if today Renault Sport is a [known] name, it’s because for the last 15 years we haven’t been silly or managed to make stupid things,” explained Regis Fricotte, Renault Sport’s vice president of sales, marketing and communication, in an interview with Australian website Car Advice.

While the Paris-based car maker would prefer to stay true to tradition by building exclusively light passenger cars, it hasn’t ruled out introducing its first-ever RS-badged crossover. Executives are keeping every option on the table, but they won’t approve a project unless they can make a favorable business case for it. In other words, Renault Sport won’t build a car at a loss simply to boost its image or show off the skills of its research and development department.

Renault’s next RS-badged model is expected to be a hot-rodded version of the fourth-generation Megane hatchback that was introduced last September in Germany. It will be offered exclusively as a five-door hatchback, and it is expected to ditch the current Megane RS’ (pictured) turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and adopt an evolution of the 1.6-liter turbo four found under the hood of the smaller Clio RS.

Surprisingly, the next Megane RS will follow the path blazed by the aforementioned Clio and swap its manual transmission for a dual-clutch automatic unit controlled by steering wheel-mounted paddles. Hardcore enthusiasts prefer shifting their own gears, but Fricotte explains the Megane RS will be more popular globally — notably in key markets such as Australia — if it’s equipped with an automatic transmission.

Renault is expected to preview the next Megane RS with a close-to-production concept at next year’s Paris Motor Show. The regular-production model will bow in Geneva in March of 2017, and it will go on sale the following summer.