For the last 5 years or so the Hot Hatch of choice has been the Clio RS. In any of its guises from 172 to 200 it was the best quick hatchback anyone could buy. But the 2.0 litre lump that powered it was getting very long in the tooth, Renault had to downsize and become more efficient, so they have moved to a 1.6 turbo engine with EDC double clutch gearbox. It will get to 60 MPH from stationary in 6.5 seconds with its 197 BHP and 240 Nm of torque.
We recently tested the latest iteration in Lux spec, starting at £19,995 our car had a few options added hiking the price up to £22,355. The main option of interest being the Cup setup, this includes 18” gloss black alloys, 3mm lower ride height, 15% stiffer dampers and red brake callipers – all for a rather palatable £650.
I have said before that I’m not really a fan of this new shape Clio. It’s too big with its extra doors, if they had made a 3 door version I have no doubt that it would have been stunning…but it’s just a bit clumsy looking the way it is. It’s big and there’s no getting round it.
In RenaultSport trim you do get a smart rear spoiler up top, and a nice silver diffuser. Its twin exhaust pipes also look the part and give the car a wider stance. Up front you get an “F1” style blade (oh come on Renault!) and instead of having Clio under the large Renault badge you now get RS moniker. Gloss black covers the front grille and mirrors. It makes the Clio look smarter I’ll give them that but, it still has a size issue!
There’s no doubting that this car is quick, off the line it’s very nippy indeed 0.1 second quicker than its French rival the 208 GTi, which is impressive to say the Clio is 70KG heavier.
There are three driving modes to choose from in the Clio, Normal, Sport or Race. When left in Normal it feels just as composed as most other hatches, its only when you step it up to Sport or Race that engine response is heightened and you can really feel that it gets its arse into gear quicker.
You can also use a ‘launch control’ function for when you require an even faster get away, this will hold the Clio revving at 2,000 RPM until you release the brake pedal.
However, whenever we have used this it just results in lots of wheel spin and tyre shredding…I thought launch control was meant to minimize this to get you traction as quick as possible…without leaving black lines?!
Also the button to get you into these two heightened modes is conveniently placed near the handbrake, next to the one for cruise control…handy. No idea why both of them aren’t dash mounted, or even accessible on the steering wheel?!
Ride is firm but not harsh, even with the cup chassis it was still comfortable enough along pitted back roads. Pushing it a little harder round a corner and you’ll find plenty of grip, go a bit too far and it gradually loses the rear end in a manageable way.
Steering input is quick thanks to a shortened rack on the RenaultSport models, its direct and nicely weighted allowing minimal input for the most.
But that gearbox…I’ll start off with the horrible faux chrome plasticy pull leaver that has to be depressed to get it into Drive. It feels like it’s off something from Toys R Us, the limp spring adds to its awful build quality. Next are the paddles, large and plastic they sit awkwardly high behind the wheel. Pull at them with any gusto and you can feel them flex, horrible.
And finally to the actual gearbox, whilst it’s a great automatic and changes up pretty quickly its not at all entertaining once you get it into manual. If you aren’t in Race mode it will still auto change up even when you are in manual?!
Inside the Clio is pretty much a standard affair, there are one or two splashes of RS, along with some bright orange in your face trim. But you still have the left hand drive focussed centre console. The infotainment offers G readings, track racing tips, as well as a whole host of GTResque data sets, smart; but possibly a bit gimmicky on a hatchback?
We have to mention the seats though, they are deep and very hugging. You are held and gripped through corners in all the right places, very comfy for Renault factory jobbies.
Sound was good through the Arkamys setup, the Bass Reflex setting is a very good stand in for the lack of a boot subwoofer.
Renault have changed their fast Clio beyond imagination from its predecessor. On the plus side the 1.6 turbo engine pulls well in any gear thanks to its great torque, no longer do you have to rev the nuts off fast Clio’s to actually make them go anywhere. It has a more user friendly appeal to it with its extra doors and less harsh ride, it will no doubt attract new buyers from different markets.
But with the addition of an automatic ‘box its lost a lot of its connected, driver engaging feeling. Hopefully Renault will offer a 6 speed manual down the line…we can only wait and see!
Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo – Damn fast, bland interior, too big, smart exterior additions.