Road Test: Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC Lux
Sector: Supermini Price: £19,995 Fuel: 44.8mpg CO2: 144g/km
As much as the new Renaultsport Clio has divided opinions among enthusiasts, there’s no debating that this is technically a better car in almost every respect than the one it replaces.
Renault has a long history of excellent small hot hatches, and each generation of Clio has brought with it a much-praised performance version. For four years, the old Renaultsport Clio 200’s no-nonsense approach to driver enjoyment put it right at the top of its class and won a string of awards as a result. How do you go about bettering that?
Downsizing from a revvy 2.0-litre petrol engine to a turbocharged 1.6-litre with a dual-clutch gearbox has been a bone of contention, but it offers a remarkable drop in running costs. There’s no drop in power, but the 200 Turbo is 30% more efficient than its predecessor and 11 BiK groups lower as a result. User-choosers craving a hot hatch with genuine Formula 1 DNA have never had a more accessible route to ownership.
It would be hard to argue that the styling has lost its edge, either. The 200 Turbo adds the familiar F1-inspired front bumper blade, larger wheels and garish colour options to the already purposeful Clio, and it’s a car with plentiful on-road presence as a result.
The cabin feels far better built and soft to the touch, shod here with red accents, grippy sports seats and the most advanced Renaultsport Monitor to date. Now part of the R-Link screen, this contains more data than most drivers will ever need, including cornering forces, acceleration times, fluid temperatures and the boost pressure produced by the turbocharger.
But the benefits of the new car come down to personal taste. Renaultsport Clios have traditionally been get-in-and-drive, track-ready machines with a single, focused, operating mode regardless of the driver’s mood. This is a little more complicated.
There’s a default driving mode with soft, regular gearchanges, light steering and a slightly numb throttle ideal for bumper-to-bumper urban driving and stretching each gallon of fuel. But, via the R.S. button on the centre console, Sport mode sharpens inputs for more aggressive driving and Race mode mandates manual gearchanges while turning all driver aids off. Tug both steering paddles back and it even has launch control.
All of which makes this a very different car to drive. Engine power comes in ferociously just above idle, rather than right at the top of the rev range, and it covers ground at an impressive pace in Sport mode. The default driving mode may feel a little soft and keen to shift up through the gears, but it does help nudge motorway economy close to 40mpg with a little restraint. For most spirited driving, the gearbox can shift so quickly in Sport mode that the steering paddles are a luxury on the road.
So it adds up to be a superb fast road car with the confidence of motion Renaultsport customers have come to expect from the badge, and the added bonus of being much cheaper to run. But drivers seeking more of the simple no-frills experience they've loved from this award-winning bloodline could come away feeling a little cold.
A great drive, beautifully built and crammed full of appealing gadgets, Renault’s latest high performance Clio has all the right ingredients to broaden its appeal among user-choosers. But it’s lost its small hot hatch crown to the excellent Fiesta ST, which is more fun on the road and cheaper in all respects to run.