Clio Renaultsport review
Renault has taken its latest Clio RS hot hatch in a different direction, with a turbocharged engine, dual-clutch gearbox and five-door body
Renault has been building brilliant hot hatch versions of the Clio since the Formula One inspired Williams arrived back in 1993. But in an effort to stay ahead of the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi. Power now comes from a 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, instead of a revvy naturally aspirated 2.0-litre, while the only gearbox option is a six-speed EDC dual-clutch automatic. Add in the fact that the Clio is now only available as a five-door, and there is lots for Renault’s faithful hot hatch fans to adjust to. But part of the reason for the change is to broaden the Clio RS’s appeal by making it just as fast, but more usable day-to-day - although some of the fun of the old car has been lost in the process. Opting for the Cup pack can reclaim at least some of the driving enjoyment, as it brings quicker steering, stiffer suspension and stickier tyres. However, these improvements come at a price, with the entry-level car now costing £19,995, which is around £2,000 more than its predecessor and, crucially, the Ford Fiesta ST.
Our choice: Clio Renaultsport 200 EDC Cup
The new Clio RS’s remit is definitely to blend in with the rest of the fourth-generation Clio family. The latest Clio is one of the best-looking superminis on the market, and the RS is enhanced with a subtle front air intake that runs the width of the bumper, 17-inch alloys on Lux models or 18-inch gloss black rims on the Cup car, and a neat rear diffuser and wing. Inside, the Clio features a much classier design with plenty of gloss black, chrome and matte trim that’s colour-matched to the exterior paint. It’s different from the stripped back look of the old car, but it succeeds in offering a bit more mass appeal as a result. However, the quality isn't up to class standards, as some of the plastics look cheap, while the some of the trim feels flimsy. Still, all versions get plenty of standard equipment, including air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connection and cruise control. Upgrade to the Lux and you'll benefit from desirable additions such as a climate control and Renault's R-Link infotainment system, which includes TomTom sat-nav.
It’s here that the biggest changes have taken place to the Clio RS. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is quite a vocal unit, helped by a pipe that channels bassy engine noise into the car - although it's not as rorty as the Ford Fiesta ST. The six-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a bit of a disappointment, as it’s a little slow to change gear, particularly if you use the paddles mounted on the steering column, and it removes some of the involvement from the drive. The steering is a little lifeless, but very direct, especially if you opt for the Cup pack – a £420 option on either the standard or Lux-spec car – while the suspension features hydraulic compression stops, which smooths minor bumps while still offering great stability at speed. An RS Diff mimics a limited-slip differential by braking the front wheels if they start to slip, and torque steer is kept to a minimum. Another neat feature is an optional sound generator for the R-Link infotainment system. This clever kit uses the stereo of the Clio to mimic the engine sound of a huge array of Renault performance cars, from the classic Alpine A110 to the wild Clio V6.
All Clio RSs come with a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and a comprehensive suite of safety kit, including a host of airbags, seatbelt warnings and ISOFIX mount points for the front passenger and outermost rear seats. Despite featuring the same power and a lighter weight than before, Renault has upgraded the front disc brakes from 312mm to 320mm for reliable stopping power, while visibility is decent all round - although the shallow rear window makes reversing a little tricky. Although the engine is new to the Clio RS, it’s also found in the Juke Nismo, and is already proving itself reliable. There's also the peace of mind of a four year warranty, which comes courtesy of the Reanult 4+ aftersales package.
Performance aside, the RS is just like any other Clio. The switch to the new Clio bodyshell means the RS is a five-door only, but Renault has done a good job of masking that fact by hiding the rear door handles in the C-pillar. The boot is deep and a usefulrectangular shape, giving 300 litres of usable space. The more substantial sports seats in the front do hamper rear legroom, but the driver will notice the benefit of a much-improved driving position, helped by lots of adjustment for the seat and the wheel. The turning circle does suffer a bit, particularly if you opt for the larger 18-inch wheels, either by upgrading the Lux model, or opting for the Cup pack. On the plus side, the EDC dual clutch gearbox has a fully automatic mode, which helps take the strain out of stop-start city traffic.
Switching from the old 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine and manual gearbox to a smaller turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission has helped economy greatly. Renault claims 44.8mpg for the new car, up by more than 10mpg over the car it replaces. CO2 emissions also fall to 144g/km - although this figure is higher than both the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi. At 1,206kg, the new car is a little lighter than the old one, which helps to reduce wear on tyres and brakes, but if you plan to take the car on track regularly, it’s best to budget extra for the faster wear rates. The Clio RS is very well equipped as standard, although opting for the firm’s trademark Liquid Yellow paint is a pricey £1,300 option. Still, you can pay for any options with money saved on maintenance, because the Clio comes with Renault's 4+ aftersales package, which includes four years free servicing.