Renault Clio RS review
Renault has taken its latest Renault Clio RS hot hatch in a different direction, with a turbocharged engine and five-door body
Both rivals had the edge as they were cheaper and more fun to drive. Yet with its hi-tech twin-clutch gearbox and turbocharged engine, the new Renault Clio RS is a more grown-up package than its hardcore predecessor. Plus, the roomy cabin and five-door layout make it a practical everyday proposition. It also boasts head-turning looks and an equally stylish interior.
Buyers can choose from the £18,995 entry-level car tested here or the £19,995 Lux model, which comes with extra kit, including the brand’s novel R-Link infotainment system. As before, there’s the option of a Cup chassis that features uprated suspension for a sharper drive.
Our choice: Clio Renaultsport 200 EDC Cup
Despite only being available as a five-door, the boldly styled Renault Clio RS matches three-door hot hatch rivals for sporty looks. Dramatic curves and muscular, pumped-up wheelarches help it stand out, while door handles hidden in the C-pillars help disguise the practical five-door layout.
Racy Renaultsport additions include 17-inch alloys, a deeper front bumper and a large tailgate spoiler. Look closer and you’ll also spot the gloss-black door mirrors and squared-off twin-exit exhausts.
The eye-catching styling continues inside, where you’ll find a smartly designed dashboard that neatly combines digital and analogue dials. There are also plenty of sporty cues, including a number of RS logos, chunky front sports seats and large, steering column-mounted gearshift paddles.
Yet despite the use of gloss-black trimfor the dashboard, the cabin seems low rent. It isn’t as solid as rivals’, plus lots of the materials look and feel cheap. And in entry-level guise, the Clio can’t match the Cupra for kit. You get sat-nav, air-con and Bluetooth, but you’ll have to trade up to the £19,995 Lux to match the SEAT’s goodies.
Performance from the 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo is strong and, in combination with the standard launch control, the Clio sprinted from 0-60mph in just 6.7 seconds.
With less torque and only a six-speed gearbox, it couldn’t quite match the eager SEAT for in-gear acceleration, needing a full second longer to sprint from 30-50mph in fourth gear, at 4.5 seconds. But in the real world there’s little to separate our two rivals for performance, with both responding eagerly to the throttle. The Renault’s clunky EDC twin-clutch gearbox isn’t quite so sprightly, though, and can make it difficult to access the full performance potential. Plus, while the transmission delivers smooth and quick shifts in automatic mode, it can be hesitant when you use the steering wheel-mounted paddles, particularly on downshifts.
Unfortunately, the Renault Clio RS is also a mixed bag in corners. There’s plenty of grip, the steering is well weighted and the suspension delivers excellent body control, but it’s not as engaging or adjustable as the best hot hatches, such as the Fiesta ST. You can alter the steering weight and throttle response using the RS Drive system, yet even this fails to deliver real fun. On the plus side, the clever dampers provide a surprisingly supple ride, even on cars fitted with the lower and stiffer Cup chassis.
Renault has worked hard to improve the quality and durability of its cars, with the result that the brand’s Scenic MPV finished in an impressive fourth place in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey. Better still, the dealer network has made similar gains in the past 12 months, finishing in an excellent ninth place, ahead of upmarket brands such as Mercedes, Audi and BMW.
However, the Clio RS model features an untried engine and gearbox combination, plus there are likely be one or two question marks over the reliability of the complicated touchscreen infotainment system.
The company has a strong reputation for safety, so it’s no surprise to find the Clio achieved a five-star Euro NCAP score. Standard kit includes six airbags, stability control and a speed limiter, while the RS adds powerful Brembo brakes, plus an electronic differential that boosts traction in slippery conditions.
A five-door layout allows the Renault to steal a practicality march rivals such as the Ibiza. Not only is it easier to access the rear bench, there’s also more head and legroom once you’re in.And while the loading lip is high, the Renaultsport Clio’s 300-litre boot is one of the biggest in the class. There’s a standard 60:40 split-fold rear seat, too. As you’d expect, handy cubbies and cup-holders are in plentiful supply throughout the cabin, although you don’t get much room in the glovebox, as it also houses the fusebox. Still, there’s good news for drivers, as the low-slung driving position and supportive sports seats mean it’s easy to get comfortable when you’re behind the wheel.
The Renault Clio RS is a supermini at heart, so it promises to be reasonably cost-effective to run. Plus, Renault’s 4+ aftersales package includes a four-year warranty and breakdown cover, and free servicing for the same period.
Residual values are also reasonable – it’s predicted to hold on to 41.5 per cent of its value over three years – and CO2 emissions are respectable, at 144g/km. in our test, we recorded decent economy of 27.0mpg, too.
The trouble is, while the entry-level car’s £18,995 price tag looks attractive in isolation, you’ll have to upgrade to the £19,995 Lux model if you want to match the rivals such as the SEAT Ibiza SC Cupra for standard kit. And then you’ll still have to do without bi-xenon headlamps, which aren’t even available as an option on the Clio.