Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup

Facelift and power hike make hot hatch champ better than ever

Tinkering with a winning formula is a recipe for disaster, so has Renaultsport managed to improve on the excellent Clio 197 Cup?

To broaden its appeal, the new-look line-up has been revised. The Renaultsport Clio 200 features softer suspension than before and comes loaded with kit as standard. At £16,750, it’s designed for hot hatch fans who like a bit of comfort.

Thrill seekers should concentrate on the 200 Cup tested here. With its stripped-out cabin and firmer suspension, it is the most focused Clio yet. Its chassis settings come as a £400 option on the flagship, but the raw 200 Cup costs £15,750 – so it’s the most affordable way to join the hot Clio club. That all makes sense, but we’re not convinced by the supermini’s new nose.

While the gloss black trim and flattened profile provide a more distinctive look, it’s far from pretty. It stands out from lesser models, though, with wider front wings, a fresh rear diffuser and red brake calipers.

Climb inside and there are predictably few toys to play with. Air-con is a £550 extra – so electric windows come as a relief in hot weather – and the steering wheel adjusts for height only. Sporty details include a set of perfectly positioned drilled alloy pedals and a leather steering wheel and gearknob.

Our car also featured a pair of optional £850 Recaro seats. These are incredibly supportive and surprisingly comfortable on longer drives. Up front, power has risen from 194bhp to 197bhp. Tweaks to the 2.0-litre engine include the introduction of a new cylinder head, changes to the variable valve timing and fresh electronics – all of which gives 20 per cent more torque at lower revs.

You would expect the 200 Cup to be quick off the mark then – and so it proves. At the test track, the high-revving Renault sprinted from 0-60mph in seven seconds exactly – that’s half-a-second faster than its nearest competitor. However, the turbo Vauxhall was faster during our acceleration tests in third, fourth and sixth gears.

On the road, the Renault feels quicker than its rivals. Working its frenetic engine hard is an utterly absorbing experience as the power builds until its peak output is delivered at 7,100rpm. And the slick six-speed gearbox is the perfect match. The ride is as firm as you expect – the Cup chassis sits 7mm lower than the standard set-up and has stiffer springs and dampers.

You certainly feel bumps and ruts, but the suspension only crashes over the worst potholes and the trade-off is superb body control and agility. With its sharp responses and rev-hungry engine, the Clio comes alive on twisty back roads.

It’s not perfect, as the steering lacks the feel you get in the Fiesta, the body squirms under heavy braking and 23.4mpg economy is poor. Yet the 200 Cup is easily the most involving version of the third-generation Clio – and it will take some beating here.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: With more power, new suspension and a fresh look, Renaultsport model is the Clio range’s performance flagship.

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