Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup

French firm’s supermini hot hatch is back with a brand-new look and even sharper handling

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Renault has managed to improve the Clio in nearly every area – which means a great car just got better. The crisp turn in, mid-corner poise and thrilling power delivery is all first class, and don’t forget that the 200 is just as happy popping to the shops as it is on the track. The Cup variant might be too extreme for some, but the pay off is its focused driving experience. If the sparse interior is putting you off, rest easy, because the Sport model can be ordered with the stiffer Cup chassis.

Renault’s roadgoing race car is back, and it looks better than ever! With sublime handling and great engines, previous Renaultsport Clios have already claimed their places in the hot hatch hall of fame. But can the French firm improve what was already a winning formula?

As the new name suggests, reworking the 2.0-litre motor has resulted in an extra helping of horsepower… all 3bhp of it. Maximum torque of 215Nm is now delivered at 5,400rpm – 150rpm lower than in the Clio 197 – while first, second and third gears have been shortened to improve acceleration. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions show a slight improvement too, at 34.5mpg and 195g/km.

Customers can choose between Sport and Cup chassis. The former puts the emphasis on comfort and throws in more standard kit, while the Cup is engineered for uncompromised driving pleasure.

A lower ride height, 15 per cent stiffer dampers than the current Clio 197 and a quicker steering rack ensures the Cup-spec car feels alive in your hands. But it’s not just for experts – the chassis is beautifully forgiving. Charge into a corner too fast, and a sharp lift of the throttle wipes off the understeer and tightens your line – it really is a flattering car to drive fast.

A rear diffuser, front splitter and boot spoiler not only help to build downforce at speed, but give the car its trademark racy styling. New additions include a revised front end with lower front air intake, new lights and a gloss-black grille. If that’s not enough to get you noticed, the Alien green paint certainly will!

If creature comforts are your thing, look away now: the Cup interior is the same as the entry-level Clio’s. All you get is electric windows and a simple stereo – there’s not even air-conditioning. But it does help shave 36kg off the kerbweight, and keeps the price tag low at £15,750. For that sort of money, nothing comes close to offering the Clio’s dynamics.

Rival: Vauxhall Corsa VXR Performance from the VXR’s 1.6-litre turbo engine is strong, but much of the power is spun away through the front wheels. It can’t match the Clio’s handling finesse, but its brash styling will turn more heads.

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