The Clio 200 is a sensational hot hatch, and this Raider limited edition adds exclusivity. But at nearly £22,000 – £4,700 more than the Cup – it’s costly, especially when the low price is so key to the standard car’s appeal. Driving it back to back with the GT Turbo shows how much more accessible a car’s performance is nowadays. It also proves Renault is in a class of its own for making engaging hot hatches with character.
Renault isn’t afraid of plundering its past. It recently gave us Gordini special editions of the Clio, Twingo and Wind and now it has revived another dormant badge, with the Renaultsport Clio 200 Raider.
The Raider name first appeared on a special edition of the 5 GT Turbo back in 1990, and unlike the Gordini editions it holds no great significance to Renault’s history. In fact, the 5 GT Turbo Raider was originally called the Alain Oreaille Edition in Europe, to commemorate the rally driver’s French rally championship win. The Raider name was only added when it became clear UK buyers had no idea who Oreaille was.
The new Clio Raider looks spectacular with its Stealth Grey matt paint (Diavolo Red is also available). A gloss black finish for the roof, rear spoiler, front splitter, diffuser, mirrors and 18-inch alloys give the car a menacing presence. A Raider badge is stuck to the B-pillar, while inside, a plaque confirms your place in the 50-car UK production run, plus there are leather Recaro sports seats and a white rev counter.
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The GT Turbo looks just as pumped up, with its chunky bodykit and squat stance. Thankfully, this cherished car hasn’t had any of the questionable modifications which were so popular at the time. The unique Sports Blue paintwork is the same colour as used on the first two generations of the Clio Williams, although there are no gold rims here – the Raider comes with 13-inch body-coloured wheels.
The Renaultsport Clio 200 has been one of our favourite hot hatches for a number of years, and the Raider, which is mechanically identical to the £16,930 Cup, does nothing to change that. Hold on to a gear and the Clio feels faster and more alert as the revs rise. The gearchange is snappy and the raspy exhaust note is addictive.
But it’s in corners where the Clio 200 excels, rather than the straights. The front end grips hard as the nose dives in, and small lifts of the throttle allow you to tighten your line whenever you like. It’s conclusive proof that you don’t need masses of horsepower to have serious fun.
Climb into the GT Turbo and you’re instantly made aware of how much progress has been made in 21 years. There’s no power-steering, while the heavy clutch action and seats that you sink into feel alien. But once you experience your first hit of the turbo, it all starts to make sense. The car weighs 830kg and has 120bhp, so it’s still quick, as long as the turbo is on boost.
By today’s standards, the delay between you flexing your right foot and the turbo kicking in is comical, but the way you have to look further down the road and plan ahead is huge fun. In bends it’s more secure than you’d expect – so you can use all of the car’s performance more often than you’d think.
A new Clio is set to arrive in 2012, with a Renaultsport model following soon after, and that means this naturally aspirated engine will probably have to make way for a smaller-capacity turbo. Still, if the 5 GT Turbo is anything to go by, Renault has serious form in that area.