Up next:

Icon buyer: new Renault Clio RS 200 vs used VW Golf R Mk6

Published: 19 July 2016

► New Clio RS 200 vs used Mk6 Golf R
Golf’s 262bhp plays the Clio’s 197bhp
► Which is most fun, though? Find out...

A solid £11k separates a new £30k Mk7 Volkswagen Golf R from a £19k Clio 200 Turbo. But let depreciation kick in and that gulf vanishes, though you do need to step back a generation to the Mk6 Golf R.

Built between 2010 and 2012, Golf R prices typically span £14-£22k. Pay Clio RS money and you’ll bag a corker like the one we’re testing. It’s a late model with 44,000 miles and a full-service history, yours for £19,990 at Volkswizard.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged Mk6 produces 262bhp/258lb ft, and scoots to 62mph in just 5.5sec with help from its Haldex all-wheel drive. The Clio’s 1.6-litre turbo musters 197bhp/192lb ft, and chews its front tyres alone to hit 62mph in 6.7sec.

We loved the old RS Clios, but first impressions don’t auger well. Throttle response is poor, the gear changes slur like a drunk on a storm-tossed frigate, and the ride on our car’s Cup suspension feels just as choppy. I’m not sure I’d know this were a performance car if I hadn’t read the badges.

Press the RenaultSport button hidden near the handbrake (Sport and Race modes available), up the pace and things improve. The Clio is an incredibly agile little machine. Swing the steering at an apex, and it arcs like a stunt plane, all the weight feeling like it’s behind your knees rather than hanging out front. It almost feels unstable, but you quickly acclimatise. Chuck it into faster corners and you have two options: foot in to carry huge speed, foot out to swing the tail, drop the speed and tuck the nose in.

Icon buyer: Clio RS vs Golf R

It’s brilliantly balanced, but it’s still missing that last bit of interaction: this is not a fast car, and when you extend the revs, the engine sounds like a Dyson (Hoover or hairdryer, both applicable), and the steering and gearchange lack sensory engagement. It creates a layer between you and the driving experience.

The two most striking differences when you first drive the Golf are how much faster it feels than the Clio, and how much calmer and higher quality the interior appears. The R is tractable down low, but at 2500rpm it really hits its stride; you wouldn’t mistake it for a shopping car, even if you never ventured past 3500rpm. But it’s the way everything feels so nicely integrated that transforms it into a great driver’s car. The suspension smothers bumps but offers plenty of control – this car’s on standard 18s, fixed dampers – the manual gearbox has a satisfying slickness, and the strong brake feel gives confidence and makes heel-and-toe easy.

There are a few notable differences between this and my long-term Mk7 Golf R: the steering – great steering rim by the way! – is nice and quick, but it feels a little more abrupt in its keenness to self-centre; the engine – and it is a different engine – has a more natural deep note to it; and the Haldex isn’t quite as quick to react, so you can feel the front scrabbling a little more when you push.

But this is still a rapid point-to-point machine, one that feels much faster than the Clio, despite the Clio’s power-to-weight being just 14bhp-per-tonne shy. The Golf even offers similar mid-corner adjustability to the Clio.

Quality and much kit for Clio cash

Servicing & running costs 

The Clio is serviced every 12,500 miles or two years. Typical Renault prices are £168 at 12.5k, 37.5k and 62.5k miles (oil and filter, plus pollen filter), £195 at 25k, 50k, 87.5k miles (as 12.5k, plus air filter), and a big one at 75k for £399 (as 25k, plus spark plugs, coolant, and brake fluid). Renault offers a three-year/30,000-mile service plan for £399, or five-years/50,000-miles for £599.

The Golf R can be based on 10,000-mile/yearly servicing (hard use/city driving), or flexible servicing (normally 18,000-mile intervals). Typical VW prices are: one-year/18k miles (£104, oil, filter); 2-year/36k (£279, plus pollen filter, air filter, spark plugs), 3-year/54k (£191, as 18k, plus brake fluid/Haldex oil), 4-yr/72k (£279, as 36k), 5-yr/90k (£462, as 18k, plus brake fluid/cambelt).

Red details you get, red mist you don’t

Reliability

According to Volkswizard’s Andrew Chapple, Golf R reliability is generally excellent, though the EA113 engine’s Achilles’ heel is the cam follower used to drive the high-pressure fuel pump. ‘This inexpensive part can wear and damage the cam lobe, so inspection at each service is recommended,’ he says. ‘Direct injection can also lead to coking of the inlet tract, reducing performance.’

Manual gearboxes are durable and maintenance-free but DSG transmissions require an oil change every 40,000 miles.  ‘Problems are rare,’ says Chapple, ‘but faulty mechatronics modules aren’t unheard of, and symptoms may not be immediately obvious on a test drive. Clutch packs don’t last forever either, especially if subject to power upgrades and hard use.’

The Haldex awd requires an oil change after three years, although sludging can occur sooner, blocking the pump’s internal filter, preventing the coupling engaging. Spinning front wheels or a diagnostic scan will tell you. Removing the pump, cleaning the filter and changing the oil cures it. Optional 19in alloys can crack on the inner edge due to pothole impacts.

The Renault comes with four years/100k miles comprehensive warranty and roadside assistance. If it breaks, send it back.

Key options

The Renaultsport Clio comes in three flavours: Nav 200 (£19,130), Nav 200 Lux (£20,280) and Nav 220 Trophy (£21,780). Standard equipment on the Trophy is optional on others, including Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres and 18-inch alloys with Cup chassis (£650), or rubber and alloys alone (£300) and part-leather heated seats (£1250). Part-leather bucket seats (£1600) and matt white paint (£1300) are reserved exclusively for Trophy models. You’ll pay £450 for auto climate control, £215 for rear parking sensors or £250 for reversing camera and sensors on the Nav 200, but it’s standard-fit for the rest-of-range. All metallics are at least £495.

Golf R options included 19-inch Talladega alloys (£555), adaptive dampers (£790), cruise control (£230), sunroof (£620), heated front seats/washer jets (£355), metallic/pearl paint (£465), DAB radio (£180), Bluetooth (£250) Dynaudio stereo upgrade (£365), and a choice of touchscreen infotainment (£390) or a bells-and-whistles version with sat-nav and voice control (£1750) or 6CD changer (£2040). There were also parking sensors (£435), rear-view camera (£165 – camera and sensors combined £685), rear airbags (£265), Vienna leather (£1870) or Vienna leather Recaros (£3330 three-door; £3595 five-door). For the final year of production, heated leather and Bluetooth were standard.

Icon buyer: Clio RS vs Golf R

Verdict

Some of our Icon Buyer pairings are real dilemmas, but this win falls clearly to the Golf R. Not only is it more practical and has a higher quality feel, it’s also the more satisfying, more engaging car to drive hard over a great road.

Some VW purists even think the Mk6 R is better than the Mk7: less ubiquitous, still purposeful, better quality, just as good to drive. Will a Mk6 be worth quite as much when all those ex-lease Mk7 Golf Rs flood the market? Probably not, but that’ll only make its case stronger for the used buyer.

The Clio has many strengths, especially its light-footed agility, but it lacks the driver engagement we expect from RenaultSport.  

VW vs Renault: the numbers

Volkswagen Golf R Mk6

Price: £14,000-£24,000
Engine: 1984cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 262bhp @ 6000rpm, 258lb ft @ 2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 5.5sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 33mpg, 199g/km CO2
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Weight/made from: 1476kg/steel
Length/width/height: 4213/2048/1501mm
On sale: 2010-2012

Renault Clio RS 200 Turbo

Price: £20,280
Engine: 1618cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 197bhp @ 6050rpm, 192lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Performance: 6.7sec 0-62mph, 143mph, 47.9mpg, 133g/km CO2
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Weight/made from: 1204kg/steel
Length/width/height: 4090/1732/1432mm
On sale: Now

Owners thoughts

VW Golf R Mk6: Kerrigan Read

‘I bought a Mk6 new in 2012. It was well built, comfy, fast, and stylish enough to get a compliment but discreet enough not to get unwelcome attention. Only after parting with it did I realise how capable it was. Grip in the wet was amazing – taking it through Scotland in the rain still stands as one of my most enjoyable drives. It never missed a beat, and looked and drove as well after 44k miles as when new.’

RS Clio 200 Turbo: Colin Fearon

‘I bought my 63-reg RS Lux with Cup Pack new and I’ve done 9000 miles. It’s hard to get a small five-door car that’s fun in the bends and quickish. Frustrations include a useless dealer, a failed steering column, the gearbox in auto mode, and long-distance comfort. All that is nearly made up for when you drive it on a back road. My wife loves it as a run-around. I’d like it to be a bit faster!’

Read more CAR comparison tests here

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

Comments