We’ve long been fans of the Clio 197 Cup here at CAR, so when Renault invited us to drive the new 200 Cup at Portugal’s Braga circuit, we were there before you could say Renault Megane Renaultsport F1 Team R26.
It’s a facelift! What a lot of fuss over 3bhp...
Actually, the revisions are more extensive than that. Sure, there’s still a 2.0-litre 16-valve screamer under the hood with just shy of 200bhp (the 200 refers to the metric ps measurement). But there’s also around 20% more torque on tap from low revs, while first, second and third gears are shorter. So where the 197 could feel slightly lethargic, the 200 positively bounds off the line. Better still, both mpg and C02 emissions are marginally improved too.
You’re getting ahead of yourself with all this Cup talk. What about the standard 200?
Unlike the previous model roll-out, the regular 200 and Cup debut simultaneously, but we’ve only driven the driver-focused Renault Clio 200 Cup – an understandable decision on Renault’s part seeing as we were driving solely on track.
This time there’s even more differentiation between the Cup and the 200. Yes, the Cup is still pared back (lower quality dash plastics, plus no air-con, keycard, reach-adjustable steering column, electric mirrors etc), but its chassis is 15% stiffer than its predecessor’s, where the 200’s is 15% softer, giving the two cars more distinct personalities. But don’t worry, you can still spec the Cup chassis on the more luxurious 200 for £400.
>> Click 'Next' to read what the Renault Clio RS 200 is like to drive
What’s the new Renaultsport Clio 200 like to drive?
Fabulous. There’s load of grip, no torque steer and a balance that manages to be both incredibly forgiving at the limit and highly entertaining.
The engine might lack the fireworks of a Honda VTEC lump, but it’s still a thrill to wind out, while the rest of the package works well too. The gearchange feels a little baggy at a standstill, but it’s more accurate at speed, while the Brembo brakes are strong without being hyperactively grabby and the steering (7.5% quicker in Cup spec claim the figure-obsessed engineers!) is responsive and light from the first input, with a well judged progression of weight as you wind on the lock.
The Recaro seats look and feel like a good idea, but they’re £850 extra and sit a little too high for our liking. And the Cup’s lack of rake adjustment for the steering can result in less-than-ideal driving positions.
Mmm, decision time. Clio Cup or basic 200?
There are strong arguments for both. At £15,570, the Cup is £1k cheaper than its sibling (which also comes with softer suspension unless you pay £400 for the Cup spec), and there’s something quite appealing about its single-minded focus. If you’re a track nut who’s already stretching his budget, this is the obvious choice.
Just remember that you’ll probably want to spend £550 on air-conditioning for your Cup, and if you do that you might as well make the leap to the higher quality interior and more luxurious equipment offered on the 200. But then can you afford to treat your 200 to the worthwhile Cup upgrade? Arrghh!
Get the bare bones Cup or the full monty 200, I say.
>> Click 'Next' to read CAR's first drive verdict for the Renault Clio RS 200
No big surprises here: a perennial CAR fave gets nip-and-tuck, and we like it a little bit more. We could be cynical, but we won’t. The Clio 200 Cup is better to drive than either the bags-of-fun Mini Cooper S, Fiat 500 Abarth or Corsa VXR. And, while the new Fiesta’s interior might give it something to worry about, Ford isn’t planning anything similarly sporty.
Where does that leave the Clio Cup? As the best small hot hatch money can buy.