This is the new Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo, and for hot hatch fans it’s as controversial as the latest PDK-only Porsche 911 GT3. Out has gone the old RS Clio 200’s rev-hungry naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine and manual gearbox, and in the pair’s place are a turbocharged 1.6 and dual-clutch transmission.
Renaultsport is hoping the combination will appeal to a wider audience, but to account for the more complex motor and ‘box prices have risen by nearly £2k. Is the new Clio RS as good as the old Clio RS, and is it worth the extra money? Read on for CAR’s review and verdict on the new Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo…
Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo? That last word gives the game away…
Indeed. Renault’s Dieppe-based Renaultsport tuning division openly admits it’s trying to increase sales, both through all-new models (an RS Captur could be on the cards) and by broadening the appeal of its existing range. That means the next Megane RS will almost certainly be offered with a twin-clutch transmission, and the latest fourth-generation Clio RS has swapped its urgent 2.0-litre engine and snappy six-speed manual for a torquier turbocharged 1.6-litre and a paddle-shift ‘box.
There’s still 197bhp (200PS, hence the name) but it’s now produced at 6000rpm, instead of the 7100rpm in the outgoing Clio RS. And more usefully there’s now 177lb ft from 1750rpm all the way to 5500rpm, in place of 159lb ft at a high 5400rpm.
Two-tenths are cut from the 0-62mph sprint (now 6.7 seconds) and the top speed is up a negligible 2mph, but meagre performance gains haven’t been the reason behind the controversial changes. Rather, the switches have been made for the sake of fuel consumption and emissions: 34.4mpg has improved to 44.8mpg, and 195g/km CO2 has dropped 25% to 144g/km.
What’s this new Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo like, both inside and out?
In a pricey coat of Renaultsport-specific Liquid Yellow paint (£1300, because it’s painted twice) the latest hot Clio mostly looks the part, with its deep front spoiler and chunky rear diffuser. But from some angles, notably dead-on, it does look a bit dumpy, a bit like a mini-MPV. The five-door layout (there is no three-door Clio model) doesn’t help either.
There’s no arguing with the changes inside though. Quality is much improved, all cars (as per the latest Clio) get a big tablet-style touchscreen, and those extra doors means access to the back seats is easier. There’s no doubting the new Clio RS Turbo will be a much more pleasant car to live with for the 95% of the time when you’re not hooning down your favourite road.
And how does the new Clio RS 200 Turbo drive?
Easily, at first. You just slot the gearstick into D and mooch about, letting the twin-clutch ‘box automatically shift through the gears. It’s refined on motorways and relaxing in town. Job done – it’ll be a warm GT hatch to the 80% of buyers which Renaultsport says aren’t hardcore fans.
And the other 20%? They won’t get the instant gratification offered up by the old Clio RS. The ride is softer than before, the steering not as instant, ditto the turn-in response, and it all feels a bit grown up. So if you want the full RS experience you need to press the RS Drive button, which toggles between Normal, Sport and Race modes (the latter only available if you shift gears manually). The latter two settings mean heavier steering, more engine noise (it roars and rasps like a Megane RS-lite) and a sharper throttle. And in Race mode (and if you have the throttle pinned) the twin-clutch ‘box shifts in just 150 milliseconds with a satisfying little thunk. It’s almost as satisfying as the old Clio’s short-throw manual, and the 36kg weight saving and extra torque mean the new Clio RS is much quicker than the old Clio RS.
The downside is you can’t mix and match your own settings, and Race mode automatically deactivates the ESP, so those new (and supposedly non-hardcore) customers attracted to the Clio by the chance to play at being Lewis Hamilton with their paddle-shift gearboxes can only do so without an electronic safety net…
The ride is softer because they’re a new rally-style damper, with a hydraulic secondary valve to make the rebound response much more progressive. It means a more composed set-up that better handles rough, undulating roads. Good for cruising cities and crashing over crests in the countryside.
Once again there’s a ‘Cup’ chassis option: £450 buys you a 3mm ride height drop, stiffer springs and dampers, red brake calipers, and 18in gloss black alloys wrapped in sportier Dunlop Sport Maxx TT tyres. In typical Renaultsport fashion we were only allowed to test the Cup-spec Clios on a racetrack (where they obviously felt firmer) so we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve tried a car on UK roads.
The new Clio RS isn’t as satisfying to drive as its predecessor – the more relaxed nature of its engine and chassis, and reduced interactivity of its twin-clutch gearbox sees to that. It’s still better than a VW Polo GTI or Alfa Mito Cloverleaf, a very quick little car in its own right, but that Renaultsport magic is lacking just a little.
On the other hand, it is now a much more appealing daily proposition than before. I ran the outgoing Clio RS for eight months, and while it was a brilliant little hot hatch to blast over the back roads around CAR HQ, it was a bugger to actually live with.
We’re intrigued to see whether the Cup version of the Clio RS 200 Turbo might prove the perfect compromise when we try one UK roads, but for now the new Ford Fiesta ST has already proven itself as rather good, and we test the Peugeot 208 GTi in just a few weeks time…