We chart the progress of our Mazda CX-5 2.2D Sport Nav on its long-term test
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo review (2013 onwards)
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo: Summary
New Clio Renaultsport 200 hot hatch gets Turbo engine, EDC paddleshift gearbox and tempting price as Renault looks to broaden appeal
What: Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo (2013 onwards)
Where: Granada, Spain
Date: March 2013
Price: £18,995 - £19.995
Available: On sale in April, arriving in June
Key rivals: Ford Fiesta ST, MINI Cooper S, Peugeot 208 GTi, SEAT Ibiza Cupra, Skoda Fabia vRS, Vauxhall Corsa VXR, Volkswagen Polo GTI
We like: great through the corners, much improved ride quality, high-tech gadgets
We don’t like: lacks feel and involvement of previous car (and best rivals), EDC gearbox not to all tastes
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo: First impressions
Let’s take a moment to mourn the passing of the third generation Renault Clio Renaultsport: we will never see its like again. Powered by a big 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine, this seminal hot hatch demanded high revving commitment and a tolerant spine in exchange for the involving reward of its driving experience.
It was a choice for extremists – especially in track-happy Cup guise – with the running costs to match when pressing on. This new fourth generation Renault Clio Renaultsport is a little bit different. Which, in an effort to reach a broader range of buyers, brings both good and bad news, depending on your point of view.
Question is: will the Renaultsport still attract the loyal owners who so treasured previous hot Clios?
Its full title is the Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo, and as that suggests, it matches the old car’s 200hp output. But does so via a new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which promises to improve "driveability" and economy; Renaultsport’s version of the motor from the Nissan Juke Nismo.
This is far from the only change that’s going to take some getting used to, however. Most controversially, from an enthusiastic driver’s perspective, in place of the previous six-speed manual gearbox, Renaultsport has chosen to deploy an EDC – Efficient Dual Clutch – automatic with paddleshifters.
Beyond that, there’s also a new understeer-averting "RS Diff" to help the front wheels put the power to the tarmac, new damper technology to increase the ride comfort, a launch control system, and an optional data logger. Motorsport-inspired tech, hoping to attract a new generation of performance customers.
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo: Performance
You must have heard the old saying: ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. And while there is no doubting the new Clio Renaultsport will appeal to more people as a result of the changes, the question is whether it’s still going to attract the loyal owners who so treasured the three preceding versions?
Especially with hot new rivals such as the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi also joining the fray at exactly the same time. Both of these alternatives offer comparable performance, but both have elected to stick with a manual gearbox. So let’s deal with the EDC issue first of all.
Of its type, it’s a pretty decent effort. The Clio comes with three selectable driving modes, Normal, Sport and Race, and in addition to changing the throttle map and steering weight, these accelerate the gearshift times – to the point where the paddleshift-only Race has them down to just 150 milliseconds. Snappy.
What’s more, it even has a multi-downchange function. Grab and hold the left-hand paddle as you’re hurrying into a corner, and it will bang down the ’box to the lowest possible gear, ready to project you out the other side. A trick that’s previously been the preserve of supercars.
In other words, the EDC does everything it can to make the Clio easier to drive fast, while also giving you the luxury of full automatic when you’re in traffic. But no matter how Formula 1 this is, there’s also no denying it removes some of the involvement – and, yes, the skill and satisfaction – from the driving process.
Don’t think the engine is going to compensate you here, either, even if 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds is quicker than both new rivals, and launch control means you can achieve this at whim.
Not helped by strangely spaced gearing – third to fourth, especially, but second is surprisingly short as well – the new 1.6 often lacks conviction, despite a flatter, fatter 177lb ft turbo-boosted torque curve. There’s far less of the fireball feeling you get with the Fiesta ST, and the noise is no-where near as evocative.
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo: Ride and handling
Still, the Clio has always suffered with ‘difficult’ powertrains, and this one will most definitely be far more acceptable to that wider range of customers Renault is after than the old one, which was hard work at anything but full chat. Better yet, Renaultsport’s legendary handling prowess remains present and correct.
Point it down a twisting, challenging road – or round a race track – and as long as you’re prepared to push the speed enough, the Clio will light up apexes like a mongoose chasing a snake through a pinball machine. The grip to agility balance is beautifully fluid, and given time you’ll soon have the whole car dancing.
A lower, harder Cup chassis pack is available - which showed promise when we drove it on track
The electrically assisted steering isn’t wildly communicative, but the new dampers are clever. These have "hydraulic compression stops", a technology from rallying never used on a road car before which functions like a secondary damper within the main unit. The result is firm body control that isn’t upset by sudden bumps
This is all very well, but the Fiesta ST felt at least as compliant without going to such lengths – though every Clio test car was on the optional 18-inch alloy wheel upgrade; stick to the standard 17s and it’s likely the effect will be more pronounced. Either way, it’s certainly much more comfortable than the old Clio.
Speaking of the Fiesta, Renaultsport’s new "RS Diff" does the same job as Ford’s eTVC torque vectoring system. So-called "microbraking" applications are used to stop the inside front wheel from spinning during corners, quelling understeer and increasing grip. The Clio’s system feels more heavy-handed, however.
Taken as a whole, while impressive once you’re going fast enough, the Renault isn’t as instantly engaging as the Ford. Though, as with previous versions, there is a lower, harder Cup chassis pack available for £450. This showed promise when we drove it on track, but we can’t yet comment about how it is on the road.
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo: Interior
If it’s important that your racy small car is also practical, then the Clio is definitely at an advantage – mostly because it isn’t actually that small. In a change to prior Renaultsport variants, it also only comes as a five-door, making it easy to access the extra rear legroom. The boot is a sizable 300 litres big.
The Renaultsport comes in normal and Lux specification; fit and finish inside is generally acceptable, though there are some hard plastics and the fitted sport seats aren’t as supportive as – again – those in the Fiesta. The paddleshifters are nicely aluminium, however, and you get satellite navigation as standard.
The Lux version upgrades this to Renault’s latest R-Link system, which can be optionally enhanced with "Renaultsport Monitor V2" – high-tech on-board telemetry that will allow trackday fans to analyse their lap performance in detail. No other hot hatch has anything like this, so extra bonus geek points there.
The new Clio Renaultsport is 25% more efficient than the car before
R-Link also includes R-Sound, which gives you the option to play different engine noises over the Clio’s speakers. In addition to the four existing choices including a spaceship and motorbike, there are three new sounds for the Renaultsport: Alpine A110, R8 Gordini and Nissan GT-R.
A gimmick, but perhaps better than the noise the Clio actually makes. Even with a ‘sound pipe’ porting the induction roar directly into the cabin, you can only enjoy the strangely Subaru-esque lower rev burble for a short while before a kind of scouring turbo noise begins to dominate. It’s almost unpleasant.
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo: Economy and safety
The new Clio Renaultsport is 25% more efficient than the old Clio Renaultsport – an achievement that’s largely down to the new engine. Claimed fuel consumption is 44.8mpg combined, with 144g/km CO2 emissions. Don’t expect to match this at pace.
Like the standard Clio, the Renaultsport has five Euro NCAP stars, six airbags and stability control. This last comes in three stages here – matched to the standard, Sport and Race driving modes; in Race mode it is all the way off. Bigger brakes means it stops better than ever.
Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo: The MSN Cars verdict
We have to say, we’re disappointed. We were hoping the new Clio Renaultsport would explode out of the starting blocks and blow us away – but having driven the Fiesta ST just days before we also knew it was facing fierce competition, and the Renault doesn’t come anywhere near to making as immediate an impression.
However, the more we drove the car, the more we liked it – it’s clearly a grower, and it will certainly appeal to a broader customer base than the car before. The Cup chassis should please keener drivers, too, and we can’t wait to get an extended go in that on the road.
As for the price, the Clio looks great value compared to paddleshift rivals like the less powerful but more expensive Volkswagen Polo GTI, and is only £100 more than the manual gearbox Peugeot 208 GTi, which we’ll be driving in a couple of weeks’ time. But it still costs £2,000 more than that pesky Fiesta ST…
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
MSN Cars takes a look back at one of the most iconic motoring creations of the 20th Century, the Porsche 911.
Date 10/12/13, Duration 2:31, Views 515