Renault Clio RS hatchback
Price £16,775 - £21,780
- Excellent to drive
- Stylish looks
- Sharp steering
- Disappointing automatic gearbox
- Not as fun to drive as before
- Pricey optional extras
"The Renaultsport Clio RS has toned down and grown up, so will appeal to more buyers but fans of previous models may be disappointed."
The Renault Clio Renaultsport used to be one of the most fun-to-drive hatchbacks on sale in the UK – capable of showing a clean pair of heals to more exotic (and expensive) cars at a track day, while being as practical as a standard three-door Clio. Its performance came at the expense of everyday usability, though – long motorway drives could be a noisy experience and running costs were relatively high, too.
Those are the two areas the new (five-door only) Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo improves on. It's powered by a more frugal 1.6-litre petrol engine that produces the same power as the old 2.0-litre engine yet is 30% more economical and makes the new Clio even quicker thanks to its more accessible power.
Also new is the six-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox, which comes with Formula One-style gearshift paddles. The Clio can also be set up in three different modes (Normal, Sport and Race) and it has a gimmicky sound synthesiser that can make the Clio sound (from inside) like some more exotic vehicles, including (strangely) a Harley Davidson motorcycle or classic Renaults such as the A610 sports car. To make it easier to live with, the Clio's suspension is now more comfortable and the steering is less sensitive.
The problem is that, in making the 200 appeal to a broader range of buyers, Renault has sacrificed the pin-sharp handling of the old Clio Renaultsport. The new model leans more in corners and dives noticeably under braking. The twin-clutch gearbox makes the car less of a pain to drive in town, but the automatic transmission can’t offer the same driver engagement as a manual gearbox and clutch. The new car may be quicker than the old one, but it's not as much fun to drive.
Renault introduced the 220 Trophy model to try and combat some of these problems, and to a certain extent they were successful. The car has an extra 20bhp, firmer and lower suspension, faster gearchanges and quicker steering, which all result in a more focused driver's car, however there's no escaping the fact the basics aren't quite what they were in previous models.
Buyers have in effect three trim levels to choose from: the Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC, the Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC Lux and the range-topping Clio Renaultsport 220 Trophy. All cars come with cruise control, sat nav and a push-button start, plus systems to make the car even faster, including traction control, electronic stability control and launch control.
Adding all that technology has also pushed up the price, and the Clio Renaultsport 200 and 220 Trophy are significantly more expensive than our Hot Hatch of the Year – the Ford Fiesta ST. In contrast to the Renault, the Ford does without a fancy automatic gearbox and complicated electronics – and it's a better car for it, also beating the Clio's other main rival, the Peugeot 208 GTI.
The Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 is 30% more efficient than the old car and has the strongest second-hand values in the Clio range
It’s more comfortable than before, but the Clio Renaultsport 200 has lost some of the old car’s driver involvement
The Clio Renaultsport 200 is much more comfortable than the old car, but the interior feels cheap
The Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 boasts typical five-door hatchback practicality
The Clio Renaultsport 200 should be more reliable than the old model and is also safer