Renault Clio RS hatchback
Price: £18,995 - £19,995
- Excellent drive
- Stylish looks
- Sharp steering
- Disappointing paddle 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."
The previous Renaultsport Clio 200 was one of the most fun hot hatchbacks money could buy. And while the new car has the same 197bhp power, it uses a 1.6-litre turbo engine instead of a 2.0-litre one, and can only be bought with a six-speed flappy paddle gearbox. Which unfortunately means that some of the fun has been lost – if that fun is important to you, we’d recommend taking a test drive in the Ford Fiesta ST instead – but the new Clio is a much better car on a day-to-day basis, as it's more comfortable and luxurious than ever before. It looks curvier and classier than before, too. The Clio is now more hi-tech, too, with motorsport-inspired suspension and a choice of three driving modes – Normal, Sport and Race – that each bring increasingly exciting driving dynamics. It's available as the standard car or a Lux model that adds more equipment, while buyers can also opt to put the Cup pack on either car, giving harder suspension, quicker steering and grippier tyres. For buyers looking for the sporty styling and handling but at a lower cost then Renault now also offer the Clio GT-Line 120 EDC, which uses the same gearbox as the faster Clio 200 but isn't as fast.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Driving fast will increase costs
Once you’ve bought your Renaultsport Clio, the running costs are largely dependant on what you do with it. Drive it like it's an ordinary - albeit very powerful - Clio and it won’t cost the earth to run. However, if you're tempted to rev the engine too often then your fuel costs will start to soar. The GT-Line model is cheaper to run, as its engine returns 54.3mpg and emissions of just 120g/km.
Interior & comfort
More comfortable than its predecessor
By making the Clio RS less hardcore, the car should appeal to more people. In fact, given the much more luxurious interior, subtle exterior design and ease of driving, it could easily serve as your only car. The special suspension is ok when you’re driving fast, but also does a solid job of absorbing bumps and ruts in the road, while the engine is quiet and gearbox smooth when you’re not driving hard. The sports seats are excellent, too, giving good support but not clamping you in too tight either. The GT-Line model rides well - it's on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so.
Practicality & boot space
Only comes with five doors
Like the rest of the Clio range, the new RS is only available with five doors. But Renault has been careful to keep the design looking smart by hiding the rear door handles up near the rear window. In the front, the driver gets extra adjustment for the seat and steering wheel, making it more comfortable than before, while the same glovebox and cupholders are carried over from the standard Clio hatchback. In the rear, legroom is somewhat compromised by the addition of much thicker sports seats, but the boot remains a decent-sized 300 litres. It's a sensible, deep rectangular shape, too, making it easy to carry luggage.
Reliability & safety
Nissan engine should be a solid bet
Although the 1.6-litre engine is new to the Clio RS, it's already used in the Nissan Juke Nismo and we’ve yet to hear any complaints. The gearbox should be similarly solid, despite its extra complexity - although if you plan to use the car on a track, wear-and-tear on mechanical parts, brake pads and tyres will go up considerably. The Clio also features a host of new technology from the latest Clio hatchback range, and the interior is very similar, albeit with some extra flourishes to distinguish the RS from its lesser siblings.
Engines, drive & performance
Chassis is excellent but new gearbox frustrates
The new Clio RS is a tale of two cars. Take the new engine and gearbox out of the equation and it has a fantastic drive. The motorsport-inspired suspension does a great job of controlling the car's body, even when you’re driving hard and fast, and while the steering doesn’t feed back to you very well it is very precise and grip levels are high. The three driving modes – Normal, Sport and Race – give progressively sportier driving characteristics, with Sport best on the road and Race on the track. The engine does make a lot of noise without actually accelerating that hard, but part of that fault lies with the gearbox, which lacks the smoothness of a full automatic, or the speed or involvement of a manual. It's a shame there's no alternative gearbox as this one is too slow, particularly when changing down. The Cup pack is worth considering if you’re a keen driver, as it further sharpens the drive with grippy tyres and quicker steering.
Price, value for money & options
Well equipped but some options are expensive
There are two versions of the Clio RS to choose from. The regular 200 EDC model comes with air-conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav system, Bluetooth connectivity and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Lux model adds an uprated stereo, R-Link multimedia system and climate control. Both cars can be equipped with the Cup pack, which gives firmer suspension, 18-inch alloys and faster steering, giving the car a more precise but less comfortable ride. Some options are quite expensive, including the signature Liquid Yellow paint, which costs £1,300, and rear parking sensors that are £315 extra. The RS is also £2,000 more expensive to buy than the Ford Fiesta ST - and the Ford is more fun to drive (though not as well equipped).
What the others say
"Impressive ride quality, easy to drive fast and has a comfortable interior, but not as fun to drive as before, slow EDC gearbox, ordinary styling."
"There's no question it's a car that's been honed by hardcore drivers, but in gaining bandwidth to appeal to drivers who until now have felt the RS Clio was too uncompromising, the style of performance is totally different. That doesn’t prevent it from being a very good car in many respects, but it's not yet a great one."
"The new Clio 200 isn't the hardcore hot hatch its predecessor was and as a result it isn't quite as rewarding to drive quickly. Equally, though, there's no arguing that the new car is much easier to live with. Its softer ride and five-door practicality mean it won't annoy on that drab Monday morning when you just want to get to work in peace. For us, though, hot hatches are mainly about fun, so we'd happily trade a little comfort for a few more thrills."
Last updated: 24 Oct 2013