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Friday 28th September 2012


PH BLOG: IN DEFENCE OF THE CLIO RS

Words in praise of the new Clio RS have been few and far between - Dan attempts to redress the balance


By heck, the new Clio Renaultsport hasn't exactly gone down a storm has it! Last I looked the PH O'Meter was registering 4.2. Not the kind of score you'd expect to see for the newest version of everyone's favourite hot hatch.

197 Cup got Dan hooked on the Clio habit
197 Cup got Dan hooked on the Clio habit
The reasons for the outcry are easy enough to understand, the burden of expectation dumped on the new Clio RS by the outgoing car suitably formidable and new-school stuff like a turbo engine, five doors, dual-clutch transmission and the rest enough of an upset to really rattle the cages of the more purist fans.

Like me. Six months in a 197 Cup long-termer got me hooked on the Renaultsport way of life, this followed by the satisfaction of a long-held dream and purchase of a 172 Cup of my very own. I recall slavishly reading every word on it when it launched thinking "that sounds EXACTLY my kind of car" and just under a decade later I was proved right. OK, it tried to kill me a few times. But we parted friends.

Actual money spent on the 172 Cup that followed
Actual money spent on the 172 Cup that followed
But I'm not as worried about the new Clio RS as most seem to be, even with that emotional baggage. OK, I'll concede the dual-clutch only transmission does sadden me. But the rest? I'm willing to hold judgement until I've driven it. And I think we all should.

Renault folk are bullish too. I put the frosty reaction to the car to someone there and he shrugged it off with "we had the same reaction to the 182 over the 172, the same for the 197 over the 182, etc, etc."

Thing is, Renaultsport cars have rarely been that impressive on paper. The Clio 2 was, frankly a tad over-engined and hardly sophisticated. The 197 heavy, under-geared and with a very peaky power delivery. The responses to criticisms have always been engineering led and not especially easy to communicate in words alone. You can prattle on about the effect of putting Sachs racing dampers with an on-paper value equivalent to 10 per cent of the car's overall cost as much as you like but until you've driven a 182 Trophy you won't understand. And the way a Cup chassis'd 197 or 200 rewards with GT3-like focus and enthusiasm on track remains utterly unique in the hot-hatch market.

Dan out in the 200 at the 'ring earlier this year
Dan out in the 200 at the 'ring earlier this year
The Megane 265 proves Renaultsport can engineer a turbocharged car that thrills and the bigger picture stuff like fuel economy (rarely into the 30s in my 197) and CO2 meant downsized forced induction was inevitable. I can live with that and the Megane's engine is revvy and feisty enough, which bodes well. The Clio 3's kerb weight, rarely mentioned and yet nearly 200kg more than my old 172 Cup, was an issue too, exacerbating that lack of torque. And the new one should be quite a bit lighter, by how much TBC but, typically, Clio 4 is -100kg over the equivalent Clio 3.

Core values, like properly set-up fixed-rate dampers available in Sport or more focused Cup options, are where Renaultsport really shows its class. And if the Clio handles like a lighter, more nimble Megane 265 you'll hear no complaints from me.

So I'm more optimistic than most. It'll be interesting to see how the 208 compares too. With this and the Fiesta ST on the way it's going to be a cracking year for hot hatches...

Dan

Author: Dan Trent