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Wednesday 14th November 2007

PH Heroes: Clio Trophy

Lightweight French hatchback that showed less really is more, writes Tom Phillips



Here at PistonHeads we like lots of cars, for lots of different reasons. But not many really hit the spot and leave their mark on automotive history. What metal will we still look back fondly on in 20 or 30 years? Which road warriors have a special place in our heart, regardless of badge or price? These are the PistonHeads Heroes and today sees the start of a new feature by the same name. First up is the Clio Trophy...

 

According to just about every doom-mongering 24-hour news service, the UK is in the throes of an obesity crisis. The nation’s waistlines are ballooning, we’ll all soon need to whir around on mobility scooters and will need a small crane to get us out of bed.

A far-fetched tabloid vision of a rotund dystopia this may be, but there is some substance to this overweight vision that we should really wake-up and take notice of.

The problem is one of high expectations: if we expect every consumer product to be exquisite, on-demand and economical, compromises have to be made. If you want your clothes to be stylish and affordable, exploitative sweatshops are required; if you want your dinner to be tasty and instantaneous, then large quantities of salt and saturated fat will be served up too.

This trend has extended to our cars, with most new metal pandering to demands for more toys, safety gear and superfluous trimmings. Our lifestyles make convenience the king, and everything from our bellies to our hot hatches will put on more than a few pounds.

But when did it all go wrong? When did we accept compromise for the sake of convenience?If the Clio Trophy is anything to go by, it’s not that long ago at all.


Order books for Renault’s last hoorah for the second generation Clio opened on May 30th 2005, with production scheduled to be wound up at Renaultsport’s factory in Dieppe by September of the same year.

Limited to just 500 UK-only specials (plus a special consignment of 25 left-hookers for Switzerland, bizarrely enough), the £15,500 Trophy was the zenith of contemporary hot hatches and, refreshingly, compromise was not on the menu.

Only available in a delicious shade of Capsicum Red, the Trophy’s exterior gained the larger spoiler from the mid-engined, slightly nutty Clio V6. The look was completed with some tasty anthracite Speedline Turini wheels which shave 1.3 kilos per corner off the 182 Cup, on which the Trophy is based.

Under the bonnet, Renault wisely shied away from fiddling with the already-gutsy 2.0-litre 182 bhp engine. Instead, the focus was on making the car grip and corner like no other contemporary rival.

For this reason, the car sports a 10mm lower ride height, SACHS remote-reservoir dampers re-rated by +20% and +10%, and springs stiffened by 20% and 15% front and rear respectively. Renault also revised the geometry of the steering, and replaced the elastometric bump stops with hydraulic ones to dial out almost all traces of understeer and sharpen turn in response. Uprated front hub carriers were also included to deal with the higher cornering forces.

The sum of all of these rather cerebral upgrades saw no real gains over the headline performance figures of the standard 182 Cup. However, on a twisty B-road the extra compliance transmitted through the body-hugging Recaros and revised steering wheel are enough to show a clean pair of heels to pretty much everything, when in the right hands.


Get in one today and it’s obvious that Renault’s stylists did their best to mask the dated design of the second generation Clio. While the tell-tale signs of age are obvious to behold, they are strangely endearing: the spindly A-pillars don’t obstruct your view at junctions unlike the car’s more portly younger brother, the 197; the dials glow with a distinctly 80s orange fervour, and the car’s overall proportions help to make the Trophy feel small, lithe and agile.

We sampled number 341, a two-owner car which has benefited from a couple of upgrades thanks to regular exercise on the track. An ITG Panel Air filter helps the motor breathe a little more freely, while Brembo High Carbon Discs, Ferodo DS2500 Pads and Goodridge Braided Brake Lines inspire more confidence after repeated hard stops. The rims are now shod with Yokohama Parada Spec-2s instead of the bespoke Michelin Exaltos, and provide a little extra friction in the dry, in exchange for a few involuntary clenching moments in the wet.

On the move at low speeds, the car is as benign as the student-friendly Clio Campus, with the only nod to performance being the very firm ride: if you are sporting anything approaching love handles, be prepared to have your jowls jangled.


However as the revs rise, the Trophy really builds speed with an urgency that exemplifies why modest power and light weight make such an addictive combination. With the electronic wink of the traction control cutting in as the car flicks out of a deeply-dished roundabout, acceleration has a real relentless quality, which hardens further when the variable valves squeeze out a few extra horses at around 5,500rpm. All that remains is to wait for the green shift light to blink before snatching the next of the car’s five gears. Be quick mind, as the gap between light and limiter is a tight squeeze.

What would be transmitted though the cabin as belligerent lumps and bumps at a dawdle are flattened once the car and dampers are fully up to speed - the fact that the car was honed on the Great British B-road really shining through. When attacking even the most scarred patchwork of tarmac, the dampers keep wheels in touch with the road so that nothing but pure acceleration or braking affects the Trophy’s progress.

For a car that was launched to great acclaim just two years ago, I can’t help but feel that modern producers of seminal hot hatches - Renault, Peugeot, VW et al - have made grave mistakes by allowing consumers to get away with their demands for excessive additions. When lifestyles are geared towards convenience, the bloated bodies of the population are a by-product of the fact that the customer doesn’t always know best.

Instead of worrying about sat nav, whether you can plug your iPod into the stereo or redundant diffusers, take a look at the Trophy: it’ll take you to the shops to buy all your heart desires; it’ll squeeze in four adults for a short journey; it’ll do everything that any other car can do. But best of all, you can point the bonnet at a blinding B-road and it’ll remind you of what really matters.

PH Hero Rating: 8/10





 

 

thomtum
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Author Discussion

Cookie172

Original Poster:

696 posts

94 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Regarding the green light.. it's not really a shift light, it's just warning you that you're about to slam into the limiter tongue out

900T-R

19,308 posts

140 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Cookie172 said:
Regarding the green light.. it's not really a shift light, it's just warning you that you're about to slam into the limiter tongue out
Personally, I'd call that a shift light alright. winkbiggrin

Cookie172

Original Poster:

696 posts

94 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
900T-R said:
Cookie172 said:
Regarding the green light.. it's not really a shift light, it's just warning you that you're about to slam into the limiter tongue out
Personally, I'd call that a shift light alright. winkbiggrin
Sorry that was fuzzy, it's early tongue out

It's not an indication that it's an optimum time to shift up

BOBBY G

454 posts

93 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Yes the Clio Trophy is a great drive.
However, my wifes car was off the road for 5 whole months for a new wiring loom that had to be specially made, the level of incompetence from Renault was flabberghasting. Since then things have been going on the blink lots and it has spent numerous more weeks in and out of the dealers. The latest was a valve spring failure. Not very good for a 2 year old car with 25,000 miles.

Keep reading loads of great things about the trophy, and they are true when it actually works....BUT ours has been utter sh*te!!!!!!

Bob.

RobM77

24,977 posts

117 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
yes An amazing car. No mention of the fact you need to look like this to get comfortable in one though:



Which is a shame, as the Trophy and the V6 are very high on my list of favourite cars.
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Martin_Hx

2,248 posts

81 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Prefer a type-r myself :P

Im not biased at all ! smile

Edited by Martin_Hx on Wednesday 14th November 11:53

EvoBarry

1,635 posts

148 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Martin_Hx said:
Prefer a type-r myself :P

Im not biased at all ! smile
Well, EVO seemed to prefer the TypeR over the Trophy too wink Not that I'm biased either...

CooperS

3,032 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Two different feel of cars thou. I've driven a mates CTR MY55 and although it feels alot faster in a straight line and is much smoother motorway wise, on the B roads i had no confidence in the steering or ability to generate enought power without wipping down the road at 60 in 2nd gear?

I think the the Cliosports 1*2 maybe the last back to basic hothatches we'll see but thats not to say you cant make todays modern hothatches raw and perform just as well it just means you cant get them out of the dealership that way. And lets face it if your serious about taking it to the track or fast road use you'll mod it anyway?

pbirkett

9,450 posts

155 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
EvoBarry said:
Martin_Hx said:
Prefer a type-r myself :P

Im not biased at all ! smile
Well, EVO seemed to prefer the TypeR over the Trophy too wink Not that I'm biased either...
Yes, the "proper" Type R though, not that breadvan thingy biggrin

pbirkett

9,450 posts

155 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
CooperS said:
Two different feel of cars thou. I've driven a mates CTR MY55 and although it feels alot faster in a straight line and is much smoother motorway wise, on the B roads i had no confidence in the steering or ability to generate enought power without wipping down the road at 60 in 2nd gear?

I think the the Cliosports 1*2 maybe the last back to basic hothatches we'll see but thats not to say you cant make todays modern hothatches raw and perform just as well it just means you cant get them out of the dealership that way. And lets face it if your serious about taking it to the track or fast road use you'll mod it anyway?
I used to own a standard 182, not even cup packed, and I drove a CTR, and I still much preferred the clio.

Each to their own though.

However a proper Type R is different kettle of fish biggrin

Gad-Westy

6,749 posts

96 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
CooperS said:
Two different feel of cars thou. I've driven a mates CTR MY55 and although it feels alot faster in a straight line and is much smoother motorway wise, on the B roads i had no confidence in the steering or ability to generate enought power without wipping down the road at 60 in 2nd gear?

I think the the Cliosports 1*2 maybe the last back to basic hothatches we'll see but thats not to say you cant make todays modern hothatches raw and perform just as well it just means you cant get them out of the dealership that way. And lets face it if your serious about taking it to the track or fast road use you'll mod it anyway?
I think the chaps above were referring to the Intergra rather than the CTR. A rather different car.

Riknos

4,165 posts

87 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Never been a fan of clios, or french cars for that matter.
Heard people raving on about these, but are they actually any good?
Ok, so they probably handle better then your run of the mill FWD shopping trolley, but is it actually good at handling? Is it as much fun on the twistys as say an elise or a scooby, while still having some pace unlike say an MX5?

pbirkett

9,450 posts

155 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Not driven a scooby so dont know. Doubt its as much fun as an elise or vx220. Better than a standard MX5 IMO as its much faster (and feels it) and has better brakes etc.

Handling wise, my standard 182 had lots of grip and a very keen turn in, very nimble, and you could be a proper hooligan with it, but I have driven better handling cars. I'd imagine its better than any similar aged hot hatch though.

900T-R

19,308 posts

140 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Riknos said:
Never been a fan of clios, or french cars for that matter.
Heard people raving on about these, but are they actually any good?
Ok, so they probably handle better then your run of the mill FWD shopping trolley, but is it actually good at handling?
Oh no not again. Put it this way: that FWD shopping trolley came third in ECOTY '06... that is, in the supercar shootout after having pummelled all the 'affordable' contestants (that is, erm , up to £46K or so) in the first round.

As it's not like it's been placed that high for its immense straight line performance, unreal amounts of outright grip, its evocative looks or the sense of occasion when sitting in it hehe which leaves, erm, the fact that it handles, sort of...

Edited by 900T-R on Wednesday 14th November 12:54

ikonic

136 posts

81 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
8/10??

Sorry, but the Trophy deserves a 9.

It is put simply the greatest hot hatch ever.

(Yes, better than the Williams and 205 Gti...)

cowellsj

681 posts

82 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
BOBBY G said:
Yes the Clio Trophy is a great drive.
However, my wifes car was off the road for 5 whole months for a new wiring loom that had to be specially made, the level of incompetence from Renault was flabberghasting. Since then things have been going on the blink lots and it has spent numerous more weeks in and out of the dealers. The latest was a valve spring failure. Not very good for a 2 year old car with 25,000 miles.

Keep reading loads of great things about the trophy, and they are true when it actually works....BUT ours has been utter sh*te!!!!!!

Bob.
I've had pretty much the same experience with my 172. While I am prepared to admit that the car has had more than it's fair share of faults and niggles, the real problem has been with the dealers.

From my experience, most of the dealers simply haven't got a clue, most of the people i've had to deal with wouldn't know how to wipe their own arse.

At one point I spent 8 months waiting for them to replace my cars steering rack, in the end it was parked up for 6 weeks because they told me it wasn't safe to drive. furious

On another occassion it broke down 2hrs after a service because someone couldn't be bothered to plug all the HT leads back in again. Don't worry Renault, I spent 2hrs parked on a cold wet dual carriageway that night, bunch of fcensored useless wcensoredrs. furious

If Renault gave their dealers a good kicking and stamped out this sort of incompetance they would be unstoppable. I'm sure it puts off a great deal of potential buyers, it certainly put me off the Trophy and much as i'd like to spend £20k on a new Megane R26, it'll probably be VW or Subaru who get my cash this time.

BOBBY G

454 posts

93 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Got and elise, had a scooby 05 STI PPP, and wife got the trophy.

Elise tops for driver enjoyment, but only just pips the trophy, they are a total hoot!

Scoob is good, but not as much fun.

Ed.

1,181 posts

121 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Would like one for a fun car

Ianeire

457 posts

88 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
Would love to try one at some point to see how improved over my Phase 1 172 it is.

Fantastic little cars. I'd pick one time and time again over every and any derivitive of typeR, but that's just me.

cooleo

12 posts

84 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th November 2007 quote quote all
What about the corsa SRI? 1.8 Thats a truly underrated Hot Hatch. Anyone elese agree?
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