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Wednesday 25th April 2012

PH Blog: Clio is the unsung hero

Why the Clio got more tracktime at the 'ring than the Artega, Noble or Atom



While Harris scared himself in the Noble and the Atom and I made a song and dance out of driving the Artega GT the real hero of the Destination Nurburgring trackday last month was an unassuming little grey Renault Clio. Well, not that unassuming really, paintwork aside, but compared with the rest of the cars we had there it was in danger of being overlooked.

The harder you push it the better it gets
The harder you push it the better it gets
But in fact I did a lot more laps in that car than I did anything else on the day. And it did its bit for international relations too, officially introducing An American to the world of Euro hot hatches.

I was really looking forward to driving the Artega around the Nordschleife and while it didn't intimidate anything like as much as the monsters Harris brought along it was still someone else's car and on delivery miles at that. Most importantly, however, I didn't want to look like a total numpty, this being my first visit in years.

I've spent plenty of time in hot Clios at the Nordschleife though - my 197 Cup long-termer put in a good few laps there, including this one chasing Ringside Seat man Dale Lomas a couple of years back, so when I spotted the grey Clio driven out by camera guy Neil Carey standing idle I spied an opportunist, er, opportunity. And the perfect car to get my eye in again.

Tenacious is one word that springs to mind
Tenacious is one word that springs to mind
Chris has already sung this little car's praises in his Twizy video but allow me to do the same, briefly. Having run one for six months, and put in a serious number of track miles in this time, I can safely say it's one of the best 'proper' driver's cars on the market for any price.

Truly, it's the 911 GT3 of hot hatches, a point proven by the fact that the harder you push it the better it gets. Most road cars will hang on up to a certain point and then suddenly just call time out and, dynamically, fall to pieces. Not the Clio. It'll look after you if you're finding your feet but, if you're up to it, it'll more than keep pace. It was a pleasure to reacquaint myself, both the Clio and the 'ring too.

Clio in rare stationary moment
Clio in rare stationary moment
But what did our American - Totally That Stupid's Reed Hitchcock - think of it? Reed's no stranger to European cars - or the 'ring in fact. Just ask a major car rental firm about the latter. But other than my witterings at him he'd never been in a proper hot hatch. What better than the Clio to show him what they can do!

So, the Stateside view of such cars? "I've read about so-called "hot hatches" in English magazines but frankly always sort of dismissed them as cars that wanted to be much more than they were," he says. Oh. And Renaults? "Renault left the US market in the late 1980s. The impression they left with us American car guys was of underpowered, poorly-constructed crapboxes. The very word "Renault" evokes visions of what was sold on our shores as the "LeCar" - or the R5 as it was known in Europe - in varying states of disrepair."

'Clio Elbow' especially harsh here
'Clio Elbow' especially harsh here
Time for a Clio charm offensive then. No drive this time but the view from the passenger seat? "My first thought was that Renault has come a long way in the last 25 years! 130+ miles per hour in the straightaway after the gantry was impressive! Moreover, the overall quality of the car tells the story of a well-engineered performance car conceived and manufactured by car enthusiasts. This was most certainly not your Grandpere's Renault!"

Are hot hatches ever going to catch on in the states then? "Right now, the closest things we have to cars like the Clio are the fun but tubby Golf GTI, the Scooby Impreza, the Mini Cooper, and the Mitsubishi Evo - cars that all score very highly in the American motoring press, but in reality serve niche markets among young, upward car enthusiasts who live where the roads actually curve, or who think they're 'cute.'"

The GT3 of hot hatches, reckons Dan
The GT3 of hot hatches, reckons Dan
And in the meantime Reed's hoping sales of Fiat 500s and Minis go well enough to convince a few more European hot hatches to jump the pond "so I can have a chance to drive cars like the Clio on my own favourite back roads!"

Dan

 

Track pics by Frozenspeed

Dan Trent
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Author Discussion

DanDC5

Original Poster:

8,922 posts

53 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Love the colour of that car. Hot hatches really are the best performance cars you can buy imo. Cheap to run, quick enough to be entertaining but usable in every situation.

Why do I keep thinking about swapping the Integra for a 197/200 Clio when I'm not sure it would be better? Maybe just the idea of building a cup race car replica biggrin

herebebeasties

296 posts

105 months

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Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
First time I've heard a Scooby called "cute". :-)

900T-R

19,452 posts

143 months

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Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
DanDC5 said:
Love the colour of that car.
yes

Dan Trent

1,001 posts

54 months

PH Editor Bloke

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
DanDC5 said:
Maybe just the idea of building a cup race car replica biggrin
I like this idea. Keep us posted!

FlavaDave

190 posts

45 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
DanDC5 said:
Love the colour of that car. Hot hatches really are the best performance cars you can buy imo. Cheap to run, quick enough to be entertaining but usable in every situation.

Why do I keep thinking about swapping the Integra for a 197/200 Clio when I'm not sure it would be better? Maybe just the idea of building a cup race car replica biggrin
I once went from 172 cup TO Integra THEN BACK to 172 cup. Integra has had it's day IMO.
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jbi

8,027 posts

90 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Sad to say but Renault really hasn't improved much since they left the states years ago... Stick with Nissan/Infiniti

Frimley111R

5,759 posts

120 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Bloody awful colour. Looks like primer! Can anything be duller than non-metallic grey?

DanDC5

Original Poster:

8,922 posts

53 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Dan Trent said:
DanDC5 said:
Maybe just the idea of building a cup race car replica biggrin
I like this idea. Keep us posted!
I keep looking through the classifieds looking for a car that takes my fancy. Think I need to go out and take one for a test drive....

mat205125

14,776 posts

99 months

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Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
I'm finding it hard to resist one of these to be honest.

PaulMoor

1,621 posts

49 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
herebebeasties said:
First time I've heard a Scooby called "cute". :-)
Or an Evo. Bank robbers or drug dealers car, yes, or Looks like It'll punch me, but never Cute.

foxspeed

20 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
jbi said:
Sad to say but Renault really hasn't improved much since they left the states years ago... Stick with Nissan/Infiniti
so thats why they have a write up like this.....mmmm ill informed!

Rs2oo

1,836 posts

84 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
jbi said:
Sad to say but Renault really hasn't improved much since they left the states years ago... Stick with Nissan/Infiniti
So in approx. 24 years they have not improved much ? Have you seen the awards and accolades the RS Clio has had ? I have one of these cars and it is better than my Elise. "stick with Nissan/infinity". Which Nissan can do what the Clio can do ? New GTR aside at £74,000. Most of the Renault range is not for me but neither is a Nissan Note, Micra, Pixo, Leaf etc but Renault have produced 2 amazing cars in the Renaultsport Clio and Megane and full credit to them.

deadmau5

3,142 posts

66 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
I bought a Clio 197 R27 after having a Mk3 MR2. I haven't regretted it at all. Without wanting to spark another RWD v FWD debate, the Clio is more fun to drive IMHO.

Butter Face

8,760 posts

46 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Great write up, I miss mine. Want another.

DanDC5

Original Poster:

8,922 posts

53 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Looking through the classifieds I'm quite liking powder blue with white wheels. Then some PH graphics as 'sponsors' biggrin


LewisR

536 posts

101 months

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Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
It'll be a sad day when I desire a FWD hatchback*

  • That excludes the Saab 900 Turbo 16S.

Cheib

9,136 posts

61 months

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Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Anyone who owns multiple cars should have a hot hatch....just a question of which one!

Our family car is an X5 and the wife's car is a Golf Gti.....it's a great balance. Admittedly the Gti is not very hardcore but it's the wife's and is used for transportation of saucepan's and shopping.

FoundOnRoadside

436 posts

30 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
jbi said:
Sad to say but Renault really hasn't improved much since they left the states years ago... Stick with Nissan/Infiniti
Whatever you're smoking, lay off it. It's bad, mmmkay?

nick-elise

109 posts

98 months

[news] 
Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
I greatly miss my 197 R27, I took it round the ring a couple of times and I really thought it was awesome! Im not the fastest driver out there but found it was so accessible. I have owned numerous cars since (elise, ctr, cooper s) and nothing has come close to the overall package of the clio. So much fun to drive hard! Shame it has now been replaced with a house frown

TomTVR500

219 posts

47 months

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Wednesday 25th April 2012 quote quote all
Simply brilliant cars. The closest I have come to swapping my 182 Cup was the other week when my friend purchased a Megane R26.
It's a very very impressive car. It grips harder, carries more speed through corners and out accelerates my Clio quite embarrassingly thanks to its turbo 2.0 and has 6 gears.
BUT it feels enormous compared to my little go kart and the engine doesn't rev forever and sing like the Clio.

Still thinking it through..... either way, Renaultsports are my favourite hot hatches by miles.

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