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Budleigh

Original Poster:

70 posts

48 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Friend of mine bought one, and having driven it and mulled around with my thoughts for a solid spell, it's time to post up a review.

Looks
His is silver/Nimbus grey. No stripes, no checkered flags or other addendum. It looks very purposeful, hunkered down on its suspension with fat 17s at each corner. As you walk around the car you take in that it's actually rather large for a small car - but then, most small cars are huge these days. It's got hips (more on this, later), and that really sets it apart from a regular shopping Clio. Walk around to the back and there's a pukka diffuser there with an exhaust at each end. The overall effect is sporty, but in an elegant way - more fencer/horseman than the Corsa OPC's rugby hooligan in track-pants and trainers. And because it doesn't have black boy racer wheels, or a chavvy spoiler on the back, it's actually quite subtle, sort of like Marion Cottilard with a youthful Isabelle Adjani's curves. It looks exciting, and that's half the job done on a car like this.

Interior
The seats are lovely. They're a grippy fabric, in the hot-hatch mould. A nice break from the leather that everyone seems to insist on. They're of excellent density, firm but yielding, and they grip you right at kidney level. Lovely, deep, sculpted things. The driving position is better than most Clios I've been in, because you sit low and everything falls to hand easily, and the pedals are nicely spaced even for my size 10s. The wheel is of a lovely size, and of course that red "This Way Up" line catches the eye immediately. The dials are pretty sporty - red needles and a redline past 7500rpm that tells you this is a rev-happy machine. It's at this point that you glance in the mirrors and realize that visibility is...um, eccentric. The side view isn't too bad, other than those hips which loom in the mirrors like you're in an Italian exotic. The rear view is beset by a trio of headrests (don't know how/why you'd torture three people by making them sit back there) and a rather small rear window. It's also while looking around that you gather how large everything is - compared to my E34, which is a black cave of no mean proportions, this feels massively bigger in front. It's got the usual bells and whistles - proprietary Renault CD player with 6 or 8 speakers (good), climate control (very good), auto-on lights and wipers, the lot. It feels like a quality piece of kit - everything shuts with a solid thunk, and the plastics feel pretty good. Again, there's a sense of occasion from the way you're seated and the way the seats grip you that makes something like a Polo GTI feel very pedestrian.

Driving around
So you're sitting in the car, and you start it up. From the driving position, it feels like you should have a push-button. My mum's Scenic has a push-button. But that's more about the sense of occasion than anything else. So you twist the key and it fires into life and settles into a busy, thrumming idle. From cold, it has that temperamental, slightly lumpy edge you used to hear people speak of with Alfas. It sounds lovely, and that's coming from someone who drives a V8. So you twirl the wheel to exit the parking lot, snick it into first and you notice a few more things. The steering is very direct, even at low speeds. It's muted, but there's definitely a lot of feel. The gearbox is recalcitrant when cold, and so is the engine, which jerks and shuffles along at low speed in an endearingly old-school way. It feels like something that's breathing through individual throttles. So I take it easy for a couple of minutes, let everything warm up nicely. The ride is firm, but well-damped - it always feels controlled and it can be abrupt, but it never jars, unlike the foul damping of some VW/Audi products. At low speeds, you notice that - once warmed up, the engine is actually quite tractable for something that's normally aspirated. It will do lazy pull-aways from a stop-street, but it constantly champs at the bit.

So I drove out onto the R44 and turned up the wick a bit. That gear-change, which was stubborn and balky before, suddenly becomes the model of precision: it's crisp and it snicks through each gear in a most satisfying way. It's a car that rewards rowing the gears, like a true hot-hatch should. The gearing you wield is short and it combines with the engine to catapult you forward on a wave of noise and I-want-more thrust as the revs climb. The engine itself is truly something - it revs up so quickly and eagerly, with a kick as it climbs onto its powerband that becomes quite addictive. One of my favourite things to do was to leave it in third and just prod the throttle, so good was the tractability. The gearing is well-chosen to keep the revs on the boil, so each snap-change drops you right back into the go-zone. It's thoroughly entertaining, and that's just in a straight line.

Throw some twisties in and it rewards and excites. It always seems to be goading you to go faster, turn in more aggressively, throw it into that corner a little more vigorously. The steering comes alive in your hands, and the grip is just immense. I was piling into corners at ridiculous speeds, and it just shrugged everything off. It's a car you mesh with, so intuitive does it become at 10/10ths. You blip the throttle, change down and power through, and the nose finds the apex and you feel like a driving God. I was giggling hysterically after a few swift corners, such is the rate of fun this car serves up.

Of course, when you need to scrub off the speed, the brakes are equally brilliant. Big Brembos that are easy to modulate and have perfect travel and response. They'd stop three Clios, let alone one. And an often-neglected aspect of the hot hatch experience - the headlights are brilliant. You can bomb along on a back-road in complete confidence. It's something the French have always done well.

Living with the thing

My friend tells me it's rather thirsty. He averages 10-12l per hundred km, but it's such a driver's car that you don't really care. Again, it's all in keeping with the hot hatch ethos. Besides, life's too short to worry about fuel consumption - when it runs low, just go and get more. A minor point, given that hot hatches should be able to do the shopping trolley thing as well, is that parking is a test of faith. You can't see the damn nose at all, and the tapering sides must be catered for when you reverse into a parking bay. It becomes second-nature pretty quickly though, aided by very accurate steering. It would be a lovely thing to punt around a city, because it's quick and you can nip into small spaces. It uses a bit of oil if you drive it hard, but that's also in keeping with the nature of the beast.

Negatives

Um...the ride is quite bad if you're sat in the back. But since you don't drive from the back seat, that doesn't really matter. The gearing is quite short, so it never really settles into a cruising clip when you're on the highway. Even sixth gear doesn't seem to drop the revs that much. Again, not really a deal-breaker, as it's got cruise control and at 120-140km/h it's civilised enough to hold a conversation.

What else?

At the money these go for, they're the bargain of the century. It doesn't feel like it's going to blow up (feels more solid than a Polo, at any rate), and it brings a smile to your face on even the most mundane A-to-B run. And when you drive it like your hair's on fire, it rewards in a way I suspect few things at up to double the price will do. I honestly don't get why you'd buy some dull appliance and suffer with it when you can buy one of these.


Now, some pics:






DaveL485

2,628 posts

82 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
Great write up. I agree with you too smile

JamesNotJim

485 posts

71 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
FYI thats looks like a cup model. Which doesn't come with push button start unless you spec it, my full fat one comes with push button start.

D15CO D4VE

338 posts

36 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
JamesNotJim said:
FYI thats looks like a cup model. Which doesn't come with push button start unless you spec it, my full fat one comes with push button start.
What about it looks like a cup?

JamesNotJim

485 posts

71 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
Can't quite tell from photos but the handles look black.
Although saying that, usually the wing mirrors are black too and the OP said it had auto lights and air con too. Someone must of ticked a few options.
I could be wrong but i'd say is was a cup model.

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michaelw3628

177 posts

91 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
It appears to have colour coded side strips and definitely colour coded mirror covers so is a 197, not 197 Cup.

michaelw3628

177 posts

91 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
I don't believe auto lights and climate were available to spec on a Cup.

D15CO D4VE

338 posts

36 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
It was the wheels that confused me they are usually anthracite on the cup?

michaelw3628

177 posts

91 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
Correct about the wheels but in black and white it's difficult to tell and bear in mind it's a photo off a foreign car so specs won't be exact as UK.

GrumpyTwig

1,420 posts

42 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
They aren't for everyone for sure, I'm lucky to average over 25mpg usually a touch under, these days I just don't care as I can't measure smiles per gallon. The ride is...... firm, somewhat harsh but I think it's better in reality than the setup on some german saloons, less jiggly.

The 200 is a smidge better too in a few areas, stiffer, bit more torque etc.

I use it almost every day having done about 26k miles in 28 months I still love driving into work because of it. Even under 4krpm the induction and exhaust note is childishly fun.
At the moment if I wanted I could go pick up a megane but I know I wouldnt enjoy it as much having driven a 265.

Edited by GrumpyTwig on Sunday 30th September 22:58

philmots

3,213 posts

145 months

[news] 
Monday 1st October 2012 quote quote all
Excellent cars...

IIRC the 197 Cup is the stiffest of the lot (certainly feels it!) They softened it up slightly for the 200's.


StoatInACoat

816 posts

70 months

[news] 
Tuesday 2nd October 2012 quote quote all
Nice write up, thanks smile

These are getting cheaper now. Should really grow up and buy something less childish but they do appeal.

oedo

91 posts

86 months

[news] 
Tuesday 2nd October 2012 quote quote all
Great review. I love my 197. Plain, boggo, non-cup, non-recaro'd but it's just a real pleasure to own and drive (fuel consumption aside, but... meh).

Still can't decide on the black wheels. Mine was like this when I bought it and I can't justify the cost of going back to standard. Thankfully the previous owner had all the trim parts (mirror stubs, grills and rear diffuser) sprayed gloss black which matches nicely goes well with the blue paint.


cagedmini

437 posts

31 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Mines Blue but with silver door handles...how do i know if its a cup or not?

michaelw3628

177 posts

91 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
cagedmini said:
Mines Blue but with silver door handles...how do i know if its a cup or not?
Is the side door strip colour coded? Are the brake calipers red? Do you have anthracite alloys? Do you have manually operated door mirrors? Do you have only rake steering wheel adjustment? (As opposed rake and reach).
If your answer to any is yes then the chances are the answer is/ should be yes for all and therefore is a cup model. What plate is it? If before 2007 it's deffo not Cup.

Edited by michaelw3628 on Saturday 6th October 21:31

GrumpyTwig

1,420 posts

42 months

[news] 
Saturday 6th October 2012 quote quote all
philmots said:
Excellent cars...

IIRC the 197 Cup is the stiffest of the lot (certainly feels it!) They softened it up slightly for the 200's.
Nope.

The 200 cup chassis has stiffer ARBs and springs than the 197 cup chassis, however there is a wider diference between the cup chassis and standard chassis with the 200.
So the standard 200 is softer than the standard 197 but the 200 cup chassis is stiffer than 197 cup.

r4_rick

243 posts

100 months

[news] 
Friday 12th October 2012 quote quote all
Great write up

LovelyTia

485 posts

65 months

[news] 
Saturday 13th October 2012 quote quote all
cagedmini said:
Mines Blue but with silver door handles...how do i know if its a cup or not?
197 Cup has black bump/side stripes. Red calipers and anthracite wheels. Very few have A/C. They also have a cheaper dash and (I'm not 100% on this) ignition key start.

standard 197 non cup. Silver calipers, silver alloys. Colour coded side/bump strips. Chunkier dash. More options open to it. Push button start.

Standard 197 with cup pack. As above but red calipers and anthracite alloys. Registered late 2007 onwards.

What a wonderful write up. Its good to see the 197 can still inspire passion in others. I adore mine.

HTP99

4,331 posts

25 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th October 2012 quote quote all
cagedmini said:
Mines Blue but with silver door handles...how do i know if its a cup or not?
Cups have:

Black plastic door handles
Black plastic door and quarter panel rubbing strips
Black manualy adjustable door mirrors
The hard dash from a Clio Extreme or Expression
Door cards from a Clio Extreme or Expression
A key
Cup suspension pack which among other things included anthracite alloys and red Brembo callipers, this is an option on the standard Clio 200 though

Cups don't have:

A/C, however it was an option
Auto lights and wipers
Handsfree Renault card

I think that is it.


Red 4

2,429 posts

72 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th October 2012 quote quote all
HTP99 said:
Cups don't have:

A/C, however it was an option
Auto lights and wipers
Handsfree Renault card

I think that is it.

No front fog lights on a cup.

Rubber pedals as opposed to aluminium.

No cruise control.

Air con was an option but no climate.

No rear speakers / less speakers than a FF ?


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