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Thursday 4th October 2012


NEW CLIO: RENAULTSPORT TALKS BACK!

What's with the new Renaultsport Clio? Maybe a chat with the project leader can calm our fears...


The new Renaultsport Clio looks good. Sitting immediately adjacent to French arch rivals Peugeot in the show hall at Paris, it trumps the 208 GTI for visual drama. But looks are only really a frippery. The vital thing about any Renault product emerging from the gates of Dieppe is that it goes like the clappers and fixes a lasting grin across your chops.

New Clio looks the part on the show floor
New Clio looks the part on the show floor
Will the apparently controversial new Clio RS deliver? It's too early to get a drive, but there's a man standing next to me who can give us a clue. His name is Arnaud Barton, and he's the Product Manager for Clio Renaultsport. If only his manager wasn't standing right next to him...

While it's not all bad news about the new car, there is plenty to ponder. Starting with the fact Barton is keen to point out that the new RS Clio has been deliberately designed to appeal to a wider audience.

"One of the key goals for the new car was to get back to the core market, to make the car more versatile - more so than the current RS model," he says. "The main reason to abandon the 2.0 engine was to give more torque at earlier rpms."

Doesn't sound great so far. But Barton is adamant. "[The new 1.6 turbo] should make it more fun to drive than the current car, with better performance. The responses we received from our customer surveys said that the majority wanted to go with a turbocharged engine."

Up the creek with two flappy paddles...
Up the creek with two flappy paddles...
Interesting news given the reception the RS has had so far from PHers. It's a similar story with the switch to a dual-clutch paddleshift gearbox but, according to Barton, it's more involving too.

While emissions are obviously lurking behind the change - efficiency was a major factor in the new RS Clio's development - Barton offers a plus side. "We can tell you the gearbox shifts in 150ms in Race mode," he boasts. That's faster than the DSG in the Scirocco, he points out with a grin. But whoever said VW's flappy-paddle coupe was the last word in entertainment?

Together the engine and 'box "give better performance, more drivability and improved emissions" reckons Barton. He's reluctant to divulge any specifics, though his superior does eventually give the nod to "upwards of a 10 per cent improvement in CO2 emissions over the current normally aspirated car." (190g/km for the record)

Barton also highlights how "the car is very nearly the same weight as the current RS Clio despite being a five-door". Sounds like he thinks we should be impressed. Shame we were actually hoping for a weight reduction - especially since the regular Clio is claiming savings of up to 100kg compared to its predecessor.

Weight savings over current car minimal
Weight savings over current car minimal
Even with the extra doors "the chassis characteristics will be very similar," Barton assures, "although it'll be more comfortable." The new car is also slightly wider and slightly lower than before. Crucially, the hottest Clio will still have fixed rate dampers, and offer the traditional standard and Cup specification set-ups.

No electronic tweakery for the suspension does at least suggest someone was prepared to make a firm statement about how the Clio Renaultsport should behave. That doesn't mean there isn't any electronic intervention at all, however. Swapping between Race, Normal and Sport modes will alter the steering weight as well as the shift speed, for one thing.

More alarmingly "the engine sound will be enhanced electronically," Barton confirms, to the dismay of many PHers. "It can't replace the real note," apparently, rather "it will be enhanced according to throttle position." Hmmm.

More grown up inside and out; do we want that?
More grown up inside and out; do we want that?
According to Renault, then, we should be lauding the fact that the raucous 2.0-litre rev monster has been junked in favour of a more driveable, more torquey and more powerful turbocharged 1.6, while the new gearbox makes it easier to exploit. But wasn't the whole appeal of the old car the commitment it required to drive fast?

Still, we can't remember the last time Renaultsport actually let us down - so until the worst actually happens we'll live in hope and trust the proof is in the driving.

 

 

Author: Sean Carson
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