PH blog: in defence of the Clio RS


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

Comments (100) Join the discussion on the forum

  • RS230 24 Feb 2013

    Porkie said:
    Renaults have always had EXCELLENT electrics... can't see how anything could possibly go wrong adding more complicated ones wink
    So you will be much happier knowing that the electrics come from a very reliable Jap car company.

  • 900T-R 02 Oct 2012

    A bit ironic then, that Renault is probably the OEM that's pushing electric vehicles the hardest in the market at the moment. What could possibly go wrong... wink

  • Porkie 02 Oct 2012

    Swervin_Mervin said:
    Indeed it does. So making it more complex and adding in some electrickery seems like absolutely the right thing to do! jester
    Renaults have always had EXCELLENT electrics... can't see how anything could possibly go wrong adding more complicated ones wink

  • Swervin_Mervin 02 Oct 2012

    900T-R said:
    ^^^^^Exactly.

    Not sure why, given the ever growing dichotomy between cars' outright capability and how much of it you can use on the road, something being outright quicker point to point is held as high on peoples' list of priorities as it is, either.

    Edited by 900T-R on Tuesday 2nd October 11:55
    Me neither.

  • Swervin_Mervin 02 Oct 2012

    Porkie said:
    KM666 said:
    I've only ever driven manual I will admit, but it isnt the feel, its the reliability. I mean that as a used car a manual will appeal more to me, I can work on a manaul gearbox.

    DSG hasnt been around long enough to figure out how maintainable these systems are. A manual box is tried and tested and so people have confidence in its longevity.

    I just think it'll put people off, well its the enhanced exhaust interior noise that puts me off. Maybe it will age well?


    Edited by KM666 on Monday 1st October 22:57
    You know that the Manual gearbox on the previous Renaultsport Clio had big reliability problems yes?

    Technology has moved on. I wouldn't ever buy a manual car again.... love the new type gearboxes. They just work so so well in all situations in my quite extensive experience of them including ownership.

    I also quite like the idea of the added sound inside and the ability to download different sounds etc. Its a bit of fun.




    Edited by Porkie on Tuesday 2nd October 09:17
    Indeed it does. So making it more complex and adding in some electrickery seems like absolutely the right thing to do! jester

    I see a place for these types of gearboxes - on premium segment cars where the keeper is likely to do a reaonable bit of commuting/travelling but wants something to occasionally provide a bit more interaction than a plain auto if a clear stretch appears i.e. not a small(ish) French hot hatch.


View all comments in the forums Make a comment