RE: How Britain made the Clio 182 Trophy

RE: How Britain made the Clio 182 Trophy

Wednesday 11th March

How Britain made the Clio 182 Trophy

Remember when Renault Sport could do no wrong? Well, there's a good reason for that...



The Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy is a PH Hero in its purest form; a great hot hatch made better. Naturally it's the engineers in Dieppe who must get all the credit for making it that way - but the limited edition model owes its existence to the UK, where fifteen years ago plucky buyers were quenching their thirst for affordable front-drive performance cars with as many as 3,000 182 Clios a year.

That's according to Graeme Holt, former Renault UK press relations manager from '94 to '07. He explained to PH that the British fondness for French va va voom meant that Renault's domestic market played second fiddle to les rosbifs when it came to the output of its performance division - especially when it came to the run-out Clio II.

"Normally, a [non-domestic] country's input into what's coming next is limited to a few personalisation features specific to your market, things like standard-fit sunroofs," says Graeme. "So for product planning in the UK to be given full control over what's put forward to Renault's Paris HQ was almost unheard of. But with a team that understood the UK market's hunger for proper driver's cars, we had a few ideas as to what would make for a great final Clio II variant. Of course, it helped that a Brit, Steve Marvin, was director of Renaultsport at the time, to really argue the case."


Marvin had joined Renault from Tom Walkinshaw Racing after he'd helped develop the first Clio V6. No doubt it helped that Renault was also in its heyday, with a Formula 1 team on the rise, a massively popular Clio Cup racing championship up and running and a multitude of performance rivals vanquished. Moreover the 182 nailed the hot hatch triumvirate: it was cheap, it was pretty and it went like the clappers.

Holt, Marvin and Jeremy Townsend - formerly brand manager for Clio in the UK - formed their owned triumvirate, which aimed to keep the celebratory model true to the 182's values. The team were adamant that there ought not to be a significant increase over the 'regular' 182hp Clio's Β£14,700 (about Β£23k today) starting price. So they "decided to start development with the Cup version, which lost a few optional extras but meant the base price was lowered to Β£13.8k" to allow room for some special additional bits tailored to British buyers - buyers that would care less about xenons and part-leather back seats, and more about an improved driving position and even sharper handling.

It was therefore decided the cloth-clad back bench would be used alone with Recaro Trendline front seats on 10mm lower mounts. Holt says a two-seat version was absolutely out of the question because this hot hatch "had to remain more practical than the MR2" et al, and that even lowering the seats further would not have been possible given the re-homologation costs. It was the same story for the naturally-aspirated F4R 2.0-litre engine. Further work would have adversely affected the target of keeping the consumer price down - not to mention cause a headache when team UK reported progress back to Paris HQ. Anyway, at just 90kg more than a metric tonne, it's not like the 182 needed more get up and go. Keeping development cash in the bank enabled more important things like exotic chassis options...


We're talking, of course, about the Trophy's party piece, those Sachs dampers. They were to be bespoke to the Clio, with Marvin's team developing them specifically for the UK-bound 182, lowering ride height by 10mm but also, thanks to the motorsport-aping external reservoir, better compliance. Hydraulic bump stops were the cherry on top, helping to vastly improving front end agility and slashing understeer while ensuring that the top-spec 182 was suited to British roads. The team recognised that UK buyers were also regular track day attendees, so adjustability was built into the setup to cater to the even harder demands of circuit time.

By now, the car was looking good technically, but it needed to stand out aesthetically, too - while adhering to budgetary constraints. The fitment of Speedline Turini wheels, though, was a legacy of development work; the prototypes were fitted with the 172 Cup wheels (or 172 Ragnotti, as it was called outside of Britain) and the team decided to stick with them on the finished model. Only the offset and colour of the 16-inch wheels were changed for the Trophy, to give it the more distinct look, which was completed with its bespoke paintwork.

"The factory was offering three choices for colour: Black Gold, which had just been introduced on the 182, a flat white or Capsicum Red." White was off the table because it was synonymous with Honda Civic Type R and Porsche RS models. Holt believed Renault had to be different, so he chose red. It's a shade that's remained unique to the 182 Trophy in Renault Sport's lineage to this day, so there's certainly no mistaking the model with other variants. A slightly larger spoiler also separated the car from its siblings, without attracting attention from the homologation office. But essentially that was it - voila, a run-out Clio for Britain.


Except it wasn't, because while France's product team opted to not request any examples for the domestic market, Switzerland's regional manager was keen to get 50 left-hand drive models shipped there. Hence the final build number of 550, with the remainder headed to Britain. Holt says the final example of Renault's brilliant attention to detail in the Trophy came with the plaque, each of which was individually numbered, rather than saying 1 of 500, as other manufacturers do to save cost. It was Holt's idea for the model to wear the Trophy name - a homage to Renault's race cars - following the trend he'd set by naming the homologation Clio 172 'lightweight' the Cup for Britain, thereby linking it to the racing championship. (Other European countries got the 172 Ragnotti, because the competition version was also eligible for rallying and Jean Ragnotti had famously won the Monte Carlo Rally for the marque with the 5 Maxi Turbo).

Paris went on to adopt Holt's UK market names into its RS line-ups at later stages, with Cup still representing the sportier chassis setups and Trophy the peak. The latest Megane proves that Renault Sport has lost none of its finesse when it comes to perfecting a front-drive chassis - although catering to the British market is probably no longer top of the agenda. Holt notes that when the Clio IV came along in EDC-only form to make it more appealing to Renault's domestic market in 2012, it killed the love affair dead. Sales in France didn't make up for loss and the car's previously sterling reputation suffered.

But the legacy of the 182 Trophy is untarnished. It remains a three-door testament to a certain way of doing things, and stands tall in many best-ever hot hatch lists - not least our own. Nice to know that the people who voted Capsicum Red supermini into its vaunted position - i.e. you lot - were essentially the same bunch who helped will it into being in the first place. And thank God you did.


Read the Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy PH Hero here









Author
Discussion

CrunkleFloop

Original Poster:

457 posts

197 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Utterly brilliant cars! By far the most fun I've had with FWD.

Almost impossible to drive sensibly too.

cerb4.5lee

14,081 posts

132 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
I've always loved these and I've only ever been a passenger in one. Such a fantastic handling car. Good value too when you consider how highly rated they are.

donkmeister

2,185 posts

52 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Interesting point about the colour... I always thought French racing blue would have been appropriate so was puzzled it wasn't an option!

ETA searching Google for "French racing blue" returns a Jaguar as one of the first results, oddly enough!

Edited by donkmeister on Wednesday 11th March 13:05

Roma101

550 posts

99 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
About a month after I took delivery of my 182 (with Cup pack), they announced the Trophy. I was 'slightly' annoyed at the time.

A shout out for Jeremy T! I met him a few times when he was at Renault and he was (is) a top bloke. He really connected with the RS enthusiasts. It was a great era for Renault. Sadly now gone, it would seem.

David87

5,482 posts

164 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
A great article on what is probably my favourite car of all time. If only there was a way to get hold of a new one in 2020!

Tickle

3,566 posts

156 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Fantastic little cars, glad I had the chance to own and drive one for a few years (M2 TCK).

David87

5,482 posts

164 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Roma101 said:
About a month after I took delivery of my 182 (with Cup pack), they announced the Trophy. I was 'slightly' annoyed at the time.

A shout out for Jeremy T! I met him a few times when he was at Renault and he was (is) a top bloke. He really connected with the RS enthusiasts. It was a great era for Renault. Sadly now gone, it would seem.
Pretty sure someone told me he now works for PSA, I think. Or maybe Vauxhall, but suppose that's the same thing nowadays.

Had a great time with Renault back in those days - did a Dieppe factory tour and managed to have a fabulous lunch with the three guys mentioned in the article. They also put me up in a box for a Brands Hatch BTCC race with the Renaultsport staff and that was a great day too. Such a top company back then.

frayz

1,532 posts

111 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Superbly written, enjoyed reading that smile

shantybeater

874 posts

121 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
CrunkleFloop said:
Utterly brilliant cars! By far the most fun I've had with FWD.

Almost impossible to drive sensibly too.
Sums up my ownership nicely. I had to settle for an RB full fat at the time. Always a barrel of laughs (minus the resister pack failing in the mid of winter).

Roma101

550 posts

99 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
David87 said:
A great article on what is probably my favourite car of all time. If only there was a way to get hold of a new one in 2020!
I’ve often wondered how feasible it would be for companies like Renault to do what the likes of Aston are doing with their continuations or modern versions of older cars etc. I am sure someone will come along and say it would not be possible for XYZ reasons. However, if they made a new batch of R26.Rs or the 182 Trophy, I would be the first in the queue and would be prepared to pay a reasonable amount for them. Not quite £72k though wink

GTEYE

1,564 posts

162 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
It was one of those cars that just felt right, even after only 200 yards at the wheel.

I drove one back on the day when they were new, would love one now, but not so easy to find good examples. Sadly.

InitialDave

6,394 posts

71 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Harry Metcalfe's video on his is a good one:
https://youtu.be/oGyY9V068x4

swanny71

1,934 posts

161 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Still miss mine - # 138/500

clarki

987 posts

171 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Not a particularly great car IMO.

Terrible ride, poor brakes, not particularly fast yet crap on fuel, awful driving position, bus like steering wheel and what was it with the intermittent wiper settings??!!

Had mine less than a year back in the day, was in for a service and they let me try a Megane R26 - now that was a great car - the clio stayed at the dealer and the megane came home instead.

Echo the feelings towards Jeremy though, top fella, always enjoyed chatting to him at the RS track nights at Bedford. Good times.

bud_bongo

16 posts

152 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
One of the best cars I've ever owned. Still miss mine too #87

is1

152 posts

100 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
clarki said:
Not a particularly great car IMO.

Terrible ride, poor brakes, not particularly fast yet crap on fuel, awful driving position, bus like steering wheel and what was it with the intermittent wiper settings??!!

Had mine less than a year back in the day, was in for a service and they let me try a Megane R26 - now that was a great car - the clio stayed at the dealer and the megane came home instead.

Echo the feelings towards Jeremy though, top fella, always enjoyed chatting to him at the RS track nights at Bedford. Good times.
That seems a slightly harsh view. Whilst I didn't think it was quite an all time great, it was a brilliant car in terms of what it was meant to be.
I don't recognise your critique:
Ride (which was firm and well damped but not uncomfortable);
Brakes (which were very good, decent feel and performance, it only weighed a ton);
Not fast (it was plenty fast enough but needed revving out to get the performance - that was part of its appeal);
Fuel economy (very good, easily 30 mpg on a blast and above that if taking it easier);
Driving position (not the best, but not a deal breaker);
Steering wheel (fair criticism, like holding a dinner plate!);
Intermittent wiper settings - it was based on the Cup and didn't have intermittent wipe option but the stalk could be retro-fitted from a 182.

It wasn't a torque-rich barnstormer but as a compact fast hatch it was excellent.
Prior to mine, I had a couple of Evo VIs and subsequent to it, a DC2 Integra, 911 and Panda 100HP and it was up there with those.

PS: The DC2 was a better car in my opinion but it cost a lot more so should have been.

I think a lot of the "holy grail" vibe has come about from things like the limited build (we all like a limited edition), motorsport dampers, Recaro seats and the resulting collectible nature of the car. The reviews at the time were a bit daft re it seeing off M6s and Gallardos.
That's likely because those cars are low slung, borrowed, expensive etc. whereas the evo car was bought by the magazine and could presumably be driven to the redline in every gear with no braking anywhere.

MyV10BarksAndBites

11 posts

1 month

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
clarki said:
Not a particularly great car IMO.

Terrible ride, poor brakes, not particularly fast yet crap on fuel, awful driving position, bus like steering wheel and what was it with the intermittent wiper settings??!!

Had mine less than a year back in the day, was in for a service and they let me try a Megane R26 - now that was a great car - the clio stayed at the dealer and the megane came home instead.

Echo the feelings towards Jeremy though, top fella, always enjoyed chatting to him at the RS track nights at Bedford. Good times.
This is the reality.... Spot on..

But, i can't deny or ignore the feelings of these contributors and owners... They love it and actually lol, so do i , that's all that matters and enough to put it into the hot hatch hall of fame....

For me tho, the Jap Ep3 is the hot hatch of that generation... That was the GT3 of hot hatches...



big_joe

19 posts

26 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
I bought one pretty much on the strength of Harry Metcalfe's YouTube video and I have to say it was the most disappointing car I've ever owned.

The engine was flat and uncharistmatic, driving position was horrible, gear change wooly and it really needed an LSD. The ride was admittedly fantastic on a B road, but that was literally the only thing I liked. I ended up swapping it for Civic EK9 which I thought was infinitely more special to drive.

Not sure if I had a bad one or I just didn't "get it".


keo

599 posts

122 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
Miss mine shouldn’t of sold it especially looking at values now. Probably my favourite car I have owned.

UpBeats

50 posts

3 months

Wednesday 11th March
quotequote all
clarki said:
Not a particularly great car IMO.

Terrible ride, poor brakes, not particularly fast yet crap on fuel, awful driving position, bus like steering wheel and what was it with the intermittent wiper settings??!!

Had mine less than a year back in the day, was in for a service and they let me try a Megane R26 - now that was a great car - the clio stayed at the dealer and the megane came home instead.

Echo the feelings towards Jeremy though, top fella, always enjoyed chatting to him at the RS track nights at Bedford. Good times.
i look back with fondness to mine also, i did the same as you, got a test drive in liquid yellow meg r26 and the rest is history, just seemed better and faster. I then moved on to the 275 meg trophy. Now in a mk8 Fiesta ST3 and would probably say it is the most competent of them all day to day but the 275 trophy probably would still be best on track?