Through no fault of its own, the last time I climbed into the Clio its battery was too flat to turn the starter motor over. I had left it sitting in PH HQ’s car park, alone, neglected and gathering dust for four weeks. Course it wasn’t going to start. The flashing red light on the dash was all that signalled this 182 hadn’t completely given up. It took a push down the car park ramp to bring it burbling back to life.
This is the life of a car owned by a motoring journalist, and it’ll be a familiar scenario for one kept as an occasional weekend toy as well. But infrequent stints behind the wheel do, at least, make every drive feel special – and ignoring any minor gremlins becomes far, far easier. In the case of the 182, it’s meant that yours truly has spent the last few weeks reminiscing about its performance, rather than complaining about an intermittent blower fan issue that’s reared it’s annoying head just in time for misted windscreen season.
Those of you who attended the inaugural PH Sporting Tour in October may have noticed that, dodgy fan aside, the 182 was in full working order. The little Clio, miniscule compared to the sports and supercars in attendance, had no trouble squeezing down the tight country lanes of the event’s Suffolk route. Although the occasional section of broken tarmac did have me wincing as the Bilstein B14s – now a couple of thousand miles old – did their best to soak up the vertical pounding.
For much of the day, driving partner Jack and myself were following an absolutely lovely Elise S1 with a Honda K20 engine conversion. It. Was. Rapid. This red car looked fantastic, with a cheeky Type R badge beneath the Lotus logo on the tail to let you know this was no ordinary S1. As quick as the Clio felt, when the PHer ahead unleashed his Honda-powered Elise’s full potential, it just naffed off. To the extent that I wonder if it was boosted – please let us know in the comments if you have an answer.
The 182, by comparison, really needed winding up. I’m glad it did, mind, because the reward comes from 5,500rpm. But it meant that any time the Lotus ahead decided to bolt off without warning, we were left stirring the Clio’s gearstick back down a couple of cogs to keep up. Of course, if we knew the Lotus was about to get up and go, we could leave the Clio’s F4R motor turning over at 5,000rpm in anticipation. Do that, and it felt like a proper sports car, with every change up landing the engine back in the meat of its torque band.
The route offered just the right amount of technical and twisting corners to really show off the car’s darty front end, too. After an enthusiastic stint behind the wheel, Jack proclaimed that the Clio went around corners “a bit like a Caterham”. That’s quite the compliment, even for a car that’s just a whisker over a tonne in its current spec, but while I don’t deny the car felt as eager as ever, I suspect my co-driver’s opinion was slightly swayed by the fact that its owner was sat right beside him. The 182 certainly felt made for Suffolk’s meandering B-roads. It provided us with a few laugh-out-loud lift off oversteer moments for good measure.
But that was then. Now, as the cold weather has set in, I’ve been using the car less and less. It enjoyed a short jaunt outside with my old man’s Lotus Elan in the autumn sunshine, after which time I re-fitted a set of period boot badges (they're visible in a picture below). But largely, the car’s sat waiting for its next outing. It might not be for some time too, because while Mk2 Clios are generally well protected against corrosion, I don’t like using the car on salted roads. So after its great performance at PH’s Sporting Tour, I’ve rewarded the 182 with weeks of abandonment, and I genuinely feel bad about that. Maybe a rear anti-roll bar-shaped Christmas present will cheer it up. Actually, I suppose I should sort that blower fan first.
Car: 2004 Renault Clio Renaultsport 182
Run by: Sam Sheehan
Bought: May 2011
Mileage at purchase: 74,457
Mileage now: 125,906
Last month at a glance: Our time behind the wheel of the 182 may have been short these past few weeks, but it's been very, very sweet