While this is only my second fleet update on my Clio 200, it's also my last. I had been told that going from a 320hp Megane 250 to a Clio 200 would be a big adjustment, but I was convinced it was the right decision - roll on the 'I told you so' comments. Very much like the R26 Megane 230 F1 Edition I owned for a similar period of time, I liked it but I didn't love it.
In isolation, the 200 is a seriously impressive car and has come a long way from the older generation of Renaultsport Clios. It delivers wholeheartedly on my philosophy that the best cars for UK roads are roughly 200hp and 1,200kg. I'll leave Sam to tell you in detail how it drives, but for a daily that'll trundle to the station quietly and then come alive when you take the longer route home, there isn't a rival from its generation of hot hatch that I'd rather own.
Let's remind ourselves of the basics. The 200 used an evolved version of the 197's 2.0-litre four-cylinder that had more low-down grunt - the same 159lb ft came 150rpm earlier - and a higher 200hp ...
My issue with the 200 is the same issue I have with our Megane 300 Trophy long-termer. Both cars are faster than their predecessors, a nicer place to be and easier to live with on a daily basis but they've lost the adjustability that I've grown to love so much over the past few years in my line of Renaultsport ownership. Of course manufacturers need to make progress, but there are some recipes that can't be improved. I'm sure Mary Berry would agree.
A Clio 182 is just hilarious to drive. The way it moves around on the road and the sense that the car is really responding to your every input is lost on the 200; it's much more forgiving. On track, trail braking into a corner with the rear end rotating around the apex is a skill to hone in a 182, whereas the 200 refuses to play ball. It's so planted and feels incredibly capable for it; I have no doubt it's the faster car on the road and track but it's just not as entertaining.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Around Brands Hatch the 200 felt every bit as capable as my old Megane 250. It may be down on power and that glorious mechanical LSD, but the pace and its ability to show up more powerful cars is something to behold. And that's as a completely standard road car too, bar braided brake lines. Whereas a 182 will need a few more modifications to give you confidence on circuit, the 200 is outrageously capable as a standard car and really highlights the progress that Renault has made over the years.
If you want a modern naturally-aspirated hot hatch that looks fantastic, is a nice place to be on a daily basis and the fastest N/A Clio ever made, then the 200 is a very good choice and should be on your shortlist. But if you don't mind a bit of spanner work, a stiff clutch and being a bit slower, then get a 182. The latter is a fraction of the cost, more entertaining and for me, it really is the best N/A hot-hatch money can buy.
Car: 2010 Renaultsport Clio 200
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: May 2019
Last month at a glance: Hang on, has Ben found a Renaultsport product he doesn't like?
Ben says hello to another Clio