Car: 2007 Renaultsport Clio 197 F1 Edition
Owned since: September 2015
Previously owned: In order of most recent - 2005 Renault Sport Clio 182 (still own), 1991 Mazda Eunos Roadster 1.6, 2002 Nissan Micra 1.0, 1996 Mazda MX-5 Gleneagles 1.8 (still own), 2006 Renault Clio 1.4, 2002 Nissan Micra 1.0 (sold and later bought back again), 2002 Renault Clio 1.4
"I had always liked the Renaultsports; my first car was a Mk2 1.4 Clio and my third car (and current car at the time of purchasing the 197) a Mk3 1.4 Clio. I had always looked at 172/182s along with the 197/200s. I would often browse the classifieds on PistonHeads (as you do) to see what was available. I had been browsing 197/200s for a fair while waiting until I was old enough to get an insurance quote that wasn't half ridiculous. I always had in my mind that my 'dream' Clio was a 'full fat' 200, with the Recaros but probably not the Cup spoiler or Liquid Yellow paint as I didn't want to draw too much attention to myself."
"Cue September 2015, completely not in the market for a new car having bought a Mk1 MX-5 at the start of the year, and I came across a car that I could not believe. A 2007 Nimbus Silver 197 F1 Edition with one previous owner and 6,000 miles. Six. Thousand. Miles. I sent the link to my Dad as I always do when I stumble across a great find and thought that would be the end of it. I am still not quite sure how we ended up there but the next thing I knew my Dad had told me it was a great find, and at least worth investigating, so called the advertising dealer 'R Sport Cars' - a well known and respected Renaultsport dealer. We turned up and found the Clio sitting outside, gleaming away in the sun. It was at this point I knew I was buying the car. We met the owner, Steve, had a little chat, then Steve offered to take me out for a drive. All seemed well; I mean, the car had only done 6,000 miles! We returned from the drive, a deal was done and it was delivered the following weekend."
"It was a full fat 197, with the all-important Recaro seats and was completely standard apart from a panel filter that was fitted from new to save on replacing the air filter every year. It also had a much more subtle spoiler fitted from the 'warm' Clio GT/Sport and the door stickers removed from factory. Whilst it wasn't a 200, I was happy to 'sacrifice' this for the low mileage rarity of the car."
"Nothing really. I did a fair amount of research before viewing and many of the weak spots on 197s seem to come with mileage, so not things I had to be necessarily cautious of. I knew the ride would be stiff (although I prefer to think of it as a taut chassis - stiff sounds a little negative) and that the Recaros are very prone to wear; however as a third car and not a daily driver, neither of these two would bother me. Fuel economy can drop into the low teens when driven hard, but it will do 30+ mpg on the motorway no trouble and I don't think you can ask for much more from a performance engine. I certainly don't think it's too bad."
Things I love:
"Wow, where to start. I really do love this car. OK, so first things first, I think I have to start with the seats. Those Recaros. The beauties. I am not sure if it is my inner child or some kind of latent racing driver dream but the seats really make the car for me. It just makes the cabin feel like such a special occasion. Every time I climb into the driving seat I know I am going for a proper drive; they just feel so special.
"Then it's the chassis. The car feels so tight. Given it's low mileage, everything should be fairly fresh still and this may play a role, but the chassis is incredible. Yes, it is firm. And yes, some may find it uncomfortable over rough surfaces, but it is 100 per cent worth it. The composure and grip is astonishing. The front end has so much traction it is beyond belief (my driving experience is limited to bone dry roads, so sadly I can't comment on its behaviour in the wet).
"Then the brakes. It feels completely overbraked, which I love. There is so much stopping power you feel confident that you can quickly bring the car to a very rapid halt, under control, should the occasion arrive.
"That's pretty much it; being a nice spec it has all the usual refinements like cruise control, steering column mounted audio controls, climate control and keyless entry, which all make using the car more pleasant and prove useful for longer journeys. But then, that's not really what the car was designed for."
"With regards to the specifics of driving the car, there is nothing I hate. I would perhaps like a little more exhaust noise; however, it doesn't affect me enough to warrant splashing out on an upgraded system. Oh, there is one thing I hate. Stone chips. I hate getting stone chips on such a pristine front end. The Clios are pretty well known for them, the 182s particularly, and a distinct lack of stone chips means that when you do get one it stands out like a sore thumb! Apart from that, the car is perfect in my opinion.
"What I do sometimes hate is the mileage. Sometimes I do wish I had just bought a very clean low mileage car as opposed to a garage queen. As the car is such low mileage (currently just a fraction over 9,200) I can feel guilty using the car. It doesn't help that it has never been rained on during its entire life - although how I maintained that during a visit to Scotland I do not know. The trip to Scotland (see below) was not even planned - I was supposed to go in the MX-5 - but it sprung an oil leak the day before I was due to leave and I could not get it repaired in time. It all worked out in the end because the roadtrip was epic.
"Back to the point. I tend to yo-yo between wanting to drive and enjoy it and then wanting to keep it special and super low mileage. Perhaps a balance is what I need, a couple thousand miles of special driving each summer whilst still keeping it low miles in comparison to all the other 197s out there."
"So far, just an MOT (and of course tax, insurance and fuel). Not really much to say here. It will need another MOT in April, and an oil/filter change which I shall probably get done at Renault to maintain the service record - so that will be a couple of hundred, no doubt. The belts are due in October as they will be five years old, but will have only covered around 4,000 miles. The previous owner changed them on the five-year interval, so again I will probably stick to this; however I shall be going to a specialist, not a main dealer. Everything else is spot on (touch wood).
Where I've been:
"Around 400 miles or so around the Essex countryside during April, and then 1,800 miles up to Scotland and back in May via John O'Groats. I had the most amazing drive around the North Coast 500 route. The roads on the way up are fairly standard, sitting on cruise control. But once you hit the A82 it really transforms the drive. It was probably the best week of my life so far and the Clio was immense. Then it was pretty much back into the garage and only came out for a couple more Sunday morning drives before going to sleep for winter. Next year I plan to attend some shows and meets in it; I am also revisiting Scotland for another NC500 run, although see above regarding mileage. Perhaps I shall take the 182 instead..."
"I'm really not sure! I think the 197 will stay for the foreseeable future, alongside the MX-5. The 182 is really growing on me but there are other cars I still want to try - I can't keep adding to the fleet forever! It would seem I am something of a Renaultsport fanboy and as such I rather fancy a R26 Megane and could see the 182 being swapped for one of these at some point. I also love the newer Megane 250, but I would not be able to afford one without selling the 197 first... I do like a project, so another MX-5 to work on wouldn't surprise me and I bought three cars in 2016 (two of them were later sold) so I am curious to see what 2017 brings. I nearly bought a R53 Cooper S before the 182 so one of those might pop in at some point. My 'attainable' dream car at present is a 996; however, I worry that by the time I can afford the insurance I will no longer be able to afford the purchase price if they keep going the way I think they will do. One thing is for sure though, I need more space, so the next addition may very well be a garage or some kind of storage solution!"