Right, a few thoughts on this new Clio. I'm not churning through the data here, haven't got time. This is about how it drives.
Not won over by the looks but it goes well
For the first half hour I thought Renault had dropped a you-know-what, frankly. The car looks quite ordinary, the motor is pretty bland on part throttle and the left pedal is missing.
If you test drive the Clio 200 EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch) for 20 minutes, chances are you won't be giving it enough time to reveal its full character.
This car requires the driver to separate the harshness many people assume is positive 'sportiness' with the way in which a car deals with the road surface underneath it and allows the driver to get on and enjoy him or herself.
The first shock is just how supple and comfortable the car is - it feels miles more compliant than before. So immediately your brain tells you that it must be heavier and lazier and less agile and fatter and, well, Renault must have sold their souls. But properly attack a twisty road and you quickly realise this thing is properly focused.
Don't confuse supple for soft and flaccid
Switch the RS button from Normal to Sport and into Race and you get faster gearshifts, more immediate throttle response and more steering weight. You also disable the ESP completely and find yourself in a front-wheel drive car with one of the most mobile rear-ends on sale. It's wicked fun. Back off the gas and the rear swings around to kill the understeer.
New world order
The engine's no screamer, but with 177lb ft from 1,750rpm it's miles more effective than the last 2.0-litre normally aspirated motor and with those fast shifts it really covers ground well. Induction noise is pumped into the cabin and, to these ears, it's not a bad sound. But it was while I was flicking through the paddles and feeling the car lightly oversteer that it dawned on me that I was having a lot of fun driving the thing. Sometimes you have to step back from the forensic investigation of every aspect of a car's performance and accept that it makes you properly smile.
Flashes of red attempt to liven things up in here
I would prefer a manual, but the double-clutch does bring a kind of cafe racer appeal, especially when it parps on upshifts. I especially enjoyed using the lever, which has been configured correctly.
In with the new
I also tried to imagine myself aged 22 and driving this car for the first time, being offered a full paddle shift gearbox for the first time, knowing it would hit 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds (we did that ourselves using the launch control) and, perhaps most importantly, because it is turbocharged, might allow me to be a bit cheeky with the software and pinch another 30hp. Not that Renault will thank me for writing that.
The cabin tries a bit hard, but the seats are good and the driving position allows you to sit low enough.
Configurable settings let you get the best of it
I'm out of time now, about to go and drive it on the track with the Cup chassis.
For me the biggest problem isn't the turbo motor, or the gearbox, both of which I've come to enjoy in combination, but instead the looks. Horribly superficial I know, but shouldn't a Clio RS should look tougher than this?
CLIO RENAULTSPORT 200 TURBO EDC
Engine: 1,618cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 177@1,750rpm
Top speed: 143mph
MPG: 44.8mpg (NEDC combined)