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Driven: Clio Renault Sport 220 Trophy. Image by Renault.

Driven: Clio Renault Sport 220 Trophy
More power, quicker gearbox, tougher chassis - is the Trophy the Clio RS we’ve been waiting for?


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Driven: Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: Trophy specification markedly improves the Clio RS...

Not so good: ...but not by enough to propel it to class honours

Key Facts

Model tested: Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy
Price: Clio RS from £19,130; Trophy 220 from £21,780, car as tested £24,975
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed dual-clutch EDC manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 135g/km
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 6.6 seconds
Power: 220hp at 6,050rpm
Torque: 280Nm at 2,000rpm

Our view:

Aah, Renault Sport division, such an enigma. Like the French football team, this Dieppe-based lunatic wing of Renault tends to blow hot and cold: for every Clio 182 Trophy, there's a humdrum Megane 225; while RS gave us the mid-engined insanity that was the Clio V6, it also worked on the rare yet underwhelming Spider. It can hit the greatest dynamic highs, no doubt about that (see the Megane 275 Trophy for details), but it can also occasionally drop the ball.

Nowhere has Renault Sport been more stung by criticism than with the latest Clio RS. The company took a radical new direction with the performance version of the Mk4 car and junked its 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine and manual gearbox. Thus, the 1.6-litre 200 EDC Turbo Clio was launched to lukewarm critical response. It was quicker and easier to drive on a day-to-day basis, better equipped and blessed with a smarter cabin than the old model, but it also felt like it had lost a lot of its sparkle, both dynamically and acoustically.

So RS has introduced a second attempt at the formula, marketed as a more performance-focused variant of the range. There have been Trophy versions of the Clio before, of course, but never have they had more power or a revised transmission. It's hard to shake the feeling that the Trophy is how RS envisaged the 200 EDC Turbo to be from the start, save for the interference of marketing types.

Whatever the reasons for its gestation, it's in the price lists. Already due a facelift as part of the overhaul of the entire Clio Mk4 range, the Trophy's vital statistics nevertheless will remain as they are here. Which is to say that an extra 20hp and 40Nm have been liberated from the 1.6-litre four-cylinder forced induction motor. The suspension has been dropped 20mm front and 10mm rear, while all shock absorbers and the rear springs have been toughened up. RS has reduced the steering rack ratio by 10 per cent. And while it doesn't make a big deal about it, the EDC twin-clutch gearbox has been remapped for swifter responses.

Visually, outside and in, there are more additions, such as 18-inch 'Radical' alloy wheels, Trophy-branded side door mouldings, the same word emblazoned on the silver front blade, sill kickplates with build numbers etched into them and door mirrors in a gloss black finish. The Trophy-branded, high-backed, heated front seats in RS dark carbon are an option, costing £1,600, as is Renault i.d. Frost White matte paint with the gloss black roof and boot spoiler (£1,300). There are more toys added to the specification to merit the 220's £2,650 premium over a regular 200 Turbo, such as automatic climate control, electric rear windows and the Renault R-Link Multimedia system with a seven-inch touchscreen, but with the Renault Sport Monitor v2 (£295) also bolted in, our car totted up to 25 quid shy of £25,000. For a Renault Clio.

Is it worth such money? Hmm. The lower suspension helps to cram those gorgeous five-spoke alloys into the arches, which makes the car look properly purposeful. It's still got overly busy front-end styling but otherwise it's everything you'd want of a hot hatch. And the interior is pretty good too, especially if you add the optional RS bucket seats and the excellent, almost endless nerdy petrolhead screens of the RS Monitor. Although the location of the heated seat button will have you grimacing at the sheer ergonomic daftness of it - it's on the outer plastic runner below and to the side of the seat squab, which means to activate the bum warmers you have to practically cram your hand in the door bin to try and flick the switch. And then you have no visual way of checking if they're on or not. Bonkers.

However, big plus points for the large and lovely metallic-feeling paddle shifts on the steering column, and for RS's decision to have the sequential side gate on the gearlever set up in the correct fashion: it's back for up a gear, forward for down a gear, in true motorsport style. And as we're talking about the transmission, there are big plus points for the improvements rendered on its shift patterns. It works in a much more civilised fashion as a pseudo-automatic, no longer slurring changes nor taking an age to respond to heavy throttle inputs, while it is rapier sharp in both Sport and Race modes, responding really well to either paddle clicks or flicks of the lever. While the EDC finally feels worthy of its place in an RS product, it's a shame that there's slightly too much play in that sequential shift; it needs to be a bit tighter in movement to feel more focused.

As does the steering. Revised rack or not, this is not a great set-up for a car like the Clio RS. It's extremely insubstantial in Normal mode and it doesn't seem to weight up noticeably in Sport or Race, either. It also, from memory, doesn't provide the same patches of feedback we encountered in the 200 Turbo Luxe we drove last summer, so it comes across as a disappointment. Further, the ride has deteriorated into outright choppiness, an expected corollary of firming up and lowering the suspension, with the fluidity of the regular RS Clio dispensed with.

And another gripe revolves around the supposed fuel consumption benefits of going turbo. Renault claims 47.9mpg for the Clio Trophy yet, even allowing for some slack as the NEDC figure on any car is almost entirely irrelevant, such lofty numbers are surely well beyond the 220. Apart from a few blasts on deserted roads, the Clio managed to chew through seven gallons of unleaded in a mere 200 or so miles, giving back a relatively feeble 29.9mpg in the process. We'll concede it never got a long dual carriageway or motorway run to boost its economy, but driven sedately for the majority of the time in Normal with the gearbox set to D, that's a lot worse than we were expecting. You can even see the fuel gauge moving, if you look hard enough.

However, the rest of the Clio RS is highly commendable. The chassis has always been a peach, no matter what you thought of the 200's dull engine and dim-witted gearbox, and the conditioning RS has subjected the 220 Trophy to does not spoil things. Grip is epic, even if the 'front diff' is an electronic mimic rather than the mechanical real deal, and the body control is unrelentingly iron-fisted. If it weren't for the woolly rack, placing the Clio Trophy on the road at pace would be an exercise in millimetric precision.

The 320mm front/260mm rear brakes are fantastic and there are no complaints about the pace of the Trophy, as it feels properly rabid when lit up in the lower gears. Back on the negatives, though, and the noise of the Clio 220 remains bland compared to rivals (including some four-cylinder turbo rivals; MINI John Cooper Works, we're looking at you). It might serve for RS to offer an Akrapovic exhaust as a cost option to liven things up. Also, great as the chassis is, the rear axle only seems to come alive in Race mode, which whips off the traction control. It'd be good if the electronics would allow a degree of lateral slack in Sport, too.

So, this is the hot and cold traits of RS encapsulated in single car form. Many bits of the Clio Trophy are scorching, while others leave you feeling cool towards them. A great chassis, vastly improved dual-clutch box, mighty performance and tasty looks are all in the Trophy's favour, yet the numb steering, thumpy ride, anodyne soundtrack and considerable expense don't sit as favourably. On paper, it looks like RS has addressed the regular car's shortcomings. Yet all the time you're behind the Trophy's wheel, there's a pervading feeling of quiet discomfort and foreboding, not at all dissimilar to the uneasy reading provided by a Magnus Mills novel - you can tell something is not quite right, although it's not entirely evident what that might be.

Despite such concerns, we're happy to say we're now actively liking the RS Clio as a Trophy, but we're not loving it and you can't help but wonder what might have been had RS decided to use this harder, limited production Clio as a way of quietly slotting a six-speed manual back into the B-segment hatch without losing too much face in the process. There is a stupidly mental hot Clio in the pipeline, the RS16 concept car which has - manual gearbox and all - the drivetrain from a Megane 275 Trophy lobbed into it. Yep, 275hp. In a Clio. Imagine the goodness of that.

If Renault makes the RS16, it could be absolutely stellar; but it's also likely to have a very limited build run and an astronomical price tag to go with it. It's a shame more of that unhinged RS magic couldn't have filtered into the accessible Trophy, which is now a fine hot hatch, yet one which regrettably still lags behind key opposition in this sector: think Ford Fiesta ST200, the MINI JCW, SEAT's revived Ibiza Cupra, maybe even a Performance Pack-equipped Vauxhall Corsa VXR... and, most alarmingly of all for the Diamond, Peugeot's exceptional 208 GTi. And for what was once the B-segment hot hatch market leader, fourth or fifth place simply isn't good enough. The Renault Sport enigma continues.


Ford Fiesta ST200: The best just got better and there's little even the Trophy Clio can do to usurp the Blue Oval's pocket rocket from its throne.

MINI John Cooper Works: Ludicrously expensive, especially when a few options are fitted, but apart from the hardcore GP twins, this is comfortably the zenith of modern MINI motoring.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS: Might seem an oddball representative here but it has the same engine as the Clio, except with the choice of a manual 'box - and it costs similar money, too.

Matt Robinson - 11 Jul 2016    - Renault road tests
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2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.

2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.2016 Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy drive. Image by Renault.


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