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Beaucoup de va-va voom. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Beaucoup de va-va voom
Does the addition of power and weight to the Renaultsport formula take the edge off? We don't think so.

 



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#02#You only need to scan the pages of The Car Enthusiast to see that the resurgence of the hot hatch is in full swing; you can't keep enthusiasts from the products they crave and we should all be grateful for it. Times were, in the '80s and '90s that the French enjoyed something of a hoodoo over their rivals with an almost magical ability to produce brilliant front-drive hatches, such as the 205 GTi, Clio Williams and Peugeot 306GTi-6; the list goes on.

Only in the '90s did their hold begin to slip under sustained assault from the opposition, but the French never lost the plot and Renault's Clio has always been a solid performer. Drawing commercially on its Formula 1 success (and other motorsport ventures), Renault's hot hatches all wear the Renaultsport name and rather than being a cynical marketing ploy, the latest versions have been more than capable enough to justify that badge.

You don't have to check the badging on the Clio Renaultsport 197 to know it's the range-topper. It enjoys a completely different look to the cooking models front to back; front grilles channel more airflow to the engine; vents on the trailing edge on the front wheel arch allow that air to exit and the rear diffuser integrated into the rear bumper (also housing the flush-mounted exhausts) all hint at the sporting intent.

As with all the best styling features the Clio's details are all functional. The wider arches and hunkered down suspension add to this impression and are testimony to the wider front and rear tracks and retuned suspension; less obvious is the slightly lengthened wheelbase. Large alloys house the huge front discs - some 312mm in diameter.

Some of these things are more obviously beneficial than others; a fully functional diffuser isn't really relevant on the road, but that wide track and tuned suspension set-up makes itself felt as soon as you turn the Clio 197 into a corner. The steering lacks a little feel but, once you've used the power of the big four-pot Brembos to shed the easily accrued pace, the turn-in is sharp and swift. #p##02# Grip levels are generous to say the least and the suspension strikes an almost perfect balance between taut cornering and tolerance of bumps and ridges. Mid-corner imperfections are absorbed effortlessly and the body control on B-roads is excellent. The Renaultsport version has a completely redesigned suspension set up compared to that on lesser Clios and the effort was well worth it. Not only does it handle well, but the traction is excellent and torque steer all but non-existent.

This is just as well, as under the bonnet the Renaultsport Clio packs the power unit to match the bold moniker. The 2-litre engine enjoys Honda-esque zeal and matches the specific output of the new Type-R unit; in the process nudging the magic 100bhp/litre mark. The delivery builds in potency through the rev range, tailing off very slightly after the 197bhp peak at just over 7250rpm, but the engine never sounds strained and the smoothness and revvy nature is such that there is a gear shift warning light, without which it would be very possible to kiss the rev limiter without really noticing.

Lower down the speed range the engine has a subdued character, but above 5000rpm things change as the unit reaches its optimum operating range. At this point the soundtrack is akin to the in-car footage from a Super 1600 rally car and so is the action behind the wheel. It's frenetic fun; revving the engine out to the limiter whilst snicking between the six closely-stacked ratios in the gearbox. Used to the best effect in the range of 5500rpm to the red line, the Clio provides not only serious pace, but also satisfaction, as you really can keep the whole package on the boil.

That's not to say that it lacks torque either, as it enjoys a broad spread of usable lugging ability when you're not in the mood to thrash it. It's actually less compromised than the previous generation V-TEC unit in this respect, courtesy of the continuously variable valve timing. The only negative side was a slight hesitancy from cold evident in our test car (a trait that vanishes once it's warm) and an overly busy engine at motorway speeds; sixth gear is short enough to have the engine spinning at 4000rpm and above at a cruise, which can make it overly intrusive to some ears. #p##08# Interior space is much bigger than the older Clio, but then the new model is larger in every dimension, including weight. The seats are supportive and comfortable and the detail of the wheel, gear lever surround and dials lend a suitably sporting air. Equipment levels are only average given the £16k price tag, but finding comparable performance requires a significantly bigger spend now that the Civic Type-R has gone up a price bracket.

The Clio Renaultsport has grown up in maturity terms too and this is enough to alienate some of the hardcore fans who currently enjoy a 172 or 182 Clio, but market trends demand larger cars. Taken in present day context this car is everything a hot hatch should be: fast, agile, good-looking and most crucially fun; it is the epitome of the current supermini-based hot hatch. We tested the Clio 197 sandwiched between a Polo GTi and the Mazda3 MPS and it shone like a beacon in their company in terms of driver entertainment and engagement.

We're putting the Clio 197 straight to the top of our list of favourite hatches along with the VW Golf GTi and Ford Focus ST. Both of those cars are significantly more expensive, but the extra money buys more space, refinement and quality. It's a tough choice to make if you have the full £20k fund. But if your budget is closer to £16k and you want a new hot hatch, the Clio is the best place to invest your money at the moment.
2007 Renault Clio range overview

- Renault Clio Freeway 1.2 16V 75 - 3Dr : £7,488
- Renault Clio Extreme 1.2 16V 75 - 3Dr: £8,995
- Renault Clio Extreme dCi 68 - 3Dr: £9,995
- Renault Clio Authentique 1.2 16V 75 - 5Dr: £9,225
- Renault Clio Authentique dCi 68 - 5Dr: £10,225
- Renault Clio Expression 1.2 16V 75 - 3Dr: £9,610
- Renault Clio Expression 1.4 16V 98 - 3Dr: £10,110
- Renault Clio Expression 1.6 VVT 111 Auto - 3Dr: £11,710
- Renault Clio Expression dCi 68 - 3Dr: £10,610
- Renault Clio Expression dCi 86 - 3Dr: £11,110
- Renault Clio Expression 1.2 16V 75 - 5Dr: £10,280
- Renault Clio Expression 1.4 16V 98 - 5Dr: £10,780
- Renault Clio Expression 1.6 VVT 111 Auto - 5Dr: £12,380
- Renault Clio Expression dCi 68 - 5Dr: £11,280
- Renault Clio Expression dCi 86 - 5Dr: £11,780
- Renault Clio Rip Curl 1.2 16V 75 - 3Dr: £9,595
- Renault Clio Rip Curl dCi 68 - 3Dr: £10,595
- Renault Clio Rip Curl 1.2 16V 75 - 5Dr: £10,265
- Renault Clio Rip Curl dCi 68 - 5Dr: £11,265
- Renault Clio Dynamique 1.4 16V 98 - 3Dr: £10,410
- Renault Clio Dynamique 1.6 VVT 111 Auto - 3Dr: £12,010
- Renault Clio Dynamique dCi 86 - 3Dr: £11,410
- Renault Clio Dynamique 1.4 16V 98 - 5Dr: £11,080
- Renault Clio Dynamique 1.6 VVT 111 - 5Dr: £11,580
- Renault Clio Dynamique 1.6 VVT 111 Auto - 5Dr: £12,680
- Renault Clio Dynamique dCi 86 - 5Dr: £12,080
- Renault Clio Dynamique dCi 106 6 Speed - 5Dr: £13,330
- Renault Clio Dynamique S 1.4 16V 98 - 3Dr: £10,710
- Renault Clio Dynamique S 1.6 VVT 111 - 3Dr: £11,210
- Renault Clio Dynamique S 1.6 VVT 111 Auto - 3Dr: £12,310
- Renault Clio Dynamique S dCi 86 - 3Dr: £11,710
- Renault Clio Dynamique S dCi 106 6 Speed - 3Dr: £12,960
- Renault Clio Dynamique S 138 2.0 VVT 138 - 3Dr: £12,810
- Renault Clio Privilège 1.4 16V 98 - 5Dr: £11,980
- Renault Clio Privilège 1.6 VVT 111 - 5Dr: £12,480
- Renault Clio Privilège 1.6 VVT 111 Auto - 5Dr: £13,580
- Renault Clio Privilège 2.0 VVT 138 - 5Dr: £13,480
- Renault Clio Privilège 2.0 VVT 138 Auto - 5Dr: £14,580
- Renault Clio Privilège dCi 86 - 5Dr: £12,980
- Renault Clio Privilège dCi 106 6 Speed - 5Dr: £13,730
- Renault Clio Initiale 1.6 VVT 111 - 5Dr: £14,180
- Renault Clio Initiale 1.6 VVT 111 Auto - 5Dr: £15,280
- Renault Clio Initiale 2.0 VVT 138 - 5Dr: £15,180
- Renault Clio Initiale 2.0 VVT 138 Auto - 5Dr: £16,280
- Renault Clio Initiale dCi 106 6 Speed - 5Dr: £15,430
- Renault Clio Renaultsport 197 - 3Dr: £15,995

Dave Jenkins - 21 Mar 2007









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2007 Renault Clio Renaultsport 197 specifications:
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Top speed: 134mph
Combined economy: 31.7mpg
Kerb weight: 1240kg

Full technical specifications

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2007 Clio Renaultsport 197. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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