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Driven: Clio Renaultsport 200 Cup. Image by Renault.

Driven: Clio Renaultsport 200 Cup
Does the turbocharged performance Clio stand up to scrutiny after more time behind the wheel?

 



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| Test drive | Clio Renaultsport 200 Cup |

Overall rating: 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: chassis still shines brightly, more torque than before, impressive interior and tech, a more refined machine all round, it's plenty quick.
Not so good: gearbox grates, soulless turbo engine, ride occasionally uncomfortable, fussy front end styling, not as exciting as it once was.

Key Facts

Model tested: Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC Lux Cup
Pricing: £19,995 as standard; car as tested £22,200
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed dual-clutch automated manual, front-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTi, Vauxhall Corsa VXR ClubSport
CO2 emissions: 144g/km
Combined economy: 44.8mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Power: 200hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 240Nm from 1,750- to 5,500rpm

Our view:

Emissions regulations and customer demands mean the current hot Clio, the 200 Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC), is a very different proposition to its normally-aspirated forebears. Turbocharged and with no 'proper' manual option, five-door only and laden with upmarket equipment inside, this is a 21st Century take on a car that was traditionally fairly simple - equipped as it was with a stripped out, basic interior, high-revving engine and close-ratio six-speed gearbox.

Initial reviews have not been kind to the 200 EDC and with the emergence of some truly exceptional competitors - Ford's Fiesta ST the prime example; while Peugeot has revitalised the GTi badge for the 208 - we felt more time with the twin-clutch Clio was needed to see if it could convince us that this really is the future of hot hatch motoring.

Despite the shock to the system that this gadget-festooned car presents, there's a lot to like about the Clio Turbo. Such as the improved low-down torque, something the old car definitely lacked. Or the fact it is 36kg lighter than its predecessor at 1,204kg all in. Excellent options packages like the Cup specification, as fitted to this car, are also classic Renaultsport. For £650, you get a 3mm lower ride height, 15 per cent stiffer springs and dampers, red brake callipers and 18-inch gloss black alloys with Dunlop Sport Maxx RT 205/40 R18 tyres. It remains a box well worth ticking when specifying the car.

It furthers its case by being pretty smart inside and out, the cabin a definite step forward from the budget feel of the old RS Clios with its fancy satnav system (standard fit on the Lux, £1,000 more than the entry-level £18,995 car) and superb optional R.S. Monitor (£295) that shows all manner of petrol-heady things, like differential temperature, boost pressure, g-forces, throttle use, power demand, lap times, a 0-62mph stopwatch and more.

The outside is cool too, our car in one of the two Renault i.d. metallic colours that command a fee (Flame Red £595, Liquid Yellow £1,300). The rear, profile and most details are all great, but the front end is overly fussy and complicated in my opinion, with some clunky features like the gargantuan diamond, shoehorned-in R.S. badge and silver lower splitter jarring. It's not a pretty face.

Driving it, the ride is much better than the old car's, but yet still capable of encountering surfaces that unsettle the Clio. It does, however, speak of a fluidity in the set-up that comes to the fore when you up the pace, the damping and that excellent front differential doing all they can to fling the Renault through bends at mammoth speeds. The brakes are great and it is fast enough in terms of straight-line grunt, but you have to look at the speedo regularly because it doesn't sound special. And this is where the problems start.

The engine, for all its muscularity, is anodyne. It's essentially a Nissan 1.6 DIG-T engine with some Dieppe fettling and the obfuscating engine code of M5Mt400. It offers the torque that the Clio's NA forebears lacked, but aside from some exhaust loudness at higher revs, the metallic shriek of the old car is long gone, replaced by flat bass - leaving a 'meh' soundtrack at odds with the ground speed the Clio is capable of. The steering is odd, too, with lots of weight and good progression through increasing degrees of lock. But feedback seems to be hit and miss, there one minute and gone the next. It's like listening to a radio with patchy reception, odd moments of clarity and information interspersed with indecipherable white noise.

Yet the gearbox remains its biggest shortcoming, stealing away the crucial interactivity and enjoyment that ragging a Clio 172 through 200 used to represent. On this very, very new example (less than 200 miles on the clock), the paddles felt weightier than before and the transmission was reasonably rapid at responding, but sadly not rapid enough. It's also out and out bad in full auto mode, slurring away and taking an age to swap gears. And unless you have the car in full Race mode, with traction control off, it'll shift up for you even if you're in manual mode. Renaultsport should have been brave and offered a normal manual gearbox as well, because this is a long way from the epitome of its type.

If this was a car from any other manufacturer, we'd probably give it four stars on the basis of half a mark off each for the dull engine and daft transmission. But this is a Renaultsport Clio - the market leader in this arena since the 172 emerged in 1998 or, if you want to be more accurate, the Williams in 1993. More infuriatingly, the Clio's big brother, the Mégane 265, remains sparklingly brilliant and it's evident the diff-equipped chassis of this 200 EDC possesses remarkable qualities. So Renaultsport clearly still has the golden touch and a firm with its chutzpah should know better than to allow something this flawed to be signed off. That there are now two or three cars in its class that we would recommend before the Clio is a real shame - but until we at least get a manual gearbox, the Renaultsport has to cede its hot hatch crown to other machines.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta ST: the benchmark. Exceptional in 180hp format, almost faultless in Mountune 212hp guise, keenly priced to boot. You need to stomach a choppy ride, though.

Peugeot 208 GTi: so much better than its two preceding efforts, it is once again an excellent hot hatch with a tasteful, chic interior. Not a game-changer like the Peugeot 205 GTi was, but still very, very good.

Vauxhall Corsa VXR ClubSport: the worrying thing for the Renault is that this souped-up, diff-equipped, seven-year-old Griffin is more entertaining to drive than the Clio. It's stupidly expensive, though.


Matt Robinson - 17 Jun 2014









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2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.



2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 

2014 Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo. Image by Renault.
 






 

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