It's very fast, very capable, surprisingly refined and exceedingly impressive dynamically, yet for some reason I've come away feeling short-changed by the new Clio Renaultsport. Emotionally it's left me... not so much cold, but no longer on fire.
You can read elsewhere on this site about the specific qualities of its new dual-clutch gearbox (which isn't great if I'm honest) and about how – in theory – you can tailor the car's personality on the move to transform it from road-legal racing car to soothing family hatch and so on, but the main news is that, overall, it's gone a little bit soft.
The slightly manic, deliciously crazed driver involvement that has been at the centre of all previous Cliosports has, for very modern reasons, been replaced by a more soothing, much more civilized demeanour. Which is, of course, an entirely common theme to come across nowadays, to a point where it's become something we expect.
But to discover such numbing-up in what was, until now, such a small, simple and pure driving machine is, for me, quite a disappointment. The hot Clio was, after all, one of the last bastions of affordable madness on four wheels. I didn't want it to have the ride of a limousine or the automated gearbox of a supercar, nor the cabin sophistication of an SUV. I wanted it to set my hair on fire when I let rip in it, and it was one of the very few cars available in the real world that did just that – almost literally on one occasion as I recall.
I'm 100 per cent certain the new car will be nicer to live with everyday, and I'm equally certain Renault will shift many more examples globally as a result. But at the same time I think it's a desperate shame that Le Régie has released the Cliosport's USP into the ether, and replaced it with something far more capable, yes, but also less memorable.
Maybe the Peugeot 208 GTI really does stand a chance of redressing the balance, after all.