Hot hatch lovers of a certain age have the Peugeot 205 GTi to go misty-eyed over, but what if you aren’t pondering retirement?
Say hello to the younger petrolhead’s must-have: the Renault Sport Clio 172 and 182.
At launch in 2000, the 172 cost around £16,000, with the result that good runners with history are seriously cheap today. In fact, we came across one for £990 at a dealer, with the ‘sold as seen’ car described as having lots of history and a new timing belt and water pump. The downside? The MOT had expired.
Never mind, because just £500 more gets you a 172 with a full MOT, full history and the crucial cambelt and dephaser pulley jobs ticked.
The 172 Phase 1 was born in the long shadow of the legendary Clio Williams, so expectations were high. It didn’t disappoint, thanks to a chassis honed by Renault Sport and a 2.0-litre engine with variable valve timing and 168bhp. A bodykit and 15in OZ alloys distinguished it from lesser Clios, while inside there were half-leather/Alcantara sports seats and air-con. It weighed just 1035kg and was good for 0-62mph in 7.2sec.
The Phase 2 version arrived in 2001 with restyled bumpers, xenon headlights, 16in alloys, redesigned sports seats and automatic, rather than manual, air-con.
A stripped-out version, called the 172Cup, weighing 1021kg and with a 0-62mph time of 6.7sec, landed in July 2002. Look for the lowered stance (it has stiffer suspension) and a restyled front splitter and rear spoiler. The air-con and anti-lock brakes were deleted.
Then in 2004 the 172 gave way to the 178bhp 182, and the extra power shaved a couple of tenths off the standard 172’s 0-62mph time (although the latter actually feels gutsier to drive).
The 182 has dual exhaust tailpipes in place of the 172’s single exit. They’re different systems (the 182 has no spare wheel well in order to accommodate it) but both are heavy and rattle as the mounts give up. A cut-price 182 Cup followed, but while it was stripped of much of the kit that made the standard car so attractive, it was actually heavier (1090kg) than the 172 Cup and is not so well regarded. More tempting were the optional Cup Style and Cup Chassis packs that allowed you to spec your standard 182 with the Cup’s front splitter/rear spoiler and lowered, stiffened suspension respectively.
Today, condition, service history and provenance are more important than registration year or model type. The one version that bucks this trend is the rare and sought-after 182 Trophy, produced as a thank you to UK fans for their enthusiasm for the Renault Sport Clio. Just 550 were made – 500 for the UK, the rest for Switzerland. In place of the conventional coil and spring set-up, it has exotic Sachs remote-reservoir suspension. We loved it, and as this issue went to press, one was being advertised for £5600.
An expert’s view...
CARL SMITH, REPAIR & RESTORE BODYSHOP
“We’re Renault Sport specialists. There’s nothing we don’t know about the bodies on Clio RS 172s and 182s, and how to repair them. The cars are getting on now and have had multiple owners. Some have had track day smashes, been patched up and passed on to unsuspecting buyers. Others have just been repaired on the cheap after a trip into a hedge. We can spot them a mile off. Rust is another thing, around the rear wheel arches and the rear subframe. We know where to look and can get to it before it takes hold.”
Check the engine doesn’t rock on its mounts. Cambelt and tensioner change is every five years or 72,000 miles (have it done by a specialist); accessory belt every three years or 36,000 miles; oil and filter every 6000 miles. Listen for noisy dephaser pulley accompanied by power loss. Heavy exhaust back box on 172s can detach.
Can get noisy from 60,000 miles with worn synchros and bearings and a crunchy third gear; likes fresh oil at 72,000 miles. Gearbox mounts can fail (listen for knocking during changes).
Front coil springs fail. Change in pairs at around £120 each plus labour. Front Sachs shocks on rare 182 Trophy can fail (try bgmotorsport.co.uk for new parts). Suspension bushes wear. Recall in 2003 for front suspension arm fault.
Expect 30,000-40,000 miles from discs/pads. Brake lines on rear axle can rust (about £72 per side). Recalled in 2002 for air pressure sensor fault causing loss of servo assistance.
Rack bushes fail. Replace to restore steering sharpness.
Check for rust around rear wheel arches and behind bodykit. Check boot floor for deformation.
Ballast packs in 172 and 182 xenons fail; used ones cost £40 or so on eBay. Misty headlights can be restored cheaply.
Alcantara bobbles over time. Steering wheel’s rubber thumb grips can ‘melt’. An aftermarket wheel is the only fix.
Also worth knowing...
If the SERV fault light comes on, plug a reader into the diagnostic port under the ashtray and interrogate the system for a fault code. Problems that generate fault codes include poor running and starting issues.
How much to spend?
Clio 172 Phase 1s, but mostly historied 2s with lots of owners and 80,000- 100,000 miles.
Early 182s, some 182 Cups plus late and tidy average-mile 172s. Lots of history, some with new cambelt and dephaser.
More 182 Cups plus lots of 2005-plate 182s and ambitiously priced 172s.
More 2005 182 Cups plus most expensive ‘standard’ 172s and 182s.
Clio 182 Trophys start around here.