Few cars have reigned as class leader for as long as the Renault Clio Renaultsport.

Every previous iteration of it has been our hot supermini of choice for a simple reason: each was an enthusiast’s dream.

Fast, light, cheap and adjustable, with a heady 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine and twangy Cup chassis, past versions positively clamoured to be driven hard and devoured track duties just as readily as they spiced up a commute.

To anyone lucky enough to have spent a decade and a half behind its oversized steering wheel, the Renaultsport Clio was a formula of devilish perfection. But apparently not one immune to change.

With an all-new Clio comes a seismic change to Renaultsport’s established approach. Like the standard model, the RS 200 must now be bought with five doors. Its engine has been downsized and turbocharged. And the gearbox has been automated.

These changes are intended to make the former tearaway a more appealing prospect to a broader cross-section of buyers.

But can a softer, more sensible Clio RS live up to our lofty expectations?

Top 5 Hot hatches

  • The Trophy-R is a track-focused 271bhp front-drive hot hatchback

    Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy-R

    1
  • Volkswagen Golf R
    The new Golf R is faster than any production Volkswagen before it

    Volkswagen Golf R

    2
  • This four-cylinder Focus feels lighter at the front than its five-pot predecessor

    Ford Focus ST

    3
  • Seat Leon Cupra
    The new Leon Cupra is offered with a choice of 261bhp or 276bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines

    Seat Leon Cupra

    4
  • Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
    The Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG features a 355bhp turbocharged engine

    Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week