From £16,025
The most accomplished hot hatchback this side of 20 grand

Our Verdict

Renault Clio Renaultsport 2006-2012
Its a measure of the Clio Renaultsport that it can be compared to hot hatches from the class above

The Renault Clio Renaultsport is a fine car, even if competence replaces the usual impishness of a hot Clio

What is it?

It’s the latest incarnation of the hot Renault Clio, a vehicle that’s been one of the benchmarks for rapid small hatchbacks ever since the Clio 16v and Clio Williams. This latest Renaultsport Clio 200 is more of a mid-life refresh than an all-new vehicle, but it does include some notable refinements.

The 200 features a revised version of the Clio 197’s 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine, now producing 197bhp instead of 194bhp (the 200 and 197 are figures for metric horsepower). Torque stays the same, at 159lb ft, but peak twist and power are both produced 150rpm earlier than before, and Renault claims that a reworked cylinder head and ECU have greatly improved the amount of torque available beneath 3000rpm. Shorter first, second, and third gears help low-end urge, too.

In chassis terms Renaultsport has tried to widen the gap between the regular Clio 200 and the more hardcore Cup chassis variant. The normal car’s dampers are 15 per cent softer than a Clio 197’s, and feature what Renault calls ‘double-effect’ valves for improve ride during motorway cruising. The Cup model, meanwhile, has 15 per cent stiffer dampers than the 197 Cup, and stiffer springs (27 per cent at the front and 30 per cent at the rear) than the standard Clio 200. Cup cars are also 36kg lighter and feature a quicker steering rack, but they’re also less well specced; the dashboard is made from a harder plastic, and even air conditioning is an option.

What’s it like?

If you’ve ever taken your 197 Cup to a track day and found yourself yearning for a smidgen more lateral grip, you’ll be delighted. And that’s good news for the rest of us, because it means the 200 Cup is a belter.

First, the engine. It does feel a little more urgent at lower revs, more forgiving of those who barrel into a corner and scrub off a little too much speed. There’s also an audible gearshift indicator that kicks in just before the redline; we doubt many owners will get benefit from this on the road, but it’d be a boon on track days.

And that leads us to the chassis, which is a peach. The stiffer set-up means that on a circuit the Clio is a delight to play with, and happy to cope with ludicrous mid-corner throttle lifts that would have many other small cars in the gravel. It’s quick to change direction when asked, but admirably slow to punish you when you mistreat it; short of a Focus RS or the late, lamented Megane R26, it’s hard to think of another hot hatch with such a high level of adjustability.

The brakes feel strong enough for track day use too, and they’re nicely progressive. And the six-speed gearbox is slick, with a positive action.

The steering is a little heavier than on a 197 Cup, but there’s still not a great deal of feedback in there, so if you’re playing mid-corner you can occasionally (very occasionally) feel a little detached from what’s going on. That’s pretty much the only downside, though, of a beautifully honed package (well, okay, the dashboard’s not much to write home about - but the bucket seats are superb).

Should I buy one

The most popular spec of Renaultsport Clio 197 was the regular car - and its toys - mated to the Cup chassis. We suspect that trend will continue with the 200, and those buyers will get what is the most accomplished, dynamically proficient hot hatchback this side of 20 grand. It’s that good.

Join the debate

Comments
14

30 April 2009

I tried a 197 Cup a couple of years ago and the biggest fault I could find was the seating position - set far too high. Looking at the pictures, it doesn't appear that this has changed.

Why, on the whole do manufacturers (Ford are also guilty) set their seats so high. I heard anecdotal evidence that it is for safety reasons, but I'm not so sure?

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

30 April 2009

Never Mind Swine Flu, one of the biggest priblems in the motoring world seems to be "Renault Ugly Front End Disease" and it looks like this latest Renault's caught it too, poor thing. Must be catching.

30 April 2009

[quote TegTypeR]

Why, on the whole do manufacturers (Ford are also guilty) set their seats so high. I heard anecdotal evidence that it is for safety reasons, but I'm not so sure?

[/quote]

Ford are one of the worse. I sat in the new megane the other day and was pleasantly surprise that the seat went down really low (just how I like it). So I guess it's not for safety reasons. It's just a shame that some other aspects of the car were less pleasing.

30 April 2009

All interesting stuff, but I'm getting a broken link to the article from here and the front page.

30 April 2009

[quote Johnnytheboy]All interesting stuff, but I'm getting a broken link to the article from here[/quote]

Apologies to all those looking for the Clio Renaultsport 200 drive.

We added extra factfile info to the database after the story was put online, which has unfortunately caused the article to go offline while the new data replicates.

This will be resolved soon, as the link will be fixed as soon the data has correctly replicated.

1 May 2009

[quote Orangewheels]Never Mind Swine Flu, one of the biggest priblems in the motoring world seems to be "Renault Ugly Front End Disease" and it looks like this latest Renault's caught it too, poor thing. Must be catching.[/quote]

I agree.

The previous Clio's front looked muh more appealing. Also, I am not too keen on what appears to be bigger exhausts. Again I thought the previous one looked much more discreet and nicer for it.

Anyone know what the sales fiqures for the 197 is? I use to see tons of 172's and 182's on the road but I hardly see the 197.

Still I am sure it is a great car to drive. No one does small fast hatches as good as Renault at the moment!

1 May 2009

[quote Lee23404]Ford are one of the worst. I sat in the new megane the other day and was pleasantly surprise that the seat went down really low[/quote]

That's the one thing that always put me off the Focus when I drove it - great steering feel and crisp handling but I always felt perched too high in the car.

1 May 2009

[quote TegTypeR]Why, on the whole do manufacturers (Ford are also guilty) set their seats so high. I heard anecdotal evidence that it is for safety reasons, but I'm not so sure?[/quote]

It's annoying Teg isn't it? I suspect that there is a safety aspect to cars and seating being generally higher these days. Probably prompts one or two Range Rover drivers to look up from their mobiles and avoid driving over the odd unfortunate hatch back.

The other reason is probably to increase the demographic of potential buyers. Younger people can deal with low and tall cars, but older people tend to prefer the 'walk-in' type of roofline/seating.

PaulJ

1 May 2009

The issue with seat-height in most hot hatches is a consequence of the cars' design origins: a practical hatchback that needs to appeal to a wide customer-base, most of whom prefer a lofty seat-height that enables good visibility & a feeling of confidence - the average punter does not like their eye-line level with the top of the steering-wheel, while their butt is 'on the floor'. Hence, the parameters of the steering-wheel & driver-seat heights - relative to safe airbag activation - are set for the mass-market preference. Ergo, if the steering wheel remained at the same height but the seat was lowered, then there's a good chance that 'height challenged' drivers could receive fatal whiplash (neck) injuries due to the lower half of the airbag striking the head only. In short, it's not cost effective to lower the steering column (& the instrument binnacle?) to complement a lower seat height.

1 May 2009

It's blooming ugly, that's what it is.

Where the original Clio 197 was a nicely-judged design that looked refined, understated and purposefully sporty, the Clio 200 betrays a lack of aesthetic vision at Renault at the moment, where they are implementing ill-judged designs simply in order to signal small technical changes and submit to the perceived market requirement to appear to have product progression.

There's simply a fundamental ugliness about the black nose-blob. You only need to mentally fill in the space with the body colour to realise what a mistake they've made. The wheels are the final testament to Renault's cock-up, looking like something a 17-year-old buys cheap from an Essex autonan centre.

It's a shame, because it seems like technically they've made a good car even better, but with that nose, only the sort of person who drives a Citroen Saxo VTR will manage to look at it without wincing.

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