Renaultsport's latest: the 197 Clio
28 February 2006

Here is the Renaultsport 197; the next generation of fast Clio. The 197 refers to the hp power figure (194bhp) and this Clio is far from just a standard hatch with a bigger engine and some mild tweaks.

That power comes from the 2.0-litre engine, a development of the previous generation Clio 182’s unit. There is 159lb ft of torque on offer: 62mph takes 6.9 seconds; Renault quotes a top speed of 134mph.

Despite the performance, Renault claims combined fuel economy of 31mpg, partly thanks to the six-speed gearbox developed with partner Nissan. Renaultsport’s approach to their latest model, to be built at their dedicated Dieppe factory, has been nothing if not thorough. Although the visual differences are relatively slight at first glance, there is not much of the Clio III that’s been left untouched; Renault has invested 29million euros in the car’s development. Even the space for the spare wheel has been filled with the twin tailpipes and their silencers. Those pipes are designed to work the rear diffuser, which works against lift at the rear; Renault claims 40kg of downforce at ‘very high speed’ and says it enables them to do without a rear spoiler. There’s also a front splitter.

But spearing smoothly through the air (Renault says all this Formula 1-inspired rear diffusion is designed to minimise the effect on the car’s drag co-efficient) is only part of the story; how will the 197 corner? It should at least be quick round the bends. With a lengthened wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks, the 197’s rear suspension has been stiffened by 25 per cent and fitted with a 30mm anti-roll bar. The sub frame is from the Mégane Renaultsport 225 and includes transverse strengthening for a stiffer front end. Subframe bushes, rear suspension mountings and front shock absorber mountings have also been stiffened.

On top of that, Renaultsport has used a double-axis strut system which it claims makes for a big reduction in the effects of torque-induced forces acting on the car as it accelerates through a corner. The steering axis is independent of the damping system. Hauling it all in is a braking system based on the Mégane 225’s: Brembo four-pots acting on 312mm discs at the front and 300mm discs at the rear. The ESP, with comes with traction control, can be fully disconnected. The 197 will be on sale in the UK market in the summer and will come in just five colours. Prices are unannounced, but the previous car was renowned for being good value at £14,800. The 197 should not be too much more than that.

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