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.