The Greeks called them Sirens: mythical creatures that lured sailors to their deaths on rocks by warbling to them. Unfortunately there’s nothing mythical about the Renault Sport Clio 197 whose charms, not least the promise of 194bhp combined with a superb chassis, have led drivers if not to the rocks then at least to the bank.
The problem lies with the TL4 six-speed gearbox – specifically its graunchy synchros. Changing down to third, up from third to fourth… It’s a well-documented problem and far from isolated, as we found when combing the classifieds. This chap, for example, selling his 82,000-mile 2007 197: “Intermittent crunch 3rd and 4th possibly synchros.”
Now the good news. At launch in 2006 the Clio 197 cost just £15,995, so it’s no surprise that prices of used examples are so attractive today. In the wake of its brilliant predecessor, the 182, expectations were high. The 197 didn’t disappoint. It used a more powerful version of the same eager 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine, which has since proved reliable with regular servicing. Standard kit included Brembo brakes, a rear diffuser and dedicated Continental tyres.
In 2007 it was joined by the more focused, cheaper and stripped-out 197 Cup, with crisper steering, a lowered chassis and stiffer springs. That same year this set-up also found its way into the F1 Team R27, a limited-edition model that celebrated Renault’s 2006 F1 success. In 2008 the TL4 gearbox got revised ratios, including a taller sixth gear.
A facelift came along in 2009, offering a nose job and improved interior, a few extra horsepower and a new name: 200 (the metric power output). It also gained a little more torque, improving pick-up. The suspension was improved further and torque steer all but eliminated, while Cup variants got an even quicker rack. More power, even sharper suspension? No prizes for guessing the 200 is the one to have.