Our round-up of hot hatches begins with the facelifted Renault Clio RS of 2009-12. As such, it’s the Renault 200 rather than the earlier 197, so called because it produces 200bhp, rather than 197bhp. Torque stays the same at 159lb ft, although it and peak power come 150rpm sooner. If these tweaks don’t sound much, their effect is enhanced by first, second and third gears being slightly shorter.
The racier Renault Cup version has 15% stiffer dampers than its predecessor and much stiffer springs than the standard 200. It’s 36kg lighter, too, and has a quicker steering rack. We found a 2010-reg with 62,000 miles and full service history for £4000.
It threatens to make our featured standard-spec example, also a 2010 but with 85,000 miles, look expensive, but in that car’s favour are its new pads and discs and new handbrake cable. Worryingly, however, it has a new catalytic converter. Did the original fall victim to the tank being filled with the wrong fuel, did unburnt fuel ignite in it or was it submerged in a flood?
The only question surrounding the Cup we found is why its gearbox was reconditioned at 60,000 miles. Some early RS 197s have fragile synchros but the problem was fixed by the time the 200 appeared. Note, too, that the Cup has a firm ride that could become tiresome if you’re surrounded by speed humps.
Otherwise, it and the standard car could be worth a nosey. The cambelt needs changing at five years or 72,000 miles (best the water pump is done at the same time). Check the front swivel hub ball joints, too, by turning the wheel from lock to lock, listening for creaking.