We Brits have fallen behind when it comes to being world leaders, but we rule with omnipotence in one category of life: we buy more fast Renaults than anyone else – even the French. Ergo the new Clio 200 is a very significant car.
Ever since we got our hands on a Sport 172 back in 1999, Renaultsport’s piping-hot front-drive Clio has been a firm favourite at Autocar. Prodigious speed, bags of grip and an adjustable chassis gave it a place in our hearts alongside the Peugeot 205 GTI. And we liked the stripped-out Cup version even more – enough to pick it over the more expensive Mini Cooper S.
Delve a little more deeply into tradition, and it's not difficult to find hot Clios of worthy mettle. The Clio Williams line included a succession of hot hatches leading back to a 1993 original that was blisteringly quick, handled sweetly and, with its gold alloy wheels and blue dials, looked superb.
If your insurance broker baulked at the prospect of a group 17 rating, there was also the Clio 16v – a more ordinarily styled hatch that could run the hotter Williams surprisingly close on performance.
Look below that, and you'd find a 1.8-litre Clio RSi that, for its slightly tamer pace, still proved a real live wire – we rated it more highly than better-known rivals such as the Ford Fiesta XR2i, Peugeot 106 XSi, Citroën AX GTI and Vauxhall Corsa GSi.
So the latest incarnation of the hot Renault Clio ought to appeal to us. This Renaultsport Clio 200 is more of a mid-life refresh for the previous 197 than an all-new vehicle, but it does include some notable refinements, including a revised 2.0-litre engine, firmer suspension and some subtle styling changes. Are the tweaks enough for it to still reign supreme?