The Renaultsport Clio 200 is impressively removed from ordinary Clios. Its rear suspension and track width are so different that the wheelbase is longer and the front track wider.
The accompanying bodywork swells to cover these changes – vents are sited on the trailing edges of the front arches and a socking great diffuser (which actually works, believe it or not) sits under the modified rear bumper.
A Gordini model, which brought back the class performance name from Renault’s history, brought with it some Mini-style dressing up of the exterior and interior – including racing stripes and lots of blue and white trim – but it was axed as part of Renault’s sweeping cuts to its UK line-up in February 2012.
In chassis terms, Renaultsport has tried to widen the gap between the regular Clio 200 and the more hardcore Cup chassis variant. The normal car’s dampers are 15 percent softer than a Clio 197’s and feature what Renault calls ‘double-effect’ valves for improved ride during motorway cruising.
The Cup model, meanwhile, has 15 percent stiffer dampers than the 197 Cup, and stiffer springs (27 percent at the front and 30 percent at the rear) than the standard Clio 200. Cup cars are also 36kg lighter and feature a quicker steering rack, but they’re also less well equipped – the dashboard is made from a harder plastic, and even air conditioning is an option.
Like the standard three-door hatchback it is based on, the Renaultsport Clio has gained in size over its forebear, signalling a fundamental change of direction for the brand, for which small is clearly no longer beautiful.
However, we would have preferred better all-round visibility because the B-pillars and C-pillars are notably thick, perhaps to provide outstanding roll-over protection.