Clio sharpens up its act for the track. Great, but we'd wait for the cheaper Cup version.

What is it?

Another fast Clio. Ever since the introduction of the original Clio Cup in 2002, Renault's range of hot superminis has been impressively various. It's not been enough to offer just one version of the fast-revving hatch; we've seen six of them since then, every one slightly differently endowed, kitted-out and set-up from the last.

This is the seventh, and the first limited-edition to be spun off the excellent Clio 197's mechanicals; meet the R27, or the Renaultsport Clio F1 Team R27, to give its full, and rather over-lengthy billing.

Essentially, it's a specced-up version of the 197 that will be made available in a limited run of 500 cars in the UK, and sold for £17,250. That sounds like a lot for a Clio, but bear in mind that the standard one comes in at £15,995, and this one has £1500-worth of optional kit thrown in, including tinted windows, painted brake callipers, the must-have Recaro bucket seats, 17in anthracite alloy wheels and, of course, Renault F1 Team decals.

What's it like?

Most important of all is what's underneath this Clio. It's got the same 197bhp 2.0-litre engine and six-speed manual gearbox as the standard car, but a lower, stiffer chassis set-up replaces the standard Clio 197's suspension. Springs are 27 per cent stiffer at the front, and 30 per cent stiffer at the rear, roll stiffness has been increased by 10 per cent at both ends, the suspension bump-stops have been overhauled, and the whole car rides 7mm closer to the tarmac.

So is it a car transformed? Well no, thankfully, because there's little wrong with the standard 197's chassis. The 197's ideal for fast road use, in fact, its unusually generous wheel travel soaking up bumps and ruts with incredible aplomb. The R27's set-up trades a bit of that wheel travel for added grip and better outright body control. On the track, this Clio is much more composed than the 197; it rolls and pitches less, it works its Michelins harder when cornering, and is generally a slightly quicker, more precise instrument.

Should I buy one?

We'd recommend the R27, not so much for the road, but if you're a track day regular, and particularly if you're intending on speccing your 197 up to the nines.

There's only one thing to note; Renault will be offering exactly this chassis set-up on the road-going Clio 197 Cup. That car will be here by the end of the year, and minus the 197's standard audio system, air conditioning and a few other bits of kit, is likely to cost less than £15k.

You can bet that Renault dealers wont be telling the 500 R27 buyers that, but we'd say it's definitely worth knowing. After all, £2255 buys an awful lot of track days.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Add a comment…