To appreciate the Renaultsport 200, you must disregard its apparent lack of grunt. Renault has taken a tangential approach with this car: it is the first entirely new hot hatch philosophy from Dieppe since the original Clio 16v back in 1991.
The difference lies in the chassis and, specifically, how the engineers have tuned its behaviour. The best news is that, of all the places it is sold, the 200’s quite brilliant chassis shines brightest in the UK.
The 200 eschews much of today’s marketing-led nonsense – most notably huge wheels and slammed suspension – in creating the most sophisticated, capable and enjoyable chassis yet seen in a car of this size. In doing so, Renault has produced something that leaves the 200’s predecessors – and anything else in the class for that matter – appearing quite prehistoric.
And the weapons that provide such a crushing victory? Copious suspension travel, great individual wheel control and a large dollop of adjustability – just like the classic old-style Peugeots.
It takes just a few miles to enjoy these differences. This is a hatch with enough damping to run fast over treacherous surfaces and keep all four wheels on the ground. Crucially, it’s also one whose cornering line can be tightened with a trailing throttle as much as it can with the steering wheel.
This last fact characterised a generation of inspired hot Peugeots when that company was at the top of its game, and Renault admits that it deliberately emulated those characteristics with this car. What’s more, it is comfortable – supple in a way none of its rivals is.
There are barriers of entry to these delights, though. The first is the electric power steering, which couldn’t feel less connected to the front axle at parking speeds and which never allows the wheels to fidget in the way many would hope. But it is an unfailingly accurate system and complements the chassis well. Spend a few hundred miles in it and the electric assistance ceases to be an issue.