Those who come at the latest-generation Clio armed only with experience of its predecessor are likely to be in for a surprise. It wasn’t that the old RS Clio rode harshly, but it certainly had a firmness and, ever alert, tiptoed with an agility that the latest model wouldn’t recognise.
The new Clio rides around town with an unexpected suppleness and maturity for a Renaultsport model. It shuffles aside bumps that would have elicited a full-body movement in the old Clio and would upset a Fiesta ST’s cabin to a greater extent than this.
You might detect that its steering follows a similar path. There is less response to small movements and more numbing of road feel. We can’t help but feel that some of the magic has been lost.
Up the speed on a more challenging road and you’ll find that these suspicions are, to some extent, confirmed. It’s not that the latest Clio is any less capable – far from it. Back to back over the same stretch of road, in fact, it is more able at swatting aside cambers, crests and surface imperfections and going from remote village to remote village, across great deserted roads, with more pace and finesse than before.
The suspension has considerable compliance for a hot hatch, so there’s a little dive under braking, but it’s well controlled. Turn-in is brisk enough, and it pays to be smooth because the suspension’s relative softness allows some weight transfer that can unsettle it. If you get turned in early and on to a steady throttle, the balance is towards understeer.