What is it?
The Renault Clio GT-Line 120 aims to bridge the gap between workaday models and the hot Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo.
Also developed by and marketed under the Renaultsport sub-brand, the GT-Line borrows big brother’s six-speed dual-clutch transmission and much of its aesthetic attitude, but promises significantly lower running costs thanks to its 1.2-litre TCe four-pot – Renault’s first turbocharged petrol engine with direct injection.
At £17,395, it costs £1600 less than the RS 200, but £1300 more than the next-cheapest Clio.
Exterior embellishments include a GT-spec nose (with LEDs) and rear spoiler, twin tailpipes and 17in alloys in an anthracite shade echoed by the rear diffuser, door mirrors and sill inserts.
Inside, further anthracite touches replace red RS accents, while aluminium pedals and a leather steering wheel with fixed paddles copy the RS 200.
The sports seats – firm but comfortable and enveloping – are borrowed, too, albeit they use different cloth. The driving position is roundly adjustable, but some clacking switchgear and dash vibration marred our cabin. A 7-inch media interface includes sat-nav and Bluetooth as standard.
On the dash, as on the tailgate, you’ll find a Renaultsport badge. This might seem curious given the GT-Line’s meagre power (118bhp) and torque (140lb ft) outputs and Dieppe’s reputation for performance. Renault clearly wants to trade on the sub-brand’s image, but can it also satisfy RS diehards with some fleet-footed nippiness?
What's it like?
Well, because the GT-Line employs the RS 200’s EDC ’box (presumably to apply the same F1-related spin) rather than a lighter manual transmission, it weighs only 18kg less, despite a notable 79bhp power deficit.
This pitches its power-to-weight ratio at 99bhp per tonne – much closer to the 0.9-litre three-pot TCe’s 88bhp per tonne than the RS 200’s 164bhp per tonne.
The result is a lack of pace that haunts the Renault throughout its entire rev range. Following a lazy getaway, the turbo starts to take effect around 2500rpm, but progress remains undramatic up to the 6500rpm redline.
With so little puff, you need to manage the engine closely, but the oft-nannying gearbox doesn’t react quickly enough, even when using the positive-feeling paddles in ‘quicker’ sport mode, and especially during downshifts.
The engine is impressivley smooth, and near-silent when cruising; but it strains with revs and the turbo whistles like chatting Clangers in traffic. Despite rear drums, the brakes are sharp and effective.
The steering – weightier in sport mode – is settled on the motorway but not quite direct enough around the centre on B-roads, and is short on feel. But the chassis set-up – using 40 per cent stiffer dampers than lesser Clios and specific bump stops – is classic Renaultsport: firm, but composed and flowing on our battered lanes, yet comfortable on the motorway and in town.
Backed by line-trimming brake trickery, the GT-Line does offer some fun on the bends, then, but gaining and preserving momentum is problematic with an engine and gearbox combination that might sit better in an out-and-out city car.
Should I buy one?
Renault has named the Mini Cooper and Citroën DS3 as rivals, but similarly powerful examples of those cars are cheaper, quicker and almost as frugal as the GT-Line 120, while common-or-garden Ford Fiestas are as dynamically engaging.
Renault Clio GT-Line 120 EDC
Price £17,395; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 54.3mpg; CO2 120g/km; Kerb weight 1186kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1197cc, turbo, petrol; Power 118bhp at 4900rpm; Torque 140lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch auto