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The Top Gear car review:Renault Clio 200 Renaultsport
For:Acceleration, interior design, well damped chassis, balance
Against:Too many doors, slow gearbox, less excitment
1.6T 16V Renaultsport 200 5dr EDC
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What we say:
It's not the car it was, the Renaultsport Clio. Still fast, with a nice chassis, but not a patch on before
What is it?
Let’s recap the previous RS, shall we? It felt like a little touring car and locked you into its bucket seats. It had bespoke bodywork with flared arches and no more doors than strictly necessary for a hot hatchback. And it clung to the top of every gear and squeezed every rpm from its – naturally aspirated – 2.0-litre engine. And this new one? Its 1.6-litre petrol engine is turbocharged. It has paddle shifters, with no manual gearbox option. And five mandatory doors. In other words, Renault’s previously hardcore hatch has mellowed somewhat, in search of a broader audience. Oh dear.
It’s turbocharged now, so it gives you 177lb ft of torque from as low as 1,750rpm. That may not sound like an awful lot, but the old car had just 158lb ft. And the turbo gets going early, letting you drive harder out of corners. Fine. But then we get to the gearbox. Out goes the satisfying, short-throw manual of the old RS, in comes a double-clutcher. This was always going to upset the purists, but remember, when they’re done right, flappy paddles can be excellent. Renault claims the cogs physically tag-team in 150 milliseconds, which sounds promising, but it’s the command-to-obedience time we’re interested in. And unfortunately it’s just too slow, even when you’ve selected Race mode and reduced shifts to their minimum time. And, unlike a good ol’ manual, you have to stay one step ahead of it. At least the damping and chassis balance helps to make amends. Trouble is, we know Renault can do better.
On the inside
At least it feels like a proper product inside now, with touchscreen entertainment and a shapely dashboard. In the Cup version there’s an R-Link system in place of the standard MediaNav. This is good for two reasons. Firstly, you can ask it to overlay the normal engine sound with various artificial noises through the car’s speakers. The soundtracks on offer include the old-school Alpine A110, the angry Clio V6 and, curiously, the Nissan GT-R. For those who enjoy listening to tumble dryers.
This RS is certainly more liveable than the old one, even if it doesn’t leave you longing for more. The slightly longer wheelbase makes it more comfortable, but perhaps less eager to nose into an apex. As before, there are two types of chassis to choose from: a committed Cup version or a softer Sport, which takes the edge off the ride. The Cup is £650 more and we wouldn’t bother spending the extra. Prices start from £18,995, so it’s more expensive than the brilliant Fiesta ST and about level with the Peugeot 208 GTI.
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