Bad news: Renault’s not building the 275bhp Clio R.S.16

Sorry, fast French fans. Lack of factory capacity means no manual, stripped-out Clio

Enough already, 2016. The politics, the deaths of all the cool celebrities, and now the bad news cloud has rained down on our world of fast, fun cars. Renault has today announced it’s not putting the very special Clio R.S.16 into production. 

Top Gear.com received this official statement from Renault explaining the decision to ditch the ultimate Clio:

“Clio R.S. is built at the Alpine Dieppe plant. Here it’s possible to make very low volume, hand built production cars (it’s where we made Clio V6, Spider and, currently, some competition cars – Clio Cup, Formula Renault etc).”

“The plant is also gearing up for the production of the Alpine and, it’s due to the focus on this, that the eventual decision was made not to divert attention away to make some R.S.16s. The option of delaying R.S.16 until after the start-up of Alpine was considered but this would have meant first-half 2018, too long for customers to wait.”

So, it’s not that Renault wouldn’t have found enough hot hatch nuts ready to spend the thick end of £40k on a mega-Clio. It’s not the environment sticking in Renault’s craw. It’s simply a case of not having the factory capacity to make R.S.16s while simultaneously readying an all-new sports car that wants to have 718 Caymans and Alfa 4Cs on toast. Talk about bittersweet news.

To remind you, the Clio R.S.16 was far more than a wing and a fresh-air-instead-of-back-seats job. Then engine was lifted from the now-defunct RS Megane Trophy, good for 275bhp and now acting through a mechanical front diff. The suspension was swapped for a more track-focused set-up, there were bigger brakes, sticker tyres, and even a manual gearbox instead of the much-maligned paddleshift. 

The spec sheet read like a wish-list for hot hatch fans. Renault apparently went to the expensive trouble of crash-testing a car. There was even talk of Renault eyeing the Nürburgring front-drive record that Honda and latterly VW snatched from Dieppe.

When TG’s Stephen Dobie got a first drive in the concept back in July, he was so won over by the car’s performance he announced: “having met the small team behind this car – who worked secretly on this project over a five-month period – I’ll happily eat your hat, as well as my own, if they allow Renault to put the kibosh on bringing it to production.” Hope he’s hungry…

Meanwhile, the Clio R.S.16 concept impressed enough to feature in TG’s Speed Week, among the finest fast cars of the past 12 months. You can console yourself reading how Chris Harris got on pitching it against the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S, Ford Fiesta ST200 and Ford Focus RS here.

So, while the R.S.16 will never see a showroom floor, we can content ourselves knowing it was sacrificed so Renault could concentrate on resurrecting Alpine, and bringing a new, pretty and purportedly attainable sports car to the market. No pressure…