Manners. These days almost anything with four wheels is required to display good manners and thus the Clio RS couldn't escape this demand. Yes, that little Clio, which turned into a thunderstorm at its driver’s whim, is now supposed to somehow also be civilized.
For many, many years, Renault Sport has demonstrated that it could turn just about anything they liked into a car that truly deserved the "hot" label, but never before have the political correctness requirements been so harsh. This is like asking your circus acrobat to write emails on his smart phone while performing, so we're very eager to see the result.
Simply put, the engine was downsized to a turbocharged 1.6 unit, while the manual was scrapped in favor of a dual-clutch gearbox that even lends its name, EDC, to the whole car. Yes, the thing is now called Renault Clio RenaultSport 200 EDC.
Oh and there's another major transformation - since the new Clio only comes in a five-door form, this is how our RS tester appeared before us. It's worth mentioning that the concealed rear handles of the contemporary Clio, as well as its sporty greenhouse design mean this is not an issue.
Still, you won't mistake this for a normal Clio. First of all, none of those who buy the standard car can pick the Liquid Yellow hue you see here and believe us, they'll be longing for it.
Then there's the F1-inspired aerodynamics. Renault talks about the role of the rear diffuser, which generates 80 percent of the downforce at the back, while the remaining 20 percent is attributed to the spoiler that sits above all else. We must also mention the F1 blade included in the lower front fascia.
You see, motorsport itself has taught us that, in order for aerodynamic elements to actually work, these need to be really large and taken to frightening speeds. What we're trying to say here is that the RS body elements on the Clio won't necessarily make it faster.
On the other hand, what they do give is a touch of aggression. Yes, we know, nowadays even Chinese cars may have that, but the trick here is that it all somehow manages to seem organic. The optional 18-inch wheels (17-inch standard) on our test car also lend a hand here.
While the angry-terrier-on-rollerskates appearance of the Clio pleased us, we can't say the same about the look of the cabin.
Then again, we were kind of expecting this, since the interior appearance of the standard Clio has "trying too hard" written all over it. Not much has changed in this respect. The materials are too cheap for the pretentious design, which is exaggerated here and there.
The aforementioned conclusion spreads from the elements shared with the normal car, such as the lines of the instrument panel, to the RS-specific gear shifter. Oh well, at least the lever is handy.
The R-Link touchscreen infotainment, which proved confusing on many occasions, didn't help either.
As for the steering wheel, this is a good effort in terms of ergonomics, with the best part being the paddles. These feel and work brilliantly, whether you're cruising through the city or trying to set a new personal record on your favorite B-road.
While indulging ourselves in the latter activity, we noticed that the footrest is more of an ornament adorning the carpet than a genuine metallic support element for your left pedal pusher.
The driving position remains a bit high, while the seats seems to replicate the highs and lows of those on the old model. They are soft and offer enough side bolstering, but the upper backrest is tilted rearwards, making you long for more support in that area.
As far as the passengers are concerned, the increase in space and the extra pair of doors introduced by the new generation is welcome. We managed to hear that conclusion coming from the rear seats over the speaker-generated soundtrack of the car.
Yes, the Clio RS is totally unapologetic about its fabricated cabin sound. It all starts with the air intake noise, which is actually not synthetized, but rather amplified by a membrane. From this point on though, it all goes crazy in a very controversial manner.
There's an R-Sound Effect app that can ask the speaker to play a variety of engine revs-matching soundtracks. These go from the tune of the former Clio RS 200
or the Nissan GT-R
, to the voice of the Alpine A110 or a Renault electric vehicle concept. Despite the oddity of the thing, we would've been fine with this is if the tailpipes at the rear had generated a treat for the ears. Well, they don't. Not one bit and you can't help feeling ridiculous when you are rumbling to the beats of the Alpine Berlinette, while those outside are met with a mediocre engine noise.
Ever watched people dancing though a noise-insulating window? That's how ridiculous you look in here.
Audio shenanigans aside, the Renault Clio RS makes an excellent city car. The completely new character of the powertrain meets the ever-growing requirement of city traffic. Heck, the non-RS Clio we drove last year, a manual 0.9 TCe
, felt fragile compared to this.
The Renault Sport division has always made wonders with affordable suspensions that could juggle with ride and handling. Well, this new one is brilliant, housing a little damper within each damper. The trick works, so the various bumps of the city won't upset the body too much. Still, if you happen to meet larger road imperfections, you'll notice the short travel and the slight tendency to rush the rebound phase do affect the ride.
Renault's Clio RS can really work as a family car. Your wife can take the kids to school in the morning, and you can pick them up and give them the ride of their lifetime in the evening.
The three available driving modes take care of this. Aside from the default one, a touch of the RS button on the center console puts things into "Sport" mode. Move the gear shifter into manual, give that RS button a prolonged push and you'll go into "Race" mode. This is where you only get manual gearshifts, while the traction and stability control are put to sleep. Renault Sport engineers imposed this frame in a bid to recreate the frenzy atmosphere from the old car. The scheme does work, but we would've preferred individual management for the powertrain, electronics and gearshifts - for instance, if you are in "Sport" mode, the gearbox will override your manual commands. Not funny.
Speaking of which, it's time to cover the Clio's tech side. The 1,618 cc of turbocharged engine in front of us provide 200 horses. While the power hasn't changed compared to the naturally aspirated Clio RS we knew, in the torque department, the numbers have gone from 214 Nm (158 lb-ft) to 240 Nm (177 lb-ft). The truly good news is that, despite the increase in size, the Clio RS is some 35 kg (77 lbs) lighter compared to its predecessor.
On paper, the changes have shaved 0.2 seconds off the previous model's 0 to 100 km/h sprint, so now this is covered in 6.7 seconds. At the same time, top speed has jumped 14 km/h (8.7 mph) to a nicely rounded 230 km/h (143 mph).
Out on the open road though, the differences are much, much greater. Resembling its predecessors down to the Williams incarnation of the first-generation Clio, the replaced model, with its naturally-aspirated mill and its six-speed manual, asked you to work for extracting every inch of performance.
The new Clio RS brings its resources at hand, being easy to drive no matter how hard you push it. Don't expect any oomph up to 2,000 rpm, while the engine really comes alive once you go past 3,500 revs. Yes, there is a slight turbo lag here.
As for the gearbox, the Efficient Dual Clutch, to use its full name, is... well... OK. To put things another way, it doesn't feel sluggish, but it's no DSG either. A sharper tool would've been required here, especially since the manual isn’t even offered as an option. As for the ratios, these don't quite seem to have the typical hot hatchback shortness, in what is a typical Renault setup.
Putting the Launch Control feature to the test is good fun, a mood that continues up to about 180 km/h (111 mph). The Clio RS provides decent sprints up to 200 km/h (124 mph), but it does struggle during the final part of its speedometer. The feeling is a scaled down version of what you get in the Megane RS. Reaching the first serious bend succession of our drive, the Clio RS displays one of the cleanest pieces of handling we've seen in this segment
. Pushed to the limit, the old car unleashed its inner demons, which immediately starting dancing with the driver. Things are much more linear now.
The tail-happiness is gone. Lift mid-corner in the new car and the thing renounces the mild understeer shared with its predecessor, but that's all.
Nonetheless, where the replaced model sent its back sliding a bit, this one becomes neutral.
Of course, the Dieppe-produced Clio can still be persuaded to pull serious slides - Lord, we are thankful for the mechanical handbrake. Still, no matter how far sideways you push the car, it just wants to come back in line.
We drove the Cup chassis, which brings springs that are stiffer by 15 percent, a 3 mm ride height reduction and a swifter steering. Speaking of the steering, this has been desensitized a bit.
There's less, but still decent feedback, but the car now remains rather immune to the various road imperfections. The front axle still relies on electronics that mimic the Megane RS' mechanical limited slip diff, but the computers are smarter now.
Instead of simply comparing the rotational speeds of the front wheels, the system also takes the rear wheel into account. When things start getting out of hand, the engine torque is not limited, but the out-of-control front wheel is braked. The system is among the best we've seen, falling in line with the car's character. Those who made a fetish out of the old Clio RS' effervescence will find less of that here.
Nevertheless, while Renault wanted to make the car appealing to a larger group of buyers, maniac drivers can take this another way. Since the thing is so linear and forgiving, you can push it to 10 out of ten and beyond, without having to fear anything.
One good use for the Renault Clio RS is to transform it into a tool for covering ground quickly, as you never get tired of driving this car fast. The middle rear seatbelt, which is hanged by the headliner, seems to be waving and smiling while we are doing this. After all, it's Red, so how could it not enjoy the hooning?
We've had the most fun trailbraking the Clio RS into bends. Once you come back on the power, the results are obviously different compared to what you used to feel. The response is not as fast, but the torque does arrive in a larger quantity after the brief initial pause.
Whichever foot you use for the brake pedal, you’ll be thrilled by the response and stopping power. The front axle receives 320 mm rotors, similar to the setup on the Laguna V6, while at the back you have 260 mm discs.
The pronounced wind noise of the contemporary Clio is still here, but other than that the car is more eager to sustain long trips compared to its predecessor. First of all, we have serious high-speed stability. Then there's the fuel efficiency, which has increased noticeably. Using a moderate driving style we saw 13 l/100 km (18 mpg US) inside the city. Driving on the highway at 130 km/h (80 mph) brought the figure to 8 l/100 km (29.4 mpg US). As for the overall efficiency, which saw deeper intimacy with the throttle, this stood at 10.3l/100 km (22.8 mpg US).
Since we're in the comparison mood, we have to tell you that all the visual accessories of the Clio RS, especially those in the cabin, made us place this car against the new MINI Cooper S
. The two don't actually share customers, since the MINI is ages ahead in terms of the premium feel, but we have to mention that the Clio also leaves the Brit far behind in terms of driving accuracy.
With the former generations, the Megane RS was the faster, more calculated car, while the Clio RS played the crazy role. Now the Clio falls in line with its big brother.
There's just one issue here. While the Megane RS used to be the quickest FWD
hot hatch, the same can't be said about the new Clio RS (within its class).
If it's pure driving fun you are after, the French comes second to the Ford Fiesta ST in this class. Now this is something new, which we'll also label as the worst part of the car.
As for the best side of the new Renault Clio RS, this is the broadness of the performance. Almost anybody with a valid driver's license can be taught to drive a Clio RenaultSport fast on a B-road.
This also means you can definitely enjoy the French's charms in just about any kind of situation you can imagine. Your significant other will be thrilled.
As for the financial side, the RS badge on the Clio means you'll have to pay at least EUR 22,990, while a fully-loaded model will set you back EUR 26,990 - both prices include 19 percent VAT.
There was a time when the French carmaker's little hot hatch, the Renault 5 Turbo, was built around its forced-fed nature. Well, the Clio RS hasn't returned to turbocharging, but rather turned to it in order to survive.