RENAULT Clio RS Gordini Review

OUR TEST CAR: RENAULT Clio RS Gordini 2012

RENAULT Clio RS Gordini - Page - 1
It might sound ironical that Renault brought back the Gordini name as a range-topping equipment level that brings extra exterior and interior goodies, leaving the technical side untouched, since Amedee Gordini, was a man that heavily modified the mecanical side of Renault vehicles in the 50s, 60s and 70s, making them go faster.

Nicknamed “Le Sorcier” (The Sorcerer), Gordini started his relationship with Renault by tweaking their gearboxes and ended it with supervising the mechanical development of a Le Mans-winning car.

However, if we consider the fact that Renault Sport, the carmaker’s racing division, which also handles its go-fast street models, has already turned the model it has touched into to rolling pieces of explosive material, we realize that there was simply not enough room for another performance sub-brand in Renault’s stable. In fact, is this would ever appear, it would have to be Alpine, a sub-brand that the company is rumored to be planning to revive for quite some years now, but this is a different story.

We’ve chosen a very special pen to write this Gordini story: the Renault Clio RS. The vehicle’s history dates back to Gordini’s time, when the Renault 5 Alpine / Gordini was launched (1976). After receiving a Turbo incarnation (1982), this was replaced by the first generation of the Clio, which came with the Williams performance model (1993).

The second generation of the Clio brought the first RS model to life (1998), the 172, which received a revamp, in the form of the 182. The third generation of the Clio made room for the the 197 and now we are dealing with its facelift, the 200 (2010).

Over the years, the Clio RS, which, together with the Megane RS, is put together at the company’s motorsport factory in Dieppe, has built the reputation of the fastest contender in the sub-compact hot hatch segment.

The switch between the two generations the RS models are based on also made the vehicle more comfortable, allowing it to offer more than just performance for money and Renault claims that the new Gordini equipment level takes this to a new height.

Buckle up, we’re going for a ride. Back in the day, Amedee Gordini didn’t have ESP, so we’ll leave ours at home too!

This is a Renault Clio RS in Gordini clothes, so let’s see what’s different. First of all, the car is finished in Bleu Malte, a color that brings back the Gordini shade of blue of the past. It gets two longitudinal glacier white stripes, which are also present on the steering wheel, which have little “G”s on them. White is also used for the front splitter, inspired from Renault’s F1 cars, as well as for the exterior mirrors.

Besides the Gordini color scheme and the Gordini Series (this is how the qualifying rounds of the former Gordini Cup were called) badges that sit on the sides of the car, you also notice the standard RS bits and pieces (if we can call these “standard), such as the aforementioned racing nose and the black diffuser at the rear, which reminds us of the massive aerodynamic elements used by Pikes Peak cars more than anything else.

This incorporates the two exhaust pipes, which are, double fake. This means that the actual tip of the exhaust is followed by not one but two ornaments that we have to admit, make the whole thing look great. Renault’s go-fast division went even further with the spices, throwing in a roof wing.

The increased track meant that the car needed beefier wheelarches, which then had to be helped by bolder side skirts. Unlike on the Megane RS, where the extra muscle on the wheel arches and the side skirts feels a bit cheap, as it comes in the form of plastic add-ons, here the new shapes are beautifully integrated into the car and you could swear that they were there from the 1.2-liter beginning.
Of course, the aforementioned generous wheelarches had to be filled with some rims and the Gordini version uses Beebop Diamantées Bleues that demonstrate bling doesn’t have to mean bad taste.

Even your grandma will tell you that the RS is a completely different animal compared to a standard one and the Godrini version highlights the differences even more (you can also have the Gordini trim on the standard Clio, but it’s not as rich). Compared to the Megane RS we drove last year, this is clearly a more stylish way of boosting appearance.

And you know what’s funny? You wouldn’t expect EUR22,300 (USD28,870), the starting price for the RS Gordini, to be enough to buy you respect on the streets of, let say... Monaco, but we reckon it is.

The Gordini equipment level brings an extra topping to the interior of the Clio RS, introducing retro and racing inspired elements, all of which create an atmosphere that makes you feel both relaxed and ready for action at the same time.

The seats and the steering wheel are covered in black & blue leather, with the first also coming with two striped at the top, which not only mark the straight position, reminding us of rallying, but also continue the white stripes on the exterior of the car.

Sissies can’t drive this car, since the gear shifter doesn’t come with the “H” scheme, replacing this with a superb, retro-styled Gordini logo. The special edition feeling is increased by the blue leather cover for the gear shifter, the branded floor mats and the limited edition metallic plaque on the center console (this includes the production number, but Renault has always increased the production for this kind of cars, so we’re not worried).

The aluminum pedals are also a nice touch, and so are the dials, but the hand brake lever, which uses cheap plastic, makes you want to check the engine compartment for the presence of a 1.2-liter engine. Another aspect that we didn't like was the positioning of the door handle, which makes you pull really hard for the door to close.

The seats are one of the best in the hot hatch segment, even though they’re not perfect, In fact, they’re part of the Renault Sport legacy, one that allows you to use the car every day with absolutely no problem. They’re soft, comfortable and offer enough lateral support for trackday events.

However, the cervical area is bended rearwards and you feel like there’s no support for this part of your body and the fact that they only use perforated leather on the sides, not also on the center, makes you feel a bit uncomfortable in the hot season. As for the seating position, this is suitable for any kind of trips, but a lower one would’ve suited the car better.

We also love the white stitching in the cabin, which is also used on the dashboard. No, Renault didn’t use leather for the dash, but it has fitted the best plastic we’ve ever touched.

Many hot hatches are a paradox: their size and short gearing fully recommends them for city driving, but the hard ride and seats, as well as the difficult clutches, keeps them from being good daily drivers. Well, the Clio RS Gordini couldn’t be further from this.

Renault Sport really knows how to make a civilized fast car and it has fully used its expertise on this model. In fact, tackling the urban jungle using the Clio RS Gordini made us think we know what fishes feel when they manage to fall back into the water after spending some time out of it. It’s a feeling of absolute freedom and the car is so nimble that you just wouldn’t want to let go of the steering wheel.

The first three ratios, which have now been shortened, are perfect from delivering that all-needed deadly punch, but all the gearing, together with the elasticity of the engine (thank you variable intake valve work!) allows you to go for a relaxed drive to the office and back at 2,000 rpm if this is what you want.

This elasticity also allows you to reach the fuel efficiency level announced by the carmaker if you try, but let’s be honest, who’s going to do that?

Yes, the visibility is good, but going for the rear parking sensors is always a good idea, especially since the wider track means that your wheels are a bit more threatened by curbs than in a normal Clio. Oh and yes, we would’ve liked a tighter turning circle. The 288 liters of the boot might not sound like much, but we’d be surprised if any of you has a girlfriend that won’t be pleased with that.

We were laughing for a lot of the time when we were behind the wheel, just knowing that we’re driving a car that is both the most comfortable and the fastest in the sub-compact hot hatch segment. God, we wish they had cars like this in driving school!

The Clio RS Gordini is fun enough to let you enjoy it around town, but that just makes you want to send the speedo’s needle to the opposite end even more and to do this you have to leave the urban areas behind.

We’ll start with the not-so-obvious conclusion: this car is suitable for long trips. The soft seats and the decent suspension mean that the only ones that will have to suffer after a cross-country journey will be the tires. Excepting the level of noise part a certain speed, which means that you’re going over the legal limit by a hefty margin anyway, this car is suitable for covering long distances.

Touch a small button located to the right of the steering column and the ESP, as well as the ASR are left behind. However, you are never alone with the open-diff front axle, as the CSV, Renault’s way of electronically simulating a limited slip differential, is always there.

Since we started mentioning how the car lets you punish the front tires, we’ll tell you that the aforementioned system is superior to most of its kind, but still good seconds behind the mechanical LSD on the Megane RS.

However, the perfect balance of the chassis, means that using the throttle to steer is no longer a notion reserved for RWD or AWD cars. When you trailbrake this car, of just play with lift-off oversteer, the transition is so smooth that you’re wondering if you’ve left the tarmac and entered an icy road. The back steps out predictably and in a perfectly linear way and comes back in the same manner.

The linear power delivery of the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit is impressive. However, to really get the explosions going, you need to take the poweprlant past 4,000 rpm. From this point on, it all goes crazy and stays this way until you hit 7,500, a point where you hear a “beep”, just in time to shift up before you hit the limiter.

The 2010 revamp has brought an extra 3 hp, but, more importantly, 20 percent of the torque is nor available at lower revs, thanks to the use of a new cylinder head, continuously variable intake valve timing and a new ECU map.

Basically, Renault Sport made the car more drivable, rather than go for the usual mods pursued by owners that might take the power up to 220 hp, but make the car more difficult to use everyday.

The power is there when you want it, and correcting your induced oversteering maneuvers by applying the throttle is a child’s play. As for the part where you want to loose speed, the Brembo brakes not only offer serious stopping power, but come with enough fade resistance to make you want to quit fooling around before making them fail their job.
59user rating 109 votes
Rate this car!
autoevolution May 2012
In the city
Open road
Tech facts
59user rating 109 votes
Rate this car!
Photo gallery (66)
RENAULT Clio RS Gordini in cityRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini highway drivingRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini on highwayRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini top speedRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini rimsRENAULT Clio RS generationsRENAULT Clio RS generationsRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini wheelRENAULT Clio RS Gordini burnoutRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini beach drivingRENAULT Clio RS Gordini speedRENAULT Clio RS Gordini driftingRENAULT Clio RS Gordini hooningRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini driftRENAULT Clio RS Gordini front seatsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini door sillsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini front doorRENAULT Clio RS Gordini fuel filler capRENAULT Clio RS Gordini front seatsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini leather seatsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini front seatRENAULT Clio RS Gordini pedalsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini door panelRENAULT Clio RS Gordini indicatorsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini steering wheel stripesRENAULT Clio RS Gordini light controlsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini audio controlsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini center consoleRENAULT Clio RS Gordini numbered plaqueRENAULT Clio RS Gordini with no RS monitorRENAULT Clio RS Gordini rear seatsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini rear seatsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini dashboardRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini engineRENAULT Clio RS Gordini side ventsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini rimsRENAULT Clio RS Gordini front spoilerRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini drivingRENAULT Clio RS Gordini glamourRENAULT Clio RS Gordini profileRENAULT Clio RS Gordini rearRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini profileRENAULT Clio RS Gordini frontRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini grilleRENAULT Clio RS Gordini on the beachRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini urban shotRENAULT Clio RS Gordini on the beachRENAULT Clio RS GordiniRENAULT Clio RS Gordini cupRENAULT Clio RS Gordini city