So it continues, fresh from lunch, coffee, scones, and the Clio 1.6, you can just imagine my excitement when I was handed the keys to the Clio RS. You should know that every sports edition that comes from Renault is specially built by their Renault Sport Technologies arm, better known as RST. This basically means that it’s not just made and sold for the money but it’s made and sold by enthusiasts for enthusiasts.
These guys actually take their cars racing and till the 90s, were actively involved in Renault Formula 1 cars as well, so they really know what they’re building. Very few manufacturers can say that. So here I was, with the keys to one of the greatest to roll out of the RST. Palms sweaty, heart racing and evil thoughts running through my mind (you don’t want to know).
Inside, the Clio RS doesn’t differ much from the 1.6, you really wouldn’t know that you’re actually seated in a hot hatch. It’s cosy, comfortable and there’s enough room for a small family but there’s also the usual game of a sportier hot-hatch interior that include specially designed Renault Sport seats, aluminium pedals and a leather clad sports steering wheel with red center-point stitching just to remind you where you need to be heading during one of ‘those’ moments.
It’s actually outside where the difference between the Clio 1.6 and the RS can really be appreciated. I would play a game of spot the difference with you right now but that would just be insulting your intelligence. The bulges, the colour, the stance, the Brembo brakes, all combine and look the business. Business the 1.6 knows nothing about. The RS sports two doors less and looks much prettier while at it. It also sports a host of diffusers and extractors. The extractors situated at the front fenders right behind the front wheels are functional and work to reduce turbulence and facilitate the outflow of hot air from under the bonnet. And just as in Renault’s F1 cars, the vents direct airflow along the sides of the car to further enhance performance and reduce engine temperature.
So we left The Smokehouse and with me behind the wheel, headed to the Tapah toll via the older, twistier and much dangerous road with its few thousand feet drop-offs with no guard-rails and wings to save you, much to the pleasure of Doc. And this time we had with us another passenger, Reza, General Manager of TC Euro. I really did think of taking it slow and easy and not really trashing it like I should and did, but the dude drives an Elise (meaning he loves driving as well) so I figured he would understand then I gunned it.
The old road doesn’t have long straights, it’s a perfect place for a WRC stage with its narrow hairpins and blind corners but this is no WRC stage so I had to deal with oncoming trucks, busses, cars, bikes, animals, and people. Perfect. We had the Megane R26 showing us the way ahead of us so it was just a matter of keeping up with the more powerful Renault and believe it or not, it wasn’t too difficult because of the lack of straights for the R26 to stretch its legs or in this case, powerband.
The Clio RS is powered by a high-strung, naturally aspirated 2-liter engine generating 197bhp that arrives at the other end of the rev meter at 7,250rpm. To help it get there, the RS contracts 215Nm of torque that arrives earlier at 5,550rpm. This just means that the Clio RS is one of those cars that make you work for your pleasure and when you do get it all to synergize, pleasurable is an understatement. The century sprint is demolished in a very hot hatch like 6.9seconds and the RS doesn’t stop pulling till it reaches 216km/h, top speed. I didn’t really get a chance to try out the top speed but come out of a bend in the right gear and you’ll be at the next one before you know it. Approach too fast? No problem, the ventilated four-pot Brembo’s (312mm Front/ 300mm Rear) do a great job at generating lateral G’s and they held up for the entire 30min race down the hill with no hint of fade or slip.
The Continental Sport Contact 3 (215/45/R17, F/R) tyres ensure phenomenal grip making understeer hardly noticeable and when you do enter a slide, EBD and ESP ensure it stays fun. The RS is also wider than the regular Clio and that just helps it remain stable through corners or in other words; it let me carry a lot of speed into a corner because you don’t only have the width to help you but the functional F1 inspired rear diffuser enables additional downforce for optimal high speed stability.
The system reduces lift and produces the equivalent of 40kg of rear downforce at very high speeds. I could actually feel it working especially when accelerating out of a bend or when in long sweepers, the rear remains glued. It may not have generated 40kg because I wasn’t exactly attacking bends at “very high speeds” but it was enough to give me enough grip to exit without hassle. For enthusiasts by enthusiasts, makes sense now? But there’s more.
The close ratio gearbox provide for six shifts that are just a short throw from click to click and sweet to work with. The clutch is designed to allow the car to be driven hard and to be kind to your leg when stuck in a jam. Pedal placement is excellent and throttle blips are easy. The steering feels alive enough for a electronically assisted rack and is constantly feeding you information about what’s going on at ground zero and the chassis is so compliant, it’s feels like it’s sporting a roll cage.
So we made our way down the mountain, with the R26 going nowhere fast but the next bend, that’s till we reached Kuala Woh. I turned around to see how Doc was doing and the guy actually fell asleep!! Now that must either be my driving or the car, but Reza looked really glad to have made it down, so it must be the car. We headed to the Bidor rest and service area where our next car change was to take place. This time, we drive the R26.
Conclusion? The Clio RS is the perfect grocery getter and track day tool and at 1240kg, it’s well weighted but acceleration and speed is really not what it’s built for but rather it’s a precise driving machine for the driving enthusiast. It’s immensely pleasurable to drive and when you do ‘drive’ it, you can’t help but appreciate the engineering and talent that went into it. A few world championships and enthusiastic artisans unify to bring you one of the ultimate driving experiences RM215,800 can buy. In my opinion, the Type-R has met its match. Maybe not in terms of raw V-Tech power and ‘hardcoreness’ but it matches the Type-R in terms of drivability and entertainment and beats it in terms of usability and as a daily driver. That’s a feat.
For more information visit: renault.com.my