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Driven: Renault Clio RS200 Cup – form, not fashion.

Big things were expected from the Clio RS200; big things indeed. Especially when you consider how I fell in love with the Megane RS250 (read my review here), it was clear the Clio RS had sizeable shoes to fill. The formula was promising – 2.0-litre 16-valve naturally aspirated four-pot making 200PS and 215Nm, mated to a six-speed manual, quick enough to dispatch Zerotohundred in 6.9 seconds, up to a top speed of around 230km/h. Certainly respectable hot-hatch figures. Thanks to TC Eurokars, we find out just how the Clio RS shapes up.

In RS guise, there are a slew of aero tweaks over the regular car – an F1 inspired front bumper, a front splitter (that Renault says will reduce drag), fat wheel-arches, a rear diffuser (fully functional, capable of producing 40kg of down-force at speed), and tailpipes sticking out from each corner. Look past the 17-inch wheels and you’ll also notice four-pot Brembos. While all these add-ons sound promising, the harsh reality is that the Clio still doesn’t look very pretty (at least not to me). This remains as the most difficult car I’ve had to shoot to date, with very few angles that actually complement it. It almost looks like a stubbier version of the Megane, with a face that only a mother could love. Best angle? Most definitely its arse.

Step into the Clio and you’re greeted with a cabin that has the same French flair you’d expect from the Megane. The speedometer is tilted at an angle, buttons are spread across the side of the steering rack, and you get the same sort of hard-touch plastics spread across the cabin. Figuring where and what each button did wasn’t difficult, but I felt that it could have done with a better layout. I was dreading the thought of climbing into a pair of semi-bucket seats after having suffered a bad back for several weeks, so I was mildly surprised to find the pair of Recaros up front to be plush and very comfortable. Compact cars are never too practical; but there’s sufficient legroom behind the driver for two, along with decent boot space for your average grocery shopping.

With modern day hot-hatches going down the route of forced induction, it was certainly refreshing to find the Clio RS naturally aspirated. To get the most from the engine, you need to constantly work the six-speeder, keeping the engine within the power band. Maximum power is delivered at a heady 7,100rpm but maximum torque at 5,400rpm so you don’t have to keep shifting in city driving conditions. Gears one through three is noticeably shorter with fifth and sixth gears longer. Unlike other hot-hatches that make use of superchargers or turbos, the Clio never overloads your senses; there’s no urgency to shuffle quicker, perfectly happy with trawling sedately.

The RS Cup chassis comes as standard on every Clio sold in Malaysia. This brings lowered ride height, quicker rack, and increased torsional rigidity. The car 36kgs lighter than its predecessor (Clio RS197) as well. The result from this is fairly astonishing – plant your foot firmly into the accelerator and you get a small squeak with nary of whiff of torque steer. But the real fun in the Clio isn’t reeling off in a straight line; it is in the twists and turns where the brilliant chassis shines through, the tyres gripping on as you weave through corners. There’s good feedback from the meaty, well-weighted steering, and the brakes bite reassuringly hard with little fade. Its the sort of car that makes you rediscover the little joys in driving. Clearly, the chassis is able to handle more power, but too much could make it a threat to its bigger brother.

You probably won’t expect it (I certainly did not), but the Clio turns out to be a calmer, more mature version of the feisty Megane. RenaultSport have worked their magic once more to give the Clio equal doses of comfort and sport. The ride is compliant – never too harsh over uneven surfaces, and yet taut enough for Ulu Yam runs. My only gripe with the car remains with the interior; Renault seems to have concentrated too much with chassis and engine tweaks, leaving the interior spartan, plain, and boring. Its as though they thought some yellow stitching and aluminum pedals would be sufficient to liven up the cabin. If I had to be honest, the interior is outright disappointing.

In Malaysia, the Clio RS retails for almost RM200k. Its only other (logical) competitor in the same class would be the Polo GTI, which despite the recent price increase, is still significantly cheaper at RM170k. The Polo has similar performance figures, with a better built interior but will never match the Clio when it comes to purity in driving. Or, you could look at it from a different angle: weighing in at a little over 1,200kg, the Clio has a similar power-to-weight as a Toyota 86, sprints off the line faster, and handles almost as well. Conceptually different but spiritually similar, the Clio also costs RM50k less. For the long-time Renault enthusiast, you’ll be delighted to note that the new Clio RS is also marginally cheaper than the car it replaces. Now, if only I could get over the way it looks…

Renault Clio RS200 Cup
Zerotohundred: 6.9secs
Top Speed: ~235km/h (tested)
Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder NA
Power: 200PS / 7,100 rpm
Torque: 215Nm / 5,400 rpm
Weight: 1,205kg (kerb weight)
Fuel Economy: N/A
Wheels: N/A
Tyres: 215/45 R17
Price: RM199,000 (OTR excluding road tax and insurance)

From taking pictures of supercars on the streets, Won has taken his hobby to a whole new level, by regularly contributing to '(00). Owner and purveyor...
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  • Aug 13, 2012
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