I tasted the new and very different Clio RS 200 some weeks ago and I have mixed feelings. I belong to the group where only 3 pedals can provide full enjoyment of any given performance car. Full enjoyment being, the ability to tame or cane the beast at will, where the act of operating the foot pedals and a stick is an art, somewhat a talent that only the connoisseurs would bother fussing about.
But sometimes, a rare and special specimen comes along..
I’ve got to admit, while test driving it in the first few KMs alone I was engrossed at just how mature this new Clio RS has become. While fiddling with the new dual clutch transmission and also a new, Nissan sourced Turbo 1.6L engine choice, I can’t help but to think that when RenaultSport built the car, they had this motto in mind, Just Enough.
To me, everything was just, enough. The power is just enough, the drive is pretty good, the cockpit is not bad, exterior styling is quite nice. Yet it is a good thing because for the money, being in this part of the world, the Clio RS oozes value. This is still an affordable hot hatch after all. Plus, at this segment and price range, there’s nothing on the market that has the flair, is as plush, quick, taut, techy and feature packed.
The longer I spend time with the new Clio RS the more I start to appreciate RenaultSport’s latest hot hatch + 1.6 Turbo + dual clutch recipe. All I can say is they got this new one just right and it is pretty special.
Fast forward, the Clio RS was such a hit, we bit the bullet and got ourselves a brand new one. Simply because hot hatches are our thing and we’re always on the lookout for toys like that. Here it’s is, the MINI’s new hot neighbour, Le Clio, RS.
I’ll share with you my top 10 reasons why this is THE hot hatch at the moment. It’s quite different from the reviews you are accustomed to so I hope you enjoy it.
RenaultSport has exceeded expectations in overall build quality in this new line of Clios. Previous iterations were all great hot hatches but the compliments stops there. They were generally basic, affordable compact base cars with spicier engines and chassis plus a couple of badges highlighting the RenaultSport heritage.
Only up until recently, with the introduction of the current Megane RS that has since catapulted the RenaultSport brand to new heights. This new Clio 4 RS is something else in and out. It feels like it’s been designed from the ground up and not just an improved version of a certain base car. There’s plenty of RS accents for one, it’s not plasticky, in fact most materials used feels good to the touch, everything looks pleasant, fits perfectly and is tight, in a method that is less French now. Perhaps for the first time, this new Clio RS can represent the RenaultSport brand as a refined sports compact that is no longer just a go fast shopping cart.
The Megane RS was to me, some of the most formidable cars on our planet. It’s unreal how brilliantly the car handles, while managing to filter out all unnecessary drama and harshness to provide crisp, crystal clear steering feedback and possessing cornering abilities that are godlike. There isn’t any other FF hatch like it and it makes you say, Holy $#!% I need this!
This RenaultSport signature has been emulated over on the Clio RS. Although Megane RS’s trick steering knuckle (similar to Ford’s Revo Knuckle) is absent here, perhaps because there’s “only” 200hp here as compared to the 250hp, up to 275hp now in the Megane RS or maybe the Clio RS just doesn’t need it. Whatever it is, the Clio RS behave quite like a brother to the Megane RS, just smaller.
Also absent is the mechanical LSD. Instead, the Clio RS has an electronic version. Similar to how VW’s XDS work, electronics apply brake pressure to the spinning wheel when throttling out of a corner. Cleverly eliminating under-steer at the exit. It’s virtually invisible when in operation and there’s no sense of pulling the front in as well. Just a neutral sensation pretty much. Very cool actually, just not mechanical. But who cares, this thing carve corners with a passion.
Don’t call me a pussy for ditching manual just yet. For one, I personally have chronic fetish for manual shifting, yet I would never have took as much interest in the Clio RS if it didn’t feature the Dual Clutch.
To me at least, what good is a manual shifting car if it doesn’t inspire the driver. I don’t mean disrespect but as much as I idolize the Megane RS’s prowess, I couldn’t come to terms with its cockpit. This is subjective so please bear with me. It feels to me, that the foot pedals and shift mechanism in the Megane RS were made simply to operate the car. There is a lack of attention in this area to be honest. Not that it’s shitty don’t get me wrong, but just not as rewarding for my liking as compared to some of its Japanese and German rivals. If you’re less demanding than I am, good for you. I shall not go into details now but do leave a comment if you agree / disagree.
But yes, i do enjoy the dual clutch here, a dry version made by Getrag that Renault calls the EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch). How efficient, I’m unsure. But performance wise, it is unexpectedly impressive. In Race Mode, shifts are achieved in 150 milliseconds. That’s as fast as Porsche’s current PDK or faster than say, a Lexus LFA!. In Auto mode it is sedate and graceful. Though when city driving, some getting used is needed especially control of the most right foot pedal. Mild squirming can be felt during odd instances, such as when creeping in reverse into a parking lot, which is an instance that i’ve just found.
The shift paddles are a joy to betouch. They are metal and are fixed to the steering column so they don’t turn with the wheel. Much like a F458 or the Clio RS’s distant GTR cousin. Truthfully, on some enthusiastic driving occasions i find myself hunting for the paddles. Is it a big problem? I suppose not with more practice.
However, there’s no lag whatsoever on upshifts but downshifts could benefit being a fraction quicker. Grabbing the 2 paddles simultaneously in Race Mode activates Launch Control. Available to you at a limited, was it 300 repetitions in the Clio RS’s lifetime. So just about anyone can imitate a WRC car at take off at the lights on public roads. Tops off with exhaust sputters and crackles, and of course a perfect launch. Tempting, tempting. I shall demonstrate this in a video soon.
What’s raised eyebrows of purists with the 4th gen Clio RS is the absence of manual transmission and the 8000rpm 2Litre NA 4 banger. Am I one of them? No. Am I celebrating? Yes!. I have sampled the Clio 3 RS 200 (197hp) on a few occasions and to be honest, I was impressed by its chassis and I liked the looks but I wasn’t exactly a fan of the rather dry powerplant. Plus, at the time it was advertised, Honda had also introduced their new FD2R Civic-R and for about the same RM200K price.
So ferocious was the Civic R, it had set the benchmark for the 6-speed 200hp NA segment too high. Sad to say, the Clio 3 RS 197 / 200 Cup had been weighed, measured and found wanting next to the Civic, then.
Not with this new Clio 4 RS though. Now powered by Nissan’s new turbo 1.6L direct injection mill shared by the current Juke. At 200hp and 240nm it opens up the horizon for this new hatch-ling. With 25nm more than before and the assistance of forced induction, full torque comes in as early as 1750rpm all the way up till 5,600rpm. Mated to a dual clutch transmission? A match made in heaven.
5 Tuning potential
As it is, the Clio RS is a brilliant package. Sufficient power and awesome chassis. There’s no shame in keeping it that way really. But here is where it gets interesting for bad boys like us. There’s easily 20-30hp to be unleashed with just a simple ECU reflash or a piggyback such as the RaceChip. 10 or 15hp thereabouts further if we empty out the exhaust.
Being a featherweight at 1200kg, engine mods easily ups the game to Megane RS territory and beyond. I’m not even talking about fiddling with the turbine yet. In fact, do stay tuned as we furnish you with updates on our Project Clio RS when we start getting dirty with it.
Just look at it. Yes, it has lost all its boy-racer looks, there isn’t an air-vent on the body in sight. It no longer has that sharp edged, triangle inspired design. Plastic body panels are now gone too. Instead the Clio is now more mature, less edgy and generally more widely accepted. It’s more “today” in short as with most modern cars now, though hints of French flair still persists, fortunately.
The Clio RS has religiously been a 2-door only hatch since anyone can remember. But what’s new here are the 2 additional rear doors. Does it bother me? Nope, not at all. Especially when the rear doors and handles are ingeniously hidden, retaining that 2-door look. If anything, practicality is now multiplied and It’s no gimmick either, access to and usage of the rear seats is just as good as or better than some modern 4-door hatch. They’ve struck gold with this one. A round of applause please.
I haven’t got any complaints on the body at all. The new Clio RS looks bigger, feels spacious and isn’t as compact as before. Totally un-claustrophobic. A plus point this one.
Unlike the bigger brother Megane RS, there are no Brembos here unfortunately. There is however, massive 320mm ventilated discs up front nestled snugly behind 17″ wheels. No complains here but plenty of compliments on stopping power and brake feel. In fact, it felt so good that if i hadn’t checked the front wheels after my initial hill run, I would have expected to find a pair of multi-pot calipers. So no hurry for a set of BBKs either. Rest assured, the stock brakes are truly satisfying. It is really surprisingly good.
Boys love toys and the Clio RS offers plenty of that and in a good version 2.0. Namely the RS Monitor. It’s not for show either. Much like how the engineers at Formula 1 rely on race telemetry to diagnose or to improve a driver’s or car’s performance on a particular circuit, mere mortals like us can now access similar telemetry on-the-fly.
Take for example, your daily commute to the office can now be your very own game of race qualifying. You can track just about everything. From acceleration figures to lap times, from boost pressures to oil temps, brake pressure to g-force or even transmission health. One attribute at a time or even multiple attributes at once.
It doesn’t stop there. Take it online through a laptop to study your drive or compare your current progress at say, this morning’s hill drive up Genting Highlands. You can even play back in real-time, the drive rendering from RenaultSport’s R Monitor online portal. It’s quite mind blowing how they’ve managed to entertain / educate via driving data with precise overlay on google maps to display exact braking points, entries or exit average speed so on and so forth.
I’ve also mentioned the Launch Control above which is nice to have. Then there’s the interesting, 3 different RS Drive Modes. First one at Automatic Mode, which I need not mention. Sport Mode sharpens the throttle, delays shift points and firms up the steering and in Race Mode, it does everything the Sport Mode does but with more frenzy, including super fast shifting at 150ms and turns off traction control. It’s indeed my favourite button.
I have to say though, they’ve put the RS Drive button in the worst possible position ever. It is a smallish, square button located just in front of the e-brake, right next to the cruise control buttons and I had one too many occasions activating or deactivating unsuccessfully on the fly. It might as well be put in the glovebox to put bluntly. Is it a small sacrifice? I suppose so, among the good things.
Where do I begin? i’ll tell you what It doesn’t have first. It’s got no Recaros or electric seats nor ergonomic adjustments but It’s really not a bad place to be in and not boring for sure. The seats feel plush to the butt, huggy and comfortable. I like how the driving position can be customized to my liking. The steering is tilt and telescopically adjustable meaning I can bring the wheel closer, sit low enough and not have to put up with weird French / Italian restrictions of the past. Small detail but highly regarded.
I would say it’s quite a special place to be in. There are “RS” accents here and there, “anodized” orange bits and pieces, race-inspired red stitching of sorts, metal flappy paddles, cruise control, steering mounted controls, pretty much all you need and a somewhat out of place in car entertainment console that doubles up as the RS Monitor 2.0 but functions like a charm. Also a GPS Navi that actually works too.
All in all, it remains special and has undoubted sense of sporting character when being behind the wheel.
Red seat belts? yes please. Not Recaros but still bucketish? Sure why not.
More RS accents on the steering
Factory audio is decent with added meat from the bass reflex mids mounted on the door cards with an interesting bass outlet..
Here comes the punchline. Base price of Clio RS is at RM168K and this makes it pricier than its 2 sworn enemies, the Peugeot 208 GTI at RM139K and the soon to launch Ford Fiesta ST at RM150 odd Ks. I shall not say which is better since it’s quite subjective but if it were a game of Top Trumps, with the trick tech, build quality and value that the Renault posses, it’s hard to resist the Clio RS package. Also, there shall be no regrets investing a few more K’s for the opportunity to savour RenaultSport’s dual clutch box.
But good news everyone, the local RenaultSport dealership, TC Euro Cars will knock off RM12,000 instantly or if you wish, you can choose to pay zero interest for 3 years when you finance the car. Either way, the Clio RS is now RM12K cheaper at RM156K. That’s partly the turning point for us in jumping the gun.
So if you’re currently looking for a hot hatch within the 1.6 Turbo segment, give it a thought. Visit the Renault dealership for a sample. My advise? Give it a good, hard drive and drive it no less than 20 minutes and you’ll see what i mean.
Facts about The 2014 RenaultSport Clio RS 200 EDC
- Zerotohundred: 6.7 seconds (claimed)
- Top Speed: 230km/h
- Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L Direct & Sequential Injection
- Power: 200bhp
- Torque 240nm
- Weight: 1204kg
- Fuel: 6.3L / 100km
- Wheels: 17×7.5
- Tyres 205/45/17
- Price: RM168,000 – Now at RM12,000 Discount
- Official Website: http://www.renaultclio.com.my/
The Clio RS is more than a competitive hot hatch for the money. It is amazingly versatile through the perfect blend of physical, mechanical electronic elements. A perfect daily workhorse with 4 doors? check. A transmission that is both dummy proof and on par with some of the best performance cars? check. A car that can turn from Jekyl to Hyde and back at will? check.
Is there anything else that I want? Yes. Xenons. Did I mention it’s got no Xenons? Yup, It’s still got the oldie but goldie halogen beams. Quite a bummer huh?. Does it dent the joy of ownership? Maybe just a small ding I suppose. But hey, it’s still quite a lot of car this one and there’s 99% left on the Clio RS to draw pleasure from so let’s look at the brighter side.
Track Day Goers
If you’re a track junkie, or a visitor now and then or will eventually do so, here’s another brilliant upside to note. The Clio RS is still the only car in its class to feature a dual-clutch ‘box. In circuit driving, every little advantage counts and there’s just no beating a sequential shifting contender.
There is virtually no other new car in this RM156K range that can beat the Clio RS 2:48 Lap at Sepang. It tells you just how serious this piece of kit is. Having said that, even the Megane RS hold similar “nothing faster for the same money” title.
Here’s a full 2:48 Lap driven by Denis Lian at Sepang
And there you go, my personal Top 10 genuine reasons why the Clio RS is the Hot Hatch at the moment. I hope you’ve enjoyed the low downs that I’ve gathered so far. Our Project Clio RS 200 is an on-going one so it won’t stay stock by the time you read this. Do stay tuned as we furnish you with the exciting stuff we are doing to it.
Give it a try
Looking to experience the Clio RS? Simply log on to http://www.renaultclio.com.my/ and fill in a quick form!