I have been extremely lucky recently in that I have been able to drive three of the best hot hatches on the market – with the RenaultSport Clio being the latest.
The one I tested came in the tricky-to-describe yellow that is in the photos – a colour that I bizarrely like and is a curious metallic mustard in hue. The picture doesn’t do it justice but I think that if you’re going to have a hot hatch, one may as well have an interesting colour scheme to go with it.
Hopping inside and the Clio got a little more serious. The seats are almost full buckets and are hugely supportive through the corners. They are comfortable too though there isn’t much space for rear passengers.
The sporting theme continues with a chunky steering wheel that includes a strip of sewing at the very top to help drivers keep a track on where their wheels are pointing. It’s not very useful but, in the same manner as the push button ignition, it does help lend a sense of ceremony to the driving experience.
The rest of the interior is up to the current Clio’s high standards. It’s a pleasant place to sit with flashes of colour around various key points including the gearstick.
RenaultSport has kept the standard Clio’s multimedia system too which has a large touch screen with which to control your musical, navigational and communication needs.
The quick Clio also has the option of downloading apps like a smartphone with one such being the ability to play the engine noises of cars through the ages into the cabin through the sound system. Accelerate hard and an old Alpine rally car or an ultra-modern Nissan GT-R could be matched to the engine revs. It’s a bit gimmicky but will be a nice touch for some.
The key difference between the RenaultSport and standard Clio’s is the way it drives though.
The engine up ahead is a 1.6 litre turbo charged petrol unit producing 200hp and 177 lb.ft of torque.
This engine powers the front wheels through a six-speed double-clutch (EDC) automatic gearbox and is a torquey unit, eager to pull the Clio up the straights and around the bends.
The double clutch gearbox is quick too with the driver able to leave it in full automatic mode or take over the changes with a flick of the lever or pull of a paddle. My advice is to take control yourself but only use the paddles – the stick has little mechanical feel to it and takes something away from the driving experience.
There is an ‘RS’ button too which makes the throttle response sharper and holds onto the selected gear until higher up the rev range. The Clio works fine in normal mode but really comes alive when the RS button has been selected. I would have the Clio in sport mode in almost all of the time, only putting it back into normal when in heavy traffic around town. The reason for this is because it really helps with how you can drive the Clio.
Part of that ability is due to the chassis being a strong one. The suspension set-up is just about perfect too, keeping the car level through the corners and feeding back loads of information through the steering wheel to let you know exactly what is going on beneath the wheels.
It’s not too stiff though and retains a suppleness which does RenaultSport’s engineers credit. This slight give in the suspension, apart from making the car more comfortable to live with in day-to-day driving conditions, certainly improves the handling experience too. It makes sure the car is not bounced between dips and bumps, maintaining grip and letting you push the Clio through the corners with ever increasing confidence.
There are a couple of downsides to the RenaultSport Clio. The first is the aforementioned lack of legroom in the rear, though there is plenty of boot space. The second is the difficulty with which you will be able to reach the quoted fuel economy figure of 44.8mpg – but has plenty to do with how fun the car is to drive. You will be far more interested in planting your right foot than keeping the mpg figures high.
Lastly is the fact that you can only buy the RenaultSport Clio with the double-clutch automatic gearbox – there is no manual available.
The gearbox used is very good, though the option of a manual would help the driver feel more involved and Renault’s automatic ‘box is not the best on the market. A hot hatch is supposed to be a driver’s car so having no manual is a bit odd but I wouldn’t say the EDC ruins the car and I wouldn’t let it put me off from buying one.
The difficulty is, should you be in the market for a fast hatchback, which would you go for? I wouldn’t like to tell you outright as different cars will suit different needs but I can tell you that the Renault should be a definite consideration.
Read More Renault News and Reviews at Drive.co.uk/RENAULT
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