It doesn't come as a surprise that Australia is the biggest market in the world for hot Renault RS (RenaultSport) models on a per capita basis. Biggest after France, that is, Aussies have long loved performance cars and now that big cars are out of fashion many are looking to hot-hatches to fuel their passion for performance. Renault Clio RS 200 EDC is the fourth generation of hot Clios and is the best of them all.
You get a lot of exciting French hot hatch for just $28,790 (Clio RS 200 Sport) to $36,790 (Clio RS 200 Cup Trophy). Despite being the high-performance model, the Renault Clio RS 200 has the same three-year / unlimited kilometre warranty and capped price servicing program of $299 per calendar year for the first three years, as the rest of the Clio range.
Design / styling
Renault Clio RS 200 does an excellent job of walking the fine line between over the top and tasteful. The shape of the standard Clio, penned by renowned designer Laurens van den Acker, made a good platform to which the sporty bits could be added.
If the lowered suspension, big alloy wheels, even bolder frontal shape, rear spoiler and diffuser-look tail aren't already enough to excite you then have a look at some of the hot colours on offer. Liquid Yellow and Flame Red leap out, though if you're feeling conservative about your hot Renault Clio (huh?) then boring grey, white and black are also on the palette.
The interior takes the already stylish Clio features and adds sports seats and some neat detailed touches in contrasting colours. We particularly like the stitching on the steering wheel and gear shifter.
Access to the rear is easy because, despite looking like a three-door coupe, the RS is a five-door. The back seat is tight for adults unless those in the front are willing to move forward.
Engine / transmission
The '200' in the Renault Clio RS 200 tag comes from the 200 horsepower engine; for some reason France, (which invented the metric system) refuses to use kilowatts as a measure of power. Probably because 147kW doesn't have the same ring as 200hp. Top torque of the 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo engine is 240 Newton metres all the way from 1750 to 5500 revs.
As a sign of things to come the sporting Renault is sold only with an automatic transmission, albeit it a fast-action six-speed dual-clutch unit.
OK, so a dual-clutch gearbox is faster than a full manual unit, but we do dread the day when we driving enthusiasts are no longer able to do our own gearchanges. Big paddle shifters are installed behind the steering wheel of the Clio RS, but it's not the same, is it?
A clever differential helps keep torque under control at the front wheels. This diff not only looks at what's happening side-to-side at the front wheels, but also compares the rotational speed of the inside front wheel with that of the rear wheels to work out how best to keep the car safe.
Or you can switch it off and really enjoy controlling the Clio RS yourself - something that's probably best left to track days. There you can also enjoy the superb launch control feature.
Renault was the first company ever to achieve a five-star rating in European crash testing and has remained one of the leaders in the field ever since. Clio RS 200 has not only the aforementioned special differential and excellent chassis dynamics, but also ESC, ABS with brake assist. Four airbags are fitted, but they only protect those in the front seats.
Sharp steering response in a light car gives it a nimble feeling that you just can't get in big high-performance V8s. Ride comfort belies the fitment of low-profile tyres, but big bumps and dips catch it out at times. The clever hydraulic 'bump stops' in the dampers do an excellent job on all but the harshest of roads.
The Clio RS 200's engine has minimal turbo lag and once on song it gives a satisfying push in the back that keeps coming by courtesy of the big torque spread. It's nicely backed up by the dual-clutch auto that responds fast to demands of the driver's right foot, even more so in Sport mode.
Loads of bang for your buck, and plenty of style too.