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Renault Clio 2018 review: RS Cup

EXPERT RATING
7
The Renault Clio RS 200 is almost five years old - is it still the benchmark for fast, fun-loving Australians with a penchant for French products?

I'm going to reveal something of myself here - I used to be a RenaultSport Clio owner. This is what the purists call what we now know as Clio RS, and I find myself constantly corrected yet unrepentant. It was a 172 - a nuggety three-door with wheels that looked too small, a weird seating position and a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine that was big on torque as long as you belted it.

It was a classic and you could still see the links back to the epoch-making Renault Clio Williams, that blue and gold Mk 1 Clio we never saw in Australia that redefined the genre. The current Clio has been around for four years now and I even drove this current RS Clio at its launch in 2013, memorable for the sudden bucketing rain that drenched the circuit and made things very interesting indeed.

This Clio was a big change from the cars that went before - slimmer-hipped, less aggressive-looking and with a 1.6-litre turbo engine, five-door-only body and (gasp!) no manual, just Renault's twin-clutch EDC transmission. It was a hit, at least with enthusiasts. Back then it was the dawn of a golden age in small hot hatches. But that was then, this is now. With a small power bump and a couple of features thrown in, is the ageing RS still at the pointy end?

Renault Clio 2018: RS 200 Cup
Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$23,650

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The iconic 'Liquid Yellow' ($750 option) Clio I had for the week was the Cup spec chassis. The Clio RS 200, as it is officially known, comes in two specs - Sport and Cup - and there's a Trophy 220 at the top of the range. I had the Cup, which retails at $32,490 (plus on-road costs). The RS220 Trophy, with a bit more poke and stuff, weighs in at $38,990 if you're interested.

The Cup spec is heavily based on the more affordable ($30,990) Sport, which means you get 18-inch alloy wheels (painted black, so watch those kerbs), climate control, four speaker stereo, keyless entry and start (the "key" is still that unwieldy keycard style thing), reversing camera, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, launch control, leather bits and pieces and a tyre inflation kit instead of any kind of spare.

The Clio RS Cup comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The Clio RS Cup comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

The 7.0-inch 'R-Link' touch screen software runs the four speaker stereo with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB. If you get the optional RS Monitor, there is a full-on telemetry system from which you can save your, er, "track day" data and overlay in Google Maps to compare with your mates' or past efforts. You can also change the piped-in engine sound to various different sound effects which are delightfully silly.

The 7.0-inch 'R-Link' touch screen software runs the four speaker stereo with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The 7.0-inch 'R-Link' touch screen software runs the four speaker stereo with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

Android Auto is part of the breathtaking $1500 'Entertainment Pack' option that includes RS Monitor (which used to be standard) and no, there's no Apple CarPlay. Leather is a further $1500.

Bottom line is that you do get a decent spec bump from the $30,990 Sport along with the more capable (and less comfortable) Cup chassis.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Clio is a handsome small car but nothing out of the ordinary until you apply the very cool Liquid Yellow paint. That hue really is quite something and works even better with the black alloys of the Cup chassis.

The car has some lovely surfacing and in a recent-ish refresh, the slightly odd headlights were reworked, as were the front and rear bumpers which now link to the RenaultSport Megane. Sorry, Megane RS. The RS flag signature lighting is a nice touch, acting as DRLs at the bottom corners of the front bumper.

The rear bumpers now link to the RenaultSport Megane. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The rear bumpers now link to the RenaultSport Megane. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

The lovely organic shapes of the Clio's sides still look good and the rather tough rear end with the chunky diffuser leaves you in no doubt that it's the proper RS not the halfway-house, 1.2-litre GT-Line.

Inside is starting to look its age, but graceful, a bit like Jamie-Lee Curtis' or George Clooney's embrace of grey hair. There are still some of the sharp edges I didn't like. It's certainly a Renault to look at and ergonomically works pretty well. One thing that has been fixed at some point is the switch on the gear selector - it won't bite you if you curl your finger underneath when you press it. You might think that's a small thing, but when you did it, damn it hurt.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The Clio's interior is certainly snug. Rear seat passengers do okay for legroom but headroom is a mite marginal with the falling roofline for six footers. There are no cupholders out back, that curious French habit of supplying just a couple of cup receptacles of different and weird sizes persists. The front doors have space for bottles, the rears do not.

  • The Clio's interior is certainly snug. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The Clio's interior is certainly snug. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
  • Rear seat passengers do okay for legroom but headroom is a mite marginal with the falling roofline for six footers. (image credit: Peter Anderson) Rear seat passengers do okay for legroom but headroom is a mite marginal with the falling roofline for six footers. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

The boot is class-competitive at 300 litres (worth knowing the Trophy loses 70 litres to the Cup) and with the seats down stretches to a claimed 1146L.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The 200-equipped RSes pony up 147kW/260Nm, which is pretty much bang-on the obvious competition (Peugeot 208 GTI and the outgoing Fiesta ST), driving the front wheels through Renault's six-speed EDC twin-clutch. Unlike those two, there is no overboost function.

The 1.6-litre turbo engine produces 147kW/260Nm. (image credit: Peter Anderson) The 1.6-litre turbo engine produces 147kW/260Nm. (image credit: Peter Anderson)

Dieppe's finest sprints from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.7 seconds, pulling along a kerb weight of 1204kg.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Renault claims 5.9L/100km on the combined cycle but, yeah, nah. My week was admittedly filled with plenty of horseplay and spirited driving, yielding 11.4L/100km. If you were careful you may fare better - but not that much better.

The fuel tank is a fairly standard 45 litres. It requires 98RON premium unleaded.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

On board the Clio is four airbags (no curtain coverage for those in the rear), ABS, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera and two ISOFIX points along with three top-tether anchors.

The Clio was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating in November 2013.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Renault says it was the first European maker to offer a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty in Australia, and who are we to argue? The package also includes up to four years of roadside assist and three years of capped-price servicing.

Renault expects to see you just once a year or every 20,000km, which gives you a bit more headroom than some similar service plans, at least on the mileage.  The first three services will cost no more than $369 unless you need a new air filter ($38) or pollen filter ($46). At 60,000km or four years you'll cop $262 for a set of spark plugs. The company's website also suggests if the Clio doesn't like the state of its oil, it will beep at you until you have that attended to.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The RS has always had a belter of a chassis. The Cup chassis became a thing just over a decade ago and is lauded by the fans as The One To Have. I've not always been convinced of this as my earlier drives of the Cup-equipped machines have usually been in close proximity to the Sport chassis. 

The Cup is slightly lower than the Sport, with 15 per cent stiffer springs and dampers and perhaps more importantly it scores 18-inch wheels with Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 tyres, which you can reasonably expect to be a bit firmer than the 17s with Goodyear F1s on the Sport. And they are.

However, in most situations, the Cup chassis is perfectly benign. You certainly feel the bumps and lumps, but you haven't bought a Cup chassis for Lexus-like isolation. It's certainly sharper than the Sport chassis and when you're really giving it a go around the bends, the comfort deficit is more than made up for by the extra grip and poise.

The RS has always had a belter of a chassis.

The chassis is aided and abetted by a torquey 1.6-turbo that cheerfully...no, gleefully spins to the redline which could do with another thousand revs, but that's forced induction for you. The aluminium shift paddles need a good positive pull to get a gear, but that gear is delivered quickly and effortlessly. The Clio is a great deal of fun in Sport and Race modes, with throttle mappings and gearshifts becoming more aggressive as you switch through the modes.

The brakes are tremendously effective and the electronic limited slip diff (*cough* brake-based torque vectoring) ensures you'll hit your apexes and the tyres spend more time gripping than spinning.

But it's not all hairpins and off-camber left-right-lefts, is it? Plenty of owners have to live with the car in traffic day to day. Driving the Cup in isolation, I've changed my mind about it. I reckon it's the best of the two chassis settings. The city ride is better than decent, with the hard edges potholes chamfered off by the dampers and decent compliance. It's not too noisy, either.

Verdict

The Clio RS is still a ton of fun and in Cup spec, probably the best compromise between price and livability. Despite its advancing years (it turns five this year, so ready to start kindy) and big brother Megane hogging the limelight with a fancy new model on the way, the Clio is a stayer. It's missing some frustratingly obvious things like CarPlay, AEB, rear airbags and rear cross-traffic alert, but it's hardly alone in the segment. 

With the departure of the Fiesta ST, though, the Clio returns to the top of the list of best small hot hatches on sale today.

Think the Clio is ready for the pension? It it living on franking credits it doesn't deserve?

Pricing Guides

$22,300
Based on 46 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$16,990
Highest Price
$26,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT-LINE 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $16,390 – 21,010 2018 RENAULT CLIO 2018 GT-LINE Pricing and Specs
INTENS 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $22,990 – 26,490 2018 RENAULT CLIO 2018 INTENS Pricing and Specs
LIFE 0.9L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $15,990 – 19,750 2018 RENAULT CLIO 2018 LIFE Pricing and Specs
RS 200 Cup 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $23,650 – 29,150 2018 RENAULT CLIO 2018 RS 200 Cup Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety6
Ownership8
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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