A Wheel Thing has completed a French trifecta, with Renault now on board and supplying a Clio R.S. Cup. There was a week with the hot hatch, complete with dual clutch gearbox, licorice thin rubber and spine bending performance, coupled with a metallic soundtrack.
Compact is an apt word for the Clio, with just 4090 millimetres between the front and rear, 1448 mm from top to bottom and a not indecent 1732 mm side to side. Don’t go hunting for big speedbumps however, as ground clearance is a measly 118 mm…you can go hunting for other hatches though, with a rorty 1.6L turbo four up front, passing through 147 kW (6000 revs) and a very handy 240 torques at a very handy 1750 rpm through to the front wheels via a six speed dual clutch auto.
It’ll drain the 45 litre tank at a reasonable clip when pushed hard, with official figures quoted at 6.3L of Premium 98 per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, with highway and urban ranging from 5.1 to 8.1. A Wheel Thing managed to get to just on 600 kilometres before a top up, with a high proportion of highway driving. Weighing just 1217 kilograms helps.
That engine is hooked up to a six speed dual clutch auto and this suffers from the same “too much between connected and not” between gears when at low speeds, such as moving from a driveway. There is a Sports Mode, not unsurprisingly, activated via a push button, located in the storage locker free centre console nestled between the front seats. Hitting that whilst under way has the same effect as being shoved, hard, between the shoulder blades, when the command to go is given. Launch Control is also included.Gear shifts sharpen up, the horizon turns into a picture of a starfield as you hit warp one, there’s the “phut, phut, phut” from the exhaust and the metallised screech from up front. The steering is razor sharp anyway, buoyed by the short wheelbase, turning in so quick it feels as if it’s just a few inches in length, instead of the corner pushing 2589 mm that it really has. A rapid 2.67 turns lock to lock adds to the keeness of the handling.
What wasn’t keen was the ride; the tyres were Dunlop SportMaxx and at 205/40 on stylish black painted ten spoke alloys of 18 inches in diameter (called Radicale), transmitted both noise and every ripple, lump, bump and five cent piece on the road through to the driver. Suspension give? A brick would be more amenable.
It’ll follow the road’s surface as if each corner is glued to the tarmac, and there’s benefits to that. The tightest of corners, the off camberest of off camber turns, the grip is stupendous. Just don’t find any bumps bigger than a pimple…
There’s more than a scent of French chic about the R.S. Cup, with svelte lines, trim curves and a set of hips that would give Bardot pause. The somewhat goggle eye headlights are the only design feature that jibes with the rest, sitting atop a design feature not unlike a curved Gallic moustache, with the rear end seeing trim tail lights integrated into both the hips and the rear hatch door and there’s twin exhausts integrated into the lower valance.The interior is a mix of hard plastics, no centre console, boy racer labelled speaker grilles (is there REALLY a need to have Bass Reflex printed on them?), red stitching on the steering wheel at the twelve o’clock, with the wheel itself virtually devoid of any buttons bar a couple for cruise control, whilst there’s no mistaking the paddle shifts due to size and alloy colour against the black background. Seats? Snug,wrap around, supportive and imbue a full sense of sports and safety.
The driver sees a very basic display, with a dial for the tacho, fuel and a centre screen with speedometer. Aircon controls are unconfusing dials, set below the centre console stack airvents and touchscreen navitainment, surrounded by fingerprint grabbing gloss black plastic. To the right of the screen were teh inputs for auxiliary sounds, being the 3.5 mm plug and a USB. One presumes this is for a charging cable, not an easily broken USB stick, whilst a cable would get in the way as the port is some eight or nine inches above a small tray just ahead of the gear selector.The cargo space is 300 L with the split fold seats up, growing to 1146 L when flattened out. Due to sheer size of the Clio, don’t expect to be able to slide your new 55 inch flatscreen tv in there though. The aforementioned centre console-less section does offer three spaces for cups or bottles, but lacking a storage locker also means no elbow support for driver and passenger.
It’s hard edged in the ride, razor sharp in the steering, has a lovely and rorty exhaust note, a split personality when you use the Renault Sports button but lacks real comfort both in ride and interior trim. Yes, the intent is to be kicked along harder than a brand new soccer ball but a car can still be balls and all manic without necessarily resorting to a minimalist approach.
With the smallish fuel tank and desire for more pricy but performance friendly 98 RON to consider, at around $34K driveaway, a buyer needs to consider just how their driving style can be enhanced or hobbled, as well.
For details of the range, go here: Renault Clio sports range