Not 2 Grand Cars, Renault

The Clio Renaultsport…

The combination of a big engine in a small car is always a winner, as the Clio Renaultsport proves.

Are you one of those people that, you know, actually likes driving? Of course you are, that’s why you’re here on one of the finest motoring websites the internet has to offer. We bet you’re the type of person who actually knows what an apex is. We’re also pretty sure you know all about lift-off oversteer and how to correct it in the right way. Furthermore, we’re willing to confidently say that you have a practical understanding of heel-toe braking. Good. That means this, the Clio Renaultsport, is right up your street, your avenue and even your cul-de-sac. This is a car for drivers, despite being a fairly hum-drum machine in normal trim. Not that we’d know. We don’t own a dull ‘mum spec’ Clio or anything…

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As much as we like to shout from the hills that we drive such a beautiful automobile, there is a reason for shoehorning it in here. Plus, don’t judge us too hard, it’s just a stand-in until our Saab is fixed. Anyway, the point is that our £150 slightly battered Clio 1.4 Alize is, dare we say it, fun. It’s no powerhouse, obviously, but it’s light and we can throw it around with reckless abandon. We like it.

So, on that basis, the Clio Renaultsport must be an absolute riot. It’s the same car body-wise, but everything else has been upped in the name of speed, performance and driver enjoyment. Drive a Renaultsport and you very quickly understand why the Clio has its own race series.

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Renault has a history of delivering fun, fast hot hatches. This is the company that gave use the Clio Williams, the 5 GT Turbo and the 19 16 Valve. Given that heritage, the Renaultsport Clio was bound to be a success. And while Renault could have more than likely sold cars by trading off the heritage, without actually making the car any good, it didn’t. The Clio Renaultsport was engineered to within an inch of its life. Renault wasn’t going to sell it on heritage alone. No, the Clio HAD to be worthy of its place within that lineage.

So what did we get? Well, in terms of tin, it was just a normal Clio. Though it came in some new colours and had some sporty touches glued to it like bumpers, skirts, rear spoiler and nice alloy wheels. To look at, the Renaultsport Clio is quite unremarkable really. It’s under the skin where things get interesting.

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First of all, there was the engine. Renault went for the tried and tested route of big engine, small car. As such, it got a 2.0 16 valve, naturally aspirated petrol engine. It wasn’t just plucked from a bigger car though. The engine was tuned to work perfectly with the lightweight frame of the Clio, along with the gearbox which is also beautifully matched. In terms of power, it was available with either 172bhp or, in the case of the 182 version, um, 182bhp. That meant the Clio could get to 60 mph in under seven seconds. Impressive.

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The chassis is what really makes the Clio Renaultsport stand out. As we can attest, the standard Clio is pretty agreeable. In the Renaultsport version, however, things have been tightened up and lowered. As such, you’re left with a car that delivers feedback aplenty, it’s deeply engaging and most importantly of all, it’s stupendous amounts of fun. You feel connected to this car. You’re a part of the experience, not just a passenger. You get out of it what you put in.

Obviously that big engine can make for some torque steer, especially if you’re light on traction, in the wet, say. But it’s not over the top, nor does it mar the experience. If anything, it happily reminds you that you’re in something with some proper poke. Also, the brakes are pretty damn good, so you should be fine if it all gets away from you.

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Internally things are less exciting. In fact, other than a more liberal use of black, there’s not much difference between this and our Alize. You do get sports seats though, as well as a CD player, climate control and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Other than that, it’s pretty drab. But who cares? You’ll be having too much fun driving to care about the trim. If it really does matter to you, the Trophy model has Recaro seats. Though it might be stretch to find one within our budget.

The front seats will house adults quite easily. As for the rear seats, yes they can technically accommodate three people, but they won’t thank you for it. Not that it matters, you’re not allowed rear seat passengers on track days anyway. So make’em walk.

As for safety – and that’s important because you’re going to crash it on the entry to Paddock Hill bend – you’ll be pleased to hear that professional car-contortionists, EuroNCAP, gave it four out of five stars. Though Safety Devices will sell you a roll cage for not much money, which isn’t a bad way to go.

Mechanically, the Clio Renaultsport is good, but as with any ‘hot’ car, you have to be sure it’s been looked after, not flogged to death. As such, check the gearbox operates smoothly, make sure it pulls in a straight line especially under braking and if you can, check the recalls have been carried out. Renault issued them for the brake servo and suspension arms, amongst others. Though they’re the major ones.

If you’re looking for a car that’s fun, this really is it. Buy one, chuck on some sticky tyres and have it as your track day warrior. You’ll love every minute of it. And because they’re so damn cheap, when you do inevitably stuff it into the armco, you can just throw it away and buy another. Winner!

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