Revisited - Renault Clio Sport 182
We here at RGT are big fans of the front engine, front wheel drive, light weight combination that can put the best hot hatches on a par with supercars down a country lane. In fact I think it is fair to say that based on what I have read and experienced on country lanes, I actually fancy this Renault Sport Clio to trounce muscle cars such as TVR's and 'stangs of twice the Clio's power. The types of roads in the UK usually demand cornering speed and chuckability as essential to your fun, and should come high on the drivers' agenda when purchasing. Often only a very well sorted european hot hatch will satisfy the craving for B-road blasting.
This Clio we are revisiting is the '182' model, giving 182 BHP from its twin cam, 2 litre engine. This gives the little Renault real gutsy performance, however when compared with Honda's Vtec and the Mini Cooper S' turbocharged engine, it feels like this car is missing something in terms of outright wallop. It doesnt do badly, and when you wind it up above 5,000 revs it feels like the cams have come alive and added about 50% more accelerative urge to your final flourish round the tachometer, and you must work hard to keep the cams in high performance mode. If you shift too early you may come out the power band, and this could be embarrasing if you are trying to keep up with one of the Renault's aforementioned competitors. This engine has neither the torque of the mini, or the rev-happy, manic power delivery of the Civic Type-R. Perhaps the handling can put these cars in the shade.
Approaching a corner, moving swiftly down a country lane, I shift down into second for a tight left hander, followed by a swooping right. I know this corner, and it tends to show up the good from the bad in terms of chassis design and handling finnesse, due to multiple camber changes combined with some horrific rips and tears in the tarmac that can shift the balance of car at speed. As I double de-clutch into second gear approaching the corner, I am well into 6,000 rev territory, I power round the corner following a very tight line, and the little Renault grips and hurles itself round the corner with real enthusiasm. Approaching the right hander now, where I would normally tap the brakes and continue in high revs in second gear, I slot it into third and nail the throttle, hoping that the feeling of grip and balance are accurate, as if I understeer here I will find myself smelling like fresh fertilizer in a ditch. Needless to say, this fantastic Renault Sport Clio gripped and accelerated round this corner unlike many cars I have had the pleasure of driving, powering out of the right hander fizzing and popping to the redline set at just above 7,000rpm. Eureka.
This is a wonderful chassis, and deserves it accolade as part of the best family of modern hot hatches that the Sport Clio's benefit from. The engine is strong and willing however it is light on torque and needs to be worked to get the best out of it. In terms of a performance engine, it is sprightly and fun without ever feeling like it will scare bigger, more expensive machinery, at least not in a straight line. However, come across a Type R or Mini Cooper S on a country road, and the few feet they will have gained under acceleration will have been made back (and the rest) by the first corner, and then they will unlikely trouble you again. Not that it would matter of course, because where as those drivers will be gritting their teeth trying to keep up with you down tricky country lanes, you will be calmly and confidently handling it over bumps and around corners with all the grace and finnesse of a firefly. A future hot hatch legend, as much of a must-try car as a 911.