TEST DRIVE | 2014 RenaultSport Clio 200 Turbo

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RenaultSport Clio 200 Turbo Specs:

  • Price: From £18,995
  • Top Sped: 143mph
  • BHP: 200
  • Torque: 240Nm
  • Gearbox: 6 Speed Auto with Paddles

For the last few days I’ve been lucky enough to have been driving around in what should be one of my favourite new cars. I’m a massive fan of the hot Renault Clio, I’ve owned a few, my favourite was my dark blue 04 reg 172 I had as a toy a few years ago but unfortunately crashed…

So walking up to this new model one thing strikes you right away, it looks super modern, there is nothing retro in this car’s design. Which is quite refreshing.
The main thing I wanted to investigate here was the engine. The last hot Clio I drove was the 2.0-litre normally aspirated car with 197bhp, this car as you may have guessed from the name puts out 200bhp, not much of an increase really, and it does it from a 1.6-litre turbo engine. Turbos are clearly the way forward for manufacturers to meet emission targets but would it still feel as meaty as the non turbo model.

Climbing in you are faced with a seriously modern looking dash. The touchscreen media system looks brilliant and the digital readout in the dial is a nice touch too. So firing up the engine, it sounds good. Sporty but not ridiculous. I’d say the sound was ‘purposeful’ but if you’re buying a hot hatch you want a bit of exhaust tone. And for fans of exhaust noise, the Clio is here for you…..
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That media system has a party piece, you can select an engine noise from many past Renault cars or even the Nissan GT-R, this is digitally reproduced and played through the speakers to match your actual revs. Yes it’s fake, but it’s surprisingly good fun.

To drive it’s as you would expect from a hot Clio, it hangs on well in the corners and you can have some proper hooligan antics in it, Renault really do know what they are doing when it comes to making a little hot hatch handle well. But when you want to stop driving like a 17 year old you can relax a little more in here than in old hot Clios. Yes the exhaust is always audible and yes the ride is a little hard, but I like that, and if you didn’t like that you wouldn’t want to buy a hot hatch would you!

So on to the engine. It feels good actually, better than I thought it would. Pulls hard, and picks up surprisingly well from low revs for a turbo, you would be more than happy with the performance if you got one of these, there are some cool touches too. Switch into race mode and it makes you think that you’re The Stig!….

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What you may not be so happy about though is the gearbox.
It’s a hot hatch for sure, but it’s not available with a manual gearbox. Flappy paddle with sequential stick only. Now I just can’t understand the logic here.
These cars are made for enthusiastic drivers, and if you are an enthusiastic driver then you love being in control of all the gear changing yourself. It’s part of the joy and it makes you feel more intune with the car.
This paddle shift box just isn’t good enough, it doesn’t change down fast enough when you’re trying to have fun and it’s not very good in town either, it reminds of the gearbox on the Citroen C2 VTR from about 10 years ago, a good idea, executed badly, and just not up to the job for real drivers.

So anyway, would I buy one… hmm, tough one. There is some stiff competition, mostly from the Ford Fiesta ST. The thing is, the Ford doesn’t look or feel anywhere near as modern as the Clio, but it drives better, much better in fact.
It’s a tough one as I really adore hot Renaults, but I don’t think I could live with the gearbox. If they make a special edition with a proper manual I’d have one, but right now I’d save a few grand and buy a good example of the previous generation of the Clio.


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