Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good The third generation Renault Clio arrived Down Under in August 2008, with the mid life facelift arriving earlier than expected in March 2010. Its full name is the X85 Clio III Phase II Renaultsport (RS) 200 series (phew!) and like previous go-fast variants the RS 200’s body features pushed-out guards that aren’t just for show - the wider wheel track contributes to the brilliant handling; plenty of other subtle and not-so-subtle hints of the serious intent that lies within – deep front spoiler, side skirts, 17-inch alloys all 'round and a very aggressive diffuser in the rear bumper.
Not so good The aggressive rear diffuser could be viewed as 'design overkill' by some though we shouldn’t complain when Renault states it aids stability and prevents rear-end lift by creating a zone of low pressure beneath the car to achieve suction. The facelift’s newly designed semi-rigid under-bumper splitter also raised a few eyebrows.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good Excellent supportive front seats (Trophee grade) hold your position when cornering hard - plus tilt and reach steering adjustment; standard features include climate and cruise control (with a speed limiter), a thick-rimmed leather steering wheel, a multi-function trip computer and drilled aluminium pedals. The Trophee grade adds the superb Recaro front seats, keyless entry and start, carbon fibre look trim and electric folding side mirrors. Larger than most SUPERMINI's so there’s sufficient room in the rear for a couple of adults.
Not so good Lack of useful storage compartments; audio buttons are surprisingly small; cup holders could be bigger; the Trophee grade is Volkswagen Golf GTi money - but the interior is not at the same level of the VW in quality of materials and premium ambience.
Performance

Performance

Good The early 2010 year RS200 upgrade might have only resulted in a slight 2.5kW rise in power from the previous Clio Sport 197 and torque is the same at 215Nm but we’re not in any way disappointed. The 147kW naturally-aspirated 4-cyl engine is even more impressive than before (and in a SUPERMINI it means this car will beat far more expensive vehicles); still sounds fantastic at high revs and the six-speed manual box shifts smoothly and keenly. Maximum torque is now achieved at lower revs, (95% available from a low 3,000rpm).
Not so good If you don’t like flicking through gears regularly than this car is not for you.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Beautifully balanced Hot Hatch, quicker than a number of so-called sports cars that cost 3 times as much. Aussie sports car fans will be happy to hear that both grades offered Down Under use the Cup chassis = springs stiffened by 27% in the front and 30% in the rear, whilst the shock absorbers are now 15% hardened (over non Cup tuned Clio RenaultSport's). Trust us, the big 312mm ventilated disc brakes with juicy four-piston Brembo callipers up front are the real deal and the tyres are excellent Continental Sport Contact III’s.
Not so good If you’re only driving it on freeway's and in traffic you won’t get to enjoy what you’re really paying for - and will have to put up with a relatively firm and noisy ride.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Gets the safety 'tick' with front, side and curtain airbags as well as ABS brakes and stability control (also scored an impressive five star Euro crash test result). Over the pre facelift RS197 Clio Sport the latest RS200 grades feature higher standard specification levels. For buyers looking for a little more luxury the Gordini grade (which arrived in November 2010) is worth a look. It sports the signature Gordini blue exterior paint with white racing stripes across the bonnet, roof and rear along with white coloured exterior mirrors and unique alloy wheels (with slightly garish looking blue inserts!). Inside the Gordini gains amongst other features a leather seats, an over the top bright blue gaiter and a Gordini build plate.
Not so good Lack of a spare wheel – blame the twin exhaust system and big rear diffuser – only a tyre repair kit with a can of sealant on offer; you wouldn’t call it cheap if you’re buying by the kilo; for the performance on offer the official combined fuel economy figure of 8.2L per 100km is entirely acceptable, however for a Supermini sized vehicle it is less so.