After first seeing the all-new Renault Clio RS 200 at the 2013 Johannesburg International Motor Show, I was eager to try out the next generation of RenaultSport madness.
The 2014 Renault Clio RS 200 is a completely different animal compared to its predecessors. The 2.0-litre normally-aspirated engine from the old car has been replaced. My last experience of this high-revving motor was in 2011, when I spent some quality time behind the wheel of the 2011 Renault Clio RS Gordini - a fun and enthusiastic machine. A normal person couldn't make the most of its abilities on an every day basis and as a daily driver, it was poor. As a toy on a race track, it was untouchable.
New engineFast forward to 2014 and the fourth generation of Renault Clio has introduced turbocharging across the range. The base model boasts a 0.9-litre three cylinder, but the RenaultSport derivative required something with a lot more punch. The new engine is a 1.6-litre turbocharged four pot. With some tweaks from the RenaultSport division, it pushes out 147 kW and 240 Nm. The manual gearbox has disappeared too, and in its place is Renault's new Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) transmission.
Visual feastThis is the top-of-the-range Cup version (there's a marginally cheaper Lux version) and it looks fantastic. The combination of Liquid yellow paint, 18-inch gloss black alloys, and a bodykit that screams racer results in the new Renault Clio RS 200 is one of the best looking pocket rockets around. As my colleague Ciro De Siena put it: the Clio RS 200 is an annoyingly good-looking car.
What's it like to drive?Looks don't win races, so with the engine fired up I set off trying to see if this new version can match the heritage. The initial part of the test didn't go so well, with both the engine soundtrack and performance being average. A quick flick through the owner's manual provided the answer. For maximum attack push the RS Drive button, located in the middle console by the handbrake. The Clio RS 200, when in RS Drive (Sport) mode is a hooligan. Throttle responses were a lot sharper, there was much louder intake roar and gear changes were accompanied by some semi-rally car pops and bangs from the exhausts. There's Race mode too, but I wasn't brave enough to engage that.
Handling is very good and the car is able to claw its way around winding roads at speed. There's no chirping from the tyres, unless you're really pressing on, but I found the car felt incredibly planted to the tarmac and not once did it feel loose or uncompromised. If going around corners is your thing, you'll like this car a lot! I don't think I've ever been up Kloof Nek road that quickly before...
Launch controlThe car has a fancy party trick too. Line up next to any other hot hatch for a quick traffic light grand prix and you can take advantage of the car's built-in launch control. Pull both gearshift paddles towards you, 'Launch Control Engaged' appears on the instrument cluster, then mash your foot on the accelerator. The car builds the revs to around the 2 500 rpm mark, you release the brake when ready and off you go.
Words can't describe the feeling of how brisk or loud the car is launched. It's very obnoxious and entertaining to get the car off the line in this manner. Renault says each Clio RS 200 has 1 500 launches in its life, before the car's computer locks the function to preserve clutch and gearbox, so make them count...
Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC)The question everyone has asked me is with regard to the gearbox. For a first attempt, this EDC isn't bad. It's not perfect and certainly not as good as Volkswagen's DSG products. The gearbox could be a little more responsive, and the shift speed could be improved. The downshifts aren't that great either and I found myself a little frustrated.
I solved this problem by driving in full automatic mode, with the occasional manual override. Don't be disheartened by the gearbox, it's not awful and I'm confident Renault is hard at work with an improved transmission or even a manual option.
RS Mode and featuresSpecification in the new Renault Clio RS 200 is fantastic. No expense has been spared and you're getting some seriously fancy toys fitted as standard. The infotainment features TomTom HD navigation complete with live traffic updates and fixed speed cameras warnings. There's also the RS monitor which enthusiasts will love. The system will download your performance figures to a USB (in a folder called High Scores!) , you can upload race tracks, measure your G-forces, save lap times and even see data like turbo boost pressure and clutch temperature.
Leather bucket seats with heaters, USB, cruise control with speed limiter, daytime-running lights, three driving modes, climate control, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and there's some really funky red seat belts are all fitted to the Renault Clio RS 200 Cup as standard. Unlike the old car, this one is a four-door and the rear seats are comfortable and spacious enough for adults.
Summary and conclusionI can see what Renault wanted to do here and that's create a car which can be raced, yet be driven to work on a Monday morning without major compromises. The new Renault Clio RS 200 is a thoroughly entertaining car, both in terms of looks and driving experience. Few cars are as this hands on or this noisy and despite the imperfect gearbox, the car will put a smile on your face.
Renault Clio RS 200 EDC Price in South AfricaThe Renault Clio RS 200 EDC Cup costs R314 900. You can lose the RS monitor, the 18-inch wheels and climate control and get the Lux for R294 900 if you think the Cup is just too much. Pricing includes a 5 Year / 150 000 km mechanical warranty, 6 Year anti-corrosion warranty and the service intervals are every 10 000 km.
*We pitted the new Renault Clio RS 200 EDC against its fellow Frenchman, the Peugeot 208 GTI. Look out for that video coming soon*
Renault Clio RS 200 EDC (2014) Quick Specs
|Engine||1.6-litre four cylinder turbo petrol|
|Transmission||Six-speed twin clutch automatic|
|0-100km/h||6.7 seconds (claimed)|
|Fuel economy||6.3 l/100km (claimed)|
We like: . One of the best looking little cars . Thoroughly entertaining engine and gearbox sounds . Has every gadget you'll ever need . Five door practicality . Fun to drive
We dislike: . No spare wheel . Gearbox isn't as slick as hoped