The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Cup offers pure driving thrills combined with the practicality of a hatchback supermini.
Reasons to buy:
- Fantastic chassis
- Superb engine
- Aggressive, sporty appearance
How good does it look?
The facelifted Renault Clio provides an excellent base for this sporty model, which adds a racy gloss black stripe to the car’s nose. Look at the wide, squat rear wheelarches and you remember its much-loved ancestor, the Clio V6 Renaultsport. A diffuser mounted between the twin exhausts continues the sporting look – but it isn’t just for show. It reduces lift, pressing the tyres into the ground to generate grip. But you need to be doing 80mph for it to produce an effective load of 40kg, so it’s something that’s only really going to be of use on the track.
What's the interior like?
After the impressive exterior, the drab grey interior is a real disappointment. Dull plastics abound, the window switches feel particularly low-rent. The surface around the keyhole on our test car already sported quite a few scratches. The bright yellow rev counter at least serves to brighten things up, as do the aluminium pedals. The driver and passenger each get comfortable and supportive Recaro seats.
How practical is it?
It’s a hot hatch – so you can have an enjoyable drive and you can also drop the rear seats and lug decent-sized loads around. The Recaro seats don’t fold as far forward as those in the regular Clio, making life more difficult for back seat passengers, particularly when it comes to getting out. But life in the back is not so bad – head room and leg room are both fairly decent given the small dimensions of the car. There’s only room (and seat belts) for two, however.
What's it like to drive?
The Clio’s appetite for tarmac is insatiable – it claws at corners regardless of how quickly you tackle them. On public roads you’ll never begin to reach the limits of its abilities – it truly shines on the track. Body roll is virtually non-existent, thanks to a larger front anti-roll bar. Its phenomenal handling does comes at the expense of ride comfort though. Motorway driving is not much fun in the Clio Renaultsport, as the firm suspension gives a harsh ride. The Cup chassis has damper settings that are 15 per cent stiffer than its predecessor, but on the regular Renaultsport 200 the dampers are 15 per cent softer (as are the springs), giving you the choice of a less uncompromising ride.
How powerful is it?
The engine is the same 2.0-litre unit found in the Clio 197, but now boasting an extra 3bhp plus 20 per cent more torque lower in the rev range. That combined with shorter ratios for the first three gears in the six-speed manual gearbox means you can keep the engine humming away happily as you bowl along your favourite country lane. The 200 Cup goes from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds and will hit 141mph. However a slightly longer sixth gear would be welcome, to make the Clio a little easier to live with on motorways.
How much will it cost me?
So what’s the price for all this performance? Renault has kept its CO2 emissions down to 195g/km and its combined fuel consumption is 34.4mpg. These are respectable figures for a hot hatch – regular trips to the petrol station and a slightly higher tax bill come with the territory. Renault’s average retail labour rate at its dealerships is £70.10, £5 less than the market average, but dearer than rivals like Ford or Vauxhall.
How reliable is it?
Electrics tend to be a concern when running Renaults, but there are signs this is improving. The build quality of the Clio is generally good, but raising the handbrake reveals a gap in the fabric, beneath which the wiring is visible.
How safe is it?
The Clio has a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating and both rear seats have Isofix mountings for child seats. However be aware that the Cup version does not have curtain airbags, unlike the regular 200 model.
How much equipment do I get?
In order to keep the weight down and maximise performance, ‘Cup’ models do without electric mirrors and air-con. You get a pair of comfortable, figure-hugging Recaro seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and a Thatcham category 2 alarm. If you need your gadgets, opt for the non-Cup version. This adds climate control, cruise control, front fog lamps, electrically operated door mirrors, automatic headlights and those one-touch windows – all for an extra £1,000. Satnav is only available on the 200, for an extra £450. You can specify a 200 with the stiffer Cup chassis for an extra £400.
The Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Cup is one of the best low-cost pure drivers’ car you can buy. You might miss a few creature comforts, but it’ll put a smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel.