The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.6
The Clio 200 looks great and comes well equipped, and thanks to the talent of Renaultsport’s chassis engineers, the suspension is brilliant. However, the lacklustre characteristics of the steering, engine and gearbox combined all mean it’s not as exciting as it should be to drive, and it’s expensive to buy and run compared with its best rivals - particularly the Ford Fiesta ST.
Reasons to buy
- Sharp looks
- Wonderfully adjustable chassis
- Generously equipped
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The Renault Clio is already one of the sharpest-looking superminis on the market, and for the transformation into this Renaultsport hot hatch version, the designers have added a big slice of muscle. The front air intakes gape wide open, the side sills are beefy, while the rear end is finished off by a sculpted air diffuser with a tailpipe on either side. It really does look the business in a brash, in-you-face sort of a way, and if that’s what you’re into, you’ll absolutely love it. For an even meaner look, choose the Trophy 220 model, with its lowered suspension, larger 18-inch wheels, 'Trophy' stickers and decals, and optional matte paint.
What's the interior like?
The Renaultsport’s interior looks just as purposeful as the outside, with heavily bolstered sports seats and flashes of colour in the door trims and air vents. The polished black dashboard fascia lends a touch of class, too, although it's an absolute fingerprint magnet, but the overall effect is let down by the quality of some of the other materials. The main part of the dash looks low-rent, and some panels elsewhere in the cabin will leave you feeling even more short-changed. On the plus side, the R-Link infotainment system that’s standard on high-end Lux models is one of the best touch-screen systems out there, with logical menus, clear graphics and a sensitive screen. The driving position is good, too, and has plenty of adjustability, so it's easy to get comfortable behind the wheel.
How practical is it?
The Renaultsport Clio has an edge over most supermini-based hot hatches by virtue of the fact it has five doors rather than three. That doesn’t ruin the look of the car, though, thanks to the rear door-handles being concealed in the window frames of the rear doors. It also means relatively easy access to the back seats, and space is reasonable – if not class-leading – once you get there. Adults will be fine in the back for short journeys. The boot is a pretty big size by supermini standards, too, but you do have a large lip to load items over and the boot floor is stepped when you fold the back seats down.
What's it like to drive?
You can always rely on Renaultsport to engineer a brilliant chassis, and that’s certainly the case here. The ride isn’t nearly as punishing as you expect, while body lean is kept to a bare minimum in bends. Grip is also in plentiful supply, and you can easily turn the nose of the car using just the throttle pedal. Sadly, the handling is absolutely ruined by other factors. The steering is too light, too remote and too hesitant around the straight-ahead, while the semi-automatic paddleshift gearbox is also way too slow, both to react to your orders and to swap cogs. You want fast, crisp responses in a hot hatch, and this car just doesn’t have them. Many buyers will go for the popular Cup chassis option, as it brings a lower, stiffer suspension for sharper handling. However, if you want a better remedy to these issues, the Trophy 220 model brings in a lower ride, even stiffer suspension, and a stickier set of tyres. It also has a retuned auto gearbox that is noticeably faster than in the standard car, and the steering feels meatier and more positive too. The drawback? Say goodbye to any notions you might have about ride comfort, ever, it feels like a racing car.
How powerful is it?
The Clio’s power comes from a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine developing 197bhp. The important figures look good on paper – the 0-62mph dash takes 6.7 sec and the car won’t top out until 143mph. However, the car doesn’t actually feel as fast as that. The combination of low-end turbo lag and a gearbox that’s reticent to change down means that when you bury the throttle, you’ll often wait for the fireworks, which never arrive. The Trophy model has 217bhp, and crucially, more torque, which arrives earlier in the rev range. It feels seriously punchy, and gives the Clio RS the bite it deserved from the start. The engine has a pleasantly fruity exhaust note, though, and if you choose the version with the R-Link system, you can download an app that lets you pipe in the sound of other performance cars. It’s unashamedly a gimmick, but it’s still quite cool.
How much will it cost me?
The Renaultsport Clio will cost you about the same amount to buy as a Peugeot 208 GTI, but both these cars are considerably more expensive than their other key rival, the Ford Fiesta ST. And, even if you haggle your head off at your local Renault dealership, you won’t get anything like the discount you’ll get on the Ford. Sure, the Renault’s resale values will probably be stronger, but the Ford’s lower price should more than offset that. What’s more, the Renault can’t match the fuel economy of its main rivals, returning just 44mpg to their 48mpg. The Clio has a higher CO2 output than the others, too. Those are the official figures though, and in reality, because the gearbox has an auto mode, you're less likely to wring it out as often as you will in the Fiesta, and regular runs of 40mpg are perfectly achievable in the Clio. The Trophy model will be tempting for buyers looking for more excitement, but it's seriously expensive, and costs the same as an entry-level Focus ST, never mind the smaller Fiesta.
How reliable is it?
We haven’t seen any specific reliability data for the Renaultsport yet, but if it’s anything like the regular Clio (which it probably will be), you can expect a very middle-of-the-road performance. The Clio has an average overall score in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and Renault sits pretty much bang in the middle of the manufacturer standings. The Clio’s warranty is pretty good, though, providing an above-average four years of cover that includes servicing and roadside assistance. Consumables like tyres, brakes and oil will all be used up at a higher rate than on the standard car though - so be sure to factor them into the overall ownership cost when doing your sums.
How safe is it?
Both versions of the Renaultsport come with the same safety measures as the regular Clio, including six airbags and traction and stability controls. What’s more, the regular Clio earned a five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, and achieved one of the highest overall scores in the supermini class.
How much equipment do I get?
The standard version of the Renaultsport comes with all the kit you really need, including alloy wheels, all the styling goodies, daytime running lights, air-con, electric front windows, Bluetooth, cruise control and navigation. Lux versions add climate control and powered rear windows, along with the desirable R-Link connected infotainment system. These bits are nice to have, but the upgrade is a costly one.
If you want your hot hatch to look the business and be well equipped, the Renaultpsort Clio is a cracking choice. However, if you want your hot hatch to be as thrilling to drive as it can be, then this car is probably not the car for you. It won’t come cheap, either. Having said all that, the Trophy model is one of the most focused, grippy, and downright fast hot hatches of this size - so as long as you don't mind the punishing ride, it's a fine option for track day enthusiasts,