5 Jul 2013

Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo

Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo in red
"The Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo must be rubbish. It's got the flappy-paddle gearbox," says everyone. It's true, it only comes with a 6-speed, flappy-paddle gearbox. It's not true that it's rubbish though.

The Clio 200 Turbo looks suitably sporty when compared to the bog standard Clio, which itself is quite a good looking little car that could do with some sporty touches.  Full circle.  It looks good.  Apart from the gaping mouth under the front bumper.  Which looks odd.

The 18 inch gloss black alloys offset the two best colours well - those colours being Liquid Yellow and Flame Red.  Don't buy a Clio 200 in black, white or mercury.  Used buyers will only want them in red or yellow.  Trust me on that.  They look sensational.

As with the standard Clio the rear doors are sculpted into the body and the handles cunningly hidden away just fore of the C-pillar.  The little roof spoiler works well and generally the black or body coloured, rather than chrome, highlights work better than on the rest of the range.  Less glitzy and 'Elton John'.

The interior is a cut above the rest of the range too with leather seats, a much better steering wheel (it's all leather with no piano black), aluminium pedals and generally a higher quality feel.  To get comfortable I pulled the seat far back and the steering wheel towards me.  This meant my feet could rest easily on the pedals which, like in any modern hatch, are too close to the driver.  This also meant any passengers behind me would need legs as skinny as Mick Jagger's to fit in the car.
Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo
No it didn't change colour. I drove a yellow one and a red one for 90 minutes each
All modern Renaults have a key card so you start the Clio 200 with a big Stop/Start button.  The 1.6 litre, turbocharged unit fires into life quietly and the dash comes to life.  The dials are merely OK but the R-Link system works well.  It's nice and simple but doesn't have DAB radio which is a bit rubbish. However smartphone integration is simple so at least you can listen to your playlists rather than whoever is standing in for Jeremy Vine.

The engine might not make much noise, beyond a small capacity inline-4 buzz, but you can choose from several prerecorded engine sounds including an Alpine, a GT-R and a spaceship.  Obviously Renault's joke at the expense of BMW's Sound Active System, and it's quite a good joke for half an hour.  Then you get bored and turn it off.

Hit the road in the Clio 200 Turbo and we find it's a well mannered car with suspension that falls in between the Megane 265 Cup's rattle yer teeth boneshaker and the standard Clio's softness.  It rides perfectly fine.  You could cruise for hours with no fillings coming loose.  

The steering is crisp and responsive with no dead zone in the middle.  Turn the wheel just a little and you feel the corresponding action on the road.  The throttle action is great.  The engine has 200hp and 177 lb ft of torque.  Turbo lag is virtually non-existent.
Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo

The engine revs rise and fall so freely that the flappy paddle gearbox is actually a good thing.  The Clio 200 turns into the Tasmanian Devil when driven hard and frankly changing gears manually would probably become a bore.  I know this is scandalous and the opposing view of almost everyone who reads this but try one and you'll see.  I didn't miss a manual gear box one bit.  It's not just a hot hatch for the Playstation generation.  I'm 42 and, anyway, I prefer an Xbox.

Apparently the gears change in 150 milliseconds but it doesn't feel it.  It feels slightly slower.  Gearboxes aren't Renault's strong point at the moment - the manuals are pretty awful - and the automatics only OK, but nothing better.  The only problem I had with the paddles were their physical size.  They're nicely brushed aluminium but could do with being an inch longer at the bottom.  At first you fumble as you try and find the paddle.
The paddles could do with being an inch longer at the bottom

What made me love this car is how it behaves when you drive it like you hate it.  It's a perfectly fine car when pootling around or on the motorway but hit the back roads and floor the throttle and it just kills you with its vim.

Steam into a tight corner, hard on the brakes.  Release the brakes gradually whilst approaching the apex and the rear lightens and aids turn-in.  Hit the apex, mash the accelerator hard and the front pulls you round, finishing the move in a perfect sweep.  It makes cornering like a pro so laughably easy, and so much fun, you seek out ever-challenging bends to try it again.

Then you get stuck behind a commuter in an econobox doing 40 in a 60 and find yourself screaming at them in frustration like some thrill deprived adrenojunkie.

The Clio 200 Turbo is a brilliant little car.  It's big enough for 4, it's comfortable and well equipped, and the boot is pretty big for a hatchback.  Don't drive like a maniac all the time and you'll get more than 35mpg.  Why anyone would even consider buying a diesel Clio is beyond me.

Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo yellow
Which do you prefer, red or yellow?


Car - Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC Lux
Price - £19,995 (£21,945 as tested)
Engine - 1.6 litre, inline 4, turbo
Transmission - 6 speed automatic, which drives the front wheels
Power - 200hp
Torque - 177 lb ft
Weight - 1,204kg
0-62mph - 6.7 seconds
Top speed - 143mph
Fuel consumption - 34.9mpg combined
CO2 - 144 g/km
Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo interior

Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo

Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo dash

Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo
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