Clio de­liv­ers adrenalin rush

It’s taken a fight, but now there’s some­thing spe­cial in the Re­nault range, writes KEVIN HEP­WORTH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

ATWO-YEAR bat­tle with France has fi­nally put some­thing spe­cial into the Re­nault range for Aus­tralia. It’s the Clio Re­naultS­port 197, which takes up from one of the com­pany’s most-loved mod­els to de­liver a gen­uine adrenalin surge. It’s not cheap, but it is quick and trendy. The spank­ing Clio 182 was lost from Aus­tralia in 2006 as the vic­tim of a plung­ing ex­change rate, but now it has been re­placed by the 197 with a sim­i­lar up­mar­ket approach. ‘‘This was not an en­try-level car: it was a true per­for­mance hot hatch. And with the dra­matic fall in the ex­change rate and the strength­en­ing of the Euro, we sim­ply could not get it at a price that made any sense,’’ Re­nault Aus­tralia boss Rudi Koenig says. ‘‘We have been dis­cussing . . . ar­gu­ing . . . this new car (the Phase III Clio) with France for the past two years. We sim­ply could not get it at a price that made sense in our mar­ket,’’ Koenig says. But the ar­gu­ing has fi­nally de­liv­ered the Re­naultS­port Clio at $36,490 and it’s time to say ‘‘Wel­come back, Sport’’. The Sport-led at­tack has al­ready worked with the Me­gane and now, with the com­pact Clio putting some real punch into the ac­tion, Re­nault Aus­tralia has high hopes. But the car is $36,490, which makes it al­most 10 per cent dearer than its pre­de­ces­sor. And you can have it in any colour you like, so long as it’s red. Un­less you have an­other $800 for a metal­lic up­grade. To be fair, the paint is on a small list of op­tions that in­cludes bi-xenon head­lights at $1750, a sun­roof at $1890 and up­graded sound sys­tem at $800. What comes stan­dard is far more im­pres­sive, in­clud­ing the adrenalin rush. Like the best skunkwork cars, the 197 is not just a fancy ver­sion of a Clio run­ning down the pro­duc­tion line next to more-mun­dane mod­els. The cars come from the spe­cial Re­naultS­port fac­tory in Dieppe, France and are stretched, widened, low­ered and tweaked by the same en­gi­neer­ing crew that puts Re­nault’s F1 cars at the pointy end of the grid. In the case of the 197, the donor Clio III plat­form has been stretched with 10mm ex­tra on the wheel­base, 48mm ex­tra track width in the front and 50mm in the rear. Ride height has been dropped 15mm. Ex­ten­sive use of alu­minium in the in­no­va­tive dou­ble axis strut front sus­pen­sion gives a sav­ing of 7.5kg over a com­par­a­tive MacPher­son sys­tem. But, more im­por­tantly, it iso­lates the steer­ing axis from the damp­ing sys­tem, ef­fec­tively elim­i­nat­ing torque steer. The Clio 197 shares its stiff­ened sub­frame with the Me­gane Sport 225, with the rear anti-roll bar 200 per cent larger at 30mm. Work on the nor­mally as­pi­rated 16-valve 2.0-litre en­gine— the same ba­sic unit from the pre­vi­ous 182 model — has been ex­ten­sive, lift­ing peak power to 145kW (the 197 horse­power for which the car is named) at an ea­ger 7250 revs. Torque peaks at 215Nm at 5550 revs. Much of the en­gine work has cen­tred around in­take and ex­haust port flow and an in­crease in com­pres­sion to 11.5:1, lift­ing per­for­mance and low­er­ing emis­sions. The 197’s aero kit is sub­tle, but as hi-tech as it comes. No huge spoil­ers for this lit­tle one, though one is avail­able if you must for $429. SET of side-mounted ex­trac­tor vents carry heat away from the en­gine, while a huge front spoiler air in­take feeds cool air to the pow­er­plant. The Re­naultS­port theme flows through the in­te­rior with alu­minium ped­als, su­per-sup­port­ive and bol­stered seats, easy-to-read, white-on-black dash graph­ics and sport steer­ing wheel with red stitched cen­tre-point which, dis­ap­point­ingly, is ad­justable for rake only. The 197 has Re­nault’s ex­pected five-star safety rat­ing with eight airbags, ac­tive head­rests, anti-skid brakes and elec­tronic brake­force dis­tri­bu­tion as well as a switch­able elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gram tuned to al­low a greater de­gree of sports ap­pli­ca­tion. Other stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes 17-inch sports al­loys, multi-func­tion trip com­puter and cruise con­trol.

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