RE­NAULT CLIO

The Clio is an af­ford­able hot hatch with su­per­car char­ac­ter

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On The Web Cars Guide - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

French fun­ster punches above its weight with a turbo en­gine and an en­ter­tain­ing sound­track

THERE is a lit­tle touch of Godzilla about the new Re­nault Clio RS.

Just like Nis­san’s GT-R (the Ja­panese jug­ger­naut, not the movie mon­ster) the new French fun­ster has a tur­bocharged en­gine with an en­ter­tain­ing sound­track and punches above its weight.

But take a close look in the cabin and you find ex­actly the same gearshift pad­dles as those in the GT-R, do­ing dou­ble duty thanks to fam­ily ties through the Re­nault-Nis­san al­liance.

The classy al­loy pad­dles are no sur­prise in a new RS that’s had a mas­sive makeover as part of the Clio 4 con­ver­sion.

The fourth-gen­er­a­tion French baby now comes with five doors, a six-speed dou­ble­clutch gear­box and brakes taken from the V6-en­gined La­guna.

Aus­tralian buy­ers will get the sharper Cup chas­sis set­tings. Stan­dard RS equip­ment in­cludes red-stitched leather sports seats and the R-Link sys­tem that al­lows data log­ging and lap times for own­ers who hit the track on week­ends.

‘‘ The Clio range is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to us. It’s the re­turn of an icon and the Re­nault Sport model is the halo over the range. It’s the hero,’’ Re­nault Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Justin Ho­ce­var says.

The pocket rocket goes up against a wide spread of ri­vals in Aus­tralia in­clud­ing the Mini Cooper S, Opel Corsa OPC and VW’s Polo GTI. It’s a year away due to the slow ramp-up of pro­duc­tion at Re­nault Sport in France.

When the RS does ar­rive, fol­low­ing the reg­u­lar Clio in Septem­ber, it’s promised with a value price tag, un­der­cut­ting the cur­rent $36,490 sticker.

I’mnot ex­actly sure how it will per­form Down Un­der, be­cause the press pre­view drive in Spain put me into a Sports chas­sis for the ma­jor­ity of the driv­ing. It’s com­pli­ant and ma­ture but misses the edgi­ness I ex­pect from a Clio RS.

Track time in the Cup car prom­ises to re­veal the an­swers but rain ru­ins it. I know it is a nicer car than Clio 3 but the course is flooded and it’s like driv­ing on ice, so the RS Cup can’t give its best.

I’m con­vinced that it’s a very good car but I don’t know if it will be great in Aus­tralia.

VALUE

Re­nault is do­ing a Toy­ota with the RS, com­mit­ting to a price cut even though the car is not coming un­til 2014.

‘‘ It cer­tainly won’t be more than the out­go­ing car,’’ Ho­ce­var says. ‘‘ And we have capped price ser­vic­ing at $299 with one ser­vice a year, so we have a good story for the cus­tomer. What does a Corolla cost to ser­vice? There are two a year, for a start.’’

Re­nault Aus­tralia has only sold 500 Clio RSs since the car re­turned to the range in 2007. It could eas­ily top that in the first full year with Clio 4.

It’s bank­ing on the ap­peal of the five-door body, which boosts flex­i­bil­ity and in­cludes a roomy boot— with­out any sort of spare— as well as plenty of stan­dard equip­ment.

The RS gets the usual stuff in­clud­ing power steer­ing, air­con and elec­tric win­dows but such items as the body kit, big­ger al­loys, sports sus­pen­sion and big­ger brakes boost the bot­tom line. There is a built-in bonus to the six-speed dou­ble­clutch gear­box, which func­tions like an auto un­til you take man­ual con­trol.

The Clio RS is not as cheap as a Skoda Fabia RS, or even the same-sized Polo GTI but it is edgier and more ex­clu­sive.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Clio 4 is a much bet­ter base for the Re­nault Sport engi­neers, from the big­ger foot­print of the chas­sis to a smoother body and sus­pen­sion that bet­ter copes with 147kW/240Nm.

Some RS own­ers and fans will ques­tion the de­ci­sion to switch to turbo power and bin the man­ual gear­box, but the turbo and EDC (ef­fi­cient du­al­clutch) six-speed gear­box are typ­i­cal of the moves across the per­for­mance car land­scape from this level up to the likes of BMW’s M5.

There is plenty of im­pres­sive stuff from an elec­tronic launch con­trol and hy­draulic bump stops in the dampers to an elec­tronic dif­fer­en­tial, as well as the R-Link in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with data log­ging for track work. It also does well in en­gine ef­fi­ciency, us­ing just 6.3L/100km while emit­ting just 144g/km of CO.

Im­por­tantly, the Cup chas­sis is the choice for Aus­tralia to sat­isfy the proven cus­tomer pref­er­ence. It sits 3mm lower and has springs that are more than 20 per cent stiffer as spe­cial damper set­tings.

The Nor­mal, Sport and Race mode set­tings sharpen throt­tle re­sponse, add more heft to the steer­ing, cut elec­tronic in­ter­ven­tion and en­able quicker shifts with full man­ual con­trol of the gear­box. Hold the left-hand pad­dle and it even makes mul­ti­ple down­shifts— pre­vi­ously only seen in the Fer­rari 458 and McLaren MP4-12C.

DE­SIGN

The Clio RS is cute more than crazy. It looks sharp with twin ex­hausts and 17-inch al­loys (18s

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