Trophy for top shelf
The limited-edition Clio earns the silverware as a comfy commuter and for rapid-fire roadwork
EVERY time I think I’ve done the job on Renault Sport there is something new. This time it’s a fully loaded Clio that raises the bar for the French brand’s gofaster division.
Its title in full is Clio RS 220 EDC Trophy. Renault Sport has created a limited-edition Clio with an engine that packs more punch, a dual-clutch gearbox that is more responsive and styling that’s more aggressive.
For me, the best thing is that the Trophy pack works as an all-round package. It’s not overdone in any one area, which makes it extremely enjoyable driving at any speed.
It’s more responsive at any speed, with the sort of roll-on response I crave in all turbo cars, and the chassis is firm but not harsh with grip and balance to match the work from the engine room.
There’s an abiding query. Why does Renault name its cars in horsepower terms — in this case its 220hp or 162 kilowatts — when it was the French who gave us the metric system that includes Newton-metres and kilowatts to measure engine outputs? It’s a minor niggle in a smart little car.
The chic base Clio is fine as a sub-$20,000 city car, tastier as a Renault Sport car, even better with the 200 engine package and reaches peak status as the 220 Trophy.
Initially I’m not expecting to like the car as much as I do. I come to it from a Peugeot 208 GTi, a grown-up hot hatch that earned The Tick last week. The Peugeot feels bigger and more compliant than the Renault, even though they compete in the same class.
What gives the Clio its edge — an edge over anything in the class including the Ford Fiesta ST that’s a personal favourite — is the way it can be a street- smart squirrel in city conditions but still provide relaxed touring in the country.
In 220 Trophy guise, it’s a long way beyond the 900cc Clio Authentique that opens the Renault action for $18,000 in Australia.
The $20,000 premium adds the obvious enhancements to the engine, transmission, suspension, wheels, seats and dials. Limited-edition items and badges mark it as one of the 220 cars — get it? — brought to Australia.
The heart of the upgrade is an engine that makes an extra 15kW and 40Nm yet still meets Euro6 emissions standards. Some makers do this sort of work by only tweaking the computer controls but Renault Sport has fitted a bigger turbo, a new inlet setup, revised engine mapping and what it calls a “torque boost” function in fourth and fifth gears.
In the gearbox, changes can be 30 per cent faster and that is helped by revised paddleshifters that reduce the free play in the switches.
There is also a new steering rack for faster response, plus lower and firmer suspension.
Visual treats include 18-inch alloys, carbon-fibre look interior trim, leather sports seats and a Trophy badge frontand-centre in the grille.
When I slide into the 220 for the first time I’m tired and only want a quiet run home. That’s what I get, with comfy and supportive seats and seamless power that means I only need a light tickle on the accelerator to stay with the commuter traffic.
Closer to home, I have a little fun with the double-clutch gearbox on some rapid-fire downshifts as I try the stopping power of the brakes.
The next day, I’m up for a fun run. And the Clio delivers with a package that is beautifully balanced.
The 6.6-second time for the benchmark 0-100km/h dash does not seem over-quick but it’s fine for a car so small and light. It has plenty of punch, and even more when I activate the RS mode switch.
By far the best aspect is the seamless and effortless power delivery, giving all the go I need for overtaking and some twisting roads.
The chassis could easily have been over-firm but it’s not. The compliant suspension absorbs bumps instead of just crashing the impacts through to the cabin yet the Trophy, taut in all conditions, turns and grips smartly.
There is no need to venture into the Race setting but Sport mode delivers — the Clio feels a much livelier pocket rocket than the 208 GTi. In its instant response, it is actually more like the classic Peugeot 205 GTi that I drove and loved decades ago.
It also has a much more user-friendly dashboard layout than the Peugeot’s heavily promoted but underdone iCockpit approach.
The 220 Trophy is not a cheap car but it is a very good car, a very intelligent and enjoyable one.
Anyone who read last week’s 208 GTi review will know the Clio gets The Tick but it’s worth emphasising why. The 220 Trophy is now one of my genuine small-car favourites.