FRENCH CUTIE TRES BON
I KNOW of a few top motorsport people who drive exotic machines in competition, but their car of choice for private use is a Clio RS.
The little Renault hottie is one of the best-looking in its class and it's gradually evolved from a seriously quick hatch to a civilised, but still seriously quick hatch.
Yes, sophistication and a bit of French flair has made the latest model a neater, quieter, betterlooking and better equipped car, even though it now has a smaller engine.
Early Cliosports had a 2.0litre engine, the new one a 1.6 turbo, with hardly any difference in output.
The early ones gradually went from 127 through 134, 145 and finally 147kW, which is exactly what the latest Clio RS200 puts out: 147kW and 240Nm.
The newie also gets a superb six-speed dual-clutch auto-like transmission with paddle shift, replacing the manual in the earlier models.
More than that, the trannie can be set to three different modes – normal, sport and race – and the driver can also select launch control for rapid getaways on track days. The higher performance modes alter the steering, throttle response, gearshifts and stability control for a more involved drive; and there's an electronic differential to minimise wheelspin if the driver overcooks things a little.
Yet, it's a car entirely feasible for suburban running about.
Mum could go off to the supermarket with it and drive it for years, never knowing that it can easily double as a very competent track car for club events.
It's a smoothie, packed with all the stuff du jour like infotainment system, Bluetooth, auto-on lights and wipers, aircon, satnav and such like.
There are four models in the RS range, all similarly powered but with different bits like better audio, different wheels and trim.
It starts with the Sport at $29,490, goes to the Cup, as tested, which sells for $31,990, then there's the Sport Premium ($34,990) and Cup Premium at $37,490.
Only the Premium models get reversing cameras. Pourquois?
We were pretty chuffed with our mid-spec Cup, which came with 18-inch alloys, sports seats and steering wheel, red stitching on the black upholstery, a tabletstyle touchscreen and some red stitching top dead centre on the steering wheel, which competi- tion drivers will be very happy with.
The latter should also be happy with 6.7 seconds zero to 100km/h.
Driven normally, the car drives smoothly and quietly and doesn't use much fuel. It's rated at 6.3litres/100km but that's under ideal conditions that don't relate to Perth traffic. We were delighted with our average 7.7litres /100km.
Luggage? Sure. The boot holds 300litres and can be expanded via the folding back seats to 1146litres and accommodation is fine up front, a tad less so in the back.
Tres bon! Big warran-
Renault's Clio RS200 is a real heart-stealer.