CLIO A MAS­TER OF DIS­GUISE

IM­PRES­SIVE PACK­AGE WITH A MOD­EST PRICE TAG

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - DRIVEWAY - Bill Buys

IN­SPEC­TOR Clouseau would have loved a Re­nault Clio GT.

The mas­ter of dis­guise would have been so at home with the GT, which looks like a poker-hot Cliosport RS, but is in fact a midrange model in the ex­ten­sive Clio line-up, and more in keep­ing with the mod­est salary of a Parisian de­tec­tive.

Clios come in three-cylin­der 0.9-litre, four-cylin­der 1.2-litre and fire­cracker 1.6-litre ver­sions, with prices rang­ing from $16,000 to $43,000, with the GT slot­ting in mid­way at $27,000, or $30,990 for the up­mar­ket GT Pre­mium.

Alors, that's the one the good in­spec­tor would have in­sisted on. And it's what we're look­ing at here.

Run­ning on 17-inch al­loys with fat lo-pro Miche­lins and show­ing its make-be­lieve mus­cle via an ag­gres­sive snoot with big LED head­lights, twin chrome tailpipes, body-coloured side pro­tec­tive mould­ings and prom­i­nent GT badg­ing front and rear, it's the vis­ual epit­ome of le hot hatch.

Un­less the ea­gle-eyed spot the rear brakes: they're drums, housed in yes­ter­year's sporty finned al­loy, but still drums.

In­side, there are bol­stered and heated sport seats, a leather­trimmed sports steer­ing wheel with more GT badg­ing and gearshift pad­dles be­hind the steer­ing wheel.

Also, it looks like a three-door, but is a five-door and it has a size­able boot, which with the split-fold rear seats down, ex­pands to 1146 litres.

Un­der its shapely bon­net is an 88kW/190Nm 1.2-litre turbo en­gine, mated to a six-speed Ge­trag dual-clutch trans­mis­sion, which can get the 1120kg hatch mov­ing pretty smartly and with­out us­ing much fuel.

The Clio GT Pre­mium, which comes with a glass roof and many other niceties, av­er­ages 6.6litres /100km. Tres thrifty! De­vel­oped by Re­nault Sport Tech­nolo­gies and built in Turkey, the GT has a spe­cially tuned chas­sis for a firmer ride and sportier han­dling than lesser Clios.

And then there's the se­cret weapon: a lit­tle RS but­ton be­tween the front seats that in­stantly takes the car from nor­mal to sport mode.

The dif­fer­ence in not quite in the 'sacre bleu' cat­e­gory, but it does make for quicker ac­cel­er­a­tion, faster gearshifts and sharper steer­ing.

And by co­in­ci­dence, our car's colour was Malta Bleu; avail­able only on GT mod­els.

The chic­mo­bile runs to 100km/h in 9.4 sec­onds and top speed is just one km/h short of 200. Not that one would con­tem­plate such ve­loc­ity in Mul­tanova city, but it's nice to know.

Stan­dard fare is quite ex­ten­sive: leather trim, 7-inch touch­screen, air­con, sat­nav, cruise con­trol with a speed lim­iter, Arkamys 3D sound sys­tem with AM/FM, MP3, AUX, USB, and fin­ger­tip con­trols, in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity via a paired phone, and Re­nault's R-Link in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with pre-in­stalled apps, front park­ing sen­sors and a re­vers­ing cam­era.

Plus key­less en­try and start via its card key.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion is fine for four adults, though the rear doors are so neatly dis­guised it might take a bit of de­tec­tive work to find their out­side han­dles.

And on the sub­ject of han­dles, the GT does so with aplomb. It's an en­thu­si­as­tic run­ner, ag­ile and de­spite its firm sus­pen­sion and lo-pro tyres, still comfy.

Nicely built too, and it comes with a five-year war­ranty and capped ser­vice.

One odd fea­ture is the GT does not have a re­vers­ing cam­era, but the GT Pre­mium does. Pourquois? Might have to get Clouseau on the case.

Ver­dict: Looks and lux­ury sans le speed­ing fine.

The strik­ing Malta Blue colour is ex­clu­sive to Re­nault's Clio GT.

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