CLIO A MASTER OF DISGUISE
IMPRESSIVE PACKAGE WITH A MODEST PRICE TAG
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.