Hot hatch without the turbo trick­ery

The Advertiser - Motoring - - Rear View - STU­ART MARTIN

FOR any­one with a burn­ing de­sire to drive a gokart with a roof and a ra­dio, Re­nault has what you need. It is a fix for some­thing of a trav­esty – there are not enough peo­ple who have fun in cars any more.

I’m not talk­ing about back­seat work at the near-ex­tinct drive-in, it’s the joy of driv­ing that has dis­ap­peared.

Sani­tised to the point of bland­ness are many of the cars on the mar­ket to­day – cleaner, safer and bet­ter-equipped cer­tainly – but what about the fun? Book your­self a track day and get into one of th­ese. The sporty Clios have more than done their bit to re­verse this trend and none more than the Re­nault Clio Sport F1 Team R27.

It’s the hard-core ver­sion of the out­go­ing Re­nault Clio Sport 197, but with ‘‘Cup Chas­sis’’ sus­pen­sion, char­coal al­loy wheels, red brake calipers and Re­caro sports seats among the key ex­tras.

The seats drop the weight by 6kg and are the first thing you no­tice – par­tic­u­larly if you mis­judge the en­try, which is not a comfortable ex­pe­ri­ence.

You’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the strong side bol­sters if you test the car’s mid-cor­ner grip.

It fires up with a slight ex­haust flut­ter that doesn’t scream hot hatch, but the rest of the car – with rear dif­fuser, side vents, de­cals, al­loys and Brembo brakes – does, so in­tro­verts need not ap­ply.

The six-speed has a shorter throw than I re­mem­ber from its sib­ling and the ride qual­ity is bet­ter than ex­pected .

De­spite 37 per cent stiffer front and 30 per cent stiffer rear springs, and dampers that have been tough­ened up by 10 per cent, the ride is firm but not su­per-hard and jar­ring.

I have driven harder-rid­ing cars that don’t cor­ner as well as this one.

The neg­a­tive is­sues are few. In sub­ur­ban traf­fic the brakes, which are good when you’re us­ing a fair chunk of their ca­pac­ity on a back-road run, can get grabby and a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to ap­ply smoothly in traf­fic.

Some of that may also be due to the close-set na­ture of the drilled-al­loy ped­als, which are bet­ter suited to the dain­tyof-foot, not those of us with broad, size 13 feet.

The en­gine is flex­i­ble and doesn’t need to dwell in the top half of the ta­cho to make de­cent for­ward progress around town.

There’s no turbo trick­ery ei­ther – just a nat­u­rallyaspi­rated two-litre en­gine pro­duc­ing 145kW and 215Nm and send­ing it to the front wheels via a six-speed man­ual gear­box.

But find some cor­ners and the 1221kg R27 to­tals much more than the num­bers sug­gest – it barely needs to bother the Brem­bos in the way into a cor­ner and only ma­jor bumps cause con­ster­na­tion from the in­side front wheel on a full-throt­tle exit.

Twirling the sports leather­trimmed wheel through its 2.8 turns lock-to-lock is an amus- ing pas­time, of that there is no ques­tion.

The lit­tle brat of the Re­nault range just rips through cor­ners and throws mini­tantrums un­til you find some more . . . or per­haps the tantrums were com­ing from the driver.

There’s am­ple in­for­ma­tion for the driver and the sta­bil­ity con­trol is very re­laxed, leav­ing the driver alone un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

Sound sys­tem con­trols are be­hind the wheel which would be handy once ac­cus­tomed to the func­tions.

Only 40 R27s will be im­ported into Aus­tralia, which is a shame – more peo­ple should be en­light­ened as to how a front-wheel drive car han­dle.

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