Hot hatch without the turbo trickery
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.