Long ter­m­ers

What’s a “track-fo­cused” hot hatch like to live with? We have 12 months to find out

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

HOW could any young adult not be ex­cited at the prospect of driv­ing this lit­tle at­ti­tude-packed black-and-yel­low hot hatch with its Akrapovic ex­haust sys­tem for the next 12 months? We tested the Clio RS 220 Tro­phy – the car on which this is based – in our July 2017 road test and gave it credit for its ex­cep­tional per­for­mance and han­dling but high­lighted the EDC trans­mis­sion as its Achilles’ heel. It was slug­gish on down­shifts, es­pe­cially at ev­ery­day driv­ing speeds.

Pi­lot­ing the Clio RS 18 over the past few weeks has con rmed this char­ac­ter­is­tic but I’m al­ready adapt­ing to its quirks. Man­ag­ing the trans­mis­sion in man­ual mode via the alu­minium colum­n­mounted pad­dle shifters pro­vides prob­lem-free down­shifts and makes my com­mute a lit­tle more en­ter­tain­ing. In traf c, it’s eas­ier to keep it in auto but the du­al­clutch does some­times strug­gle to negate the ef­fects of turbo lag from the 1,6-litre en­gine.

More like­able is the short gear ra­tios, of­fer­ing rapid shifts. How­ever, the en­gine spins at just above 3 000 r/min at 120 km/h which, com­bined with a 45-litre fuel tank, means the RS emp­ties its tank quickly. Add its stif y sprung Cup chas­sis and the RS 18 F1 does not make for an ideal long-dis­tance tourer; in­stead I’ll have to em­bark on ex­cur­sions in the Western Cape rather than un­der­tak­ing any ma­jor transcoun­try road trips. The cushy bucket seats do make ev­ery­day driv­ing com­fort­able.

What de nitely is on the cards for the Clio RS is track days. With its honed chas­sis, Miche­lin Pi­lot Su­per Sport tyres and RS Mon­i­tor track-in­fused in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, it would be a crime not to stretch this hot hatch’s legs on some prop­erly sur­faced tar­mac. With Re­nault’s per­mis­sion, I’ll be at­tend­ing one or two track days at Kil­lar­ney Race­way. Ob­vi­ously, Deon Jou­bert’s lap time of 01:30,90 dur­ing our test of the Clio RS 220 Tro­phy is way be­yond my abil­i­ties but it’ll be fun to see what this lit­tle car can re­ally do.

With just 65 units cur­rently con rmed for SA at R449 900 a pop, the Clio RS 18 F1 is a niche prod­uct, with its only ri­vals be­ing the Volk­swa­gen Polo GTI, Mini Cooper S (tested on page 68) and, to a lesser ex­tent, the Abarth 595 Com­pe­tizione 1,4T. The Clio RS 200 Cup and 220 Tro­phy are no longer avail­able in SA, so this is the only hot Clio you can cur­rently get your hands on. With the small hot-hatch seg­ment slowly dying in South Africa, hope­fully our time with this Clio RS de­riv­a­tive can reignite a spark of in­ter­est.

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