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