Used buy­ing guide

Renault Clio RS from just £2000

Autocar - - CONTENTS -

The Greeks called them Sirens: myth­i­cal crea­tures that lured sailors to their deaths on rocks by war­bling to them. Un­for­tu­nately, there’s noth­ing myth­i­cal about the Renault Sport Clio 197, whose charms, not least the prom­ise of 194bhp com­bined with a su­perb chas­sis, have led driv­ers if not to the rocks then at least to the bank.

The prob­lem lies with the TL4 six-speed gear­box – specif­i­cally its graunchy syn­chros. Chang­ing down to third, up from third to fourth… It’s a well-doc­u­mented prob­lem and far from iso­lated, as we found when comb­ing the clas­si­fieds. This chap, for ex­am­ple, sell­ing his 82,000-mile 2007 197: “In­ter­mit­tent crunch 3rd and 4th pos­si­bly syn­chros.”

An­other owner shared his frus­tra­tion on the re­nault­sport.co.uk fo­rum: “My 197 Cup has been su­perb other than the well-known syn­chro is­sues. Syn­chro in sec­ond failed, new ’box fit­ted. Box num­ber two lasted 12,000 miles, syn­chro fail­ure in sec­ond caus­ing an­other re­place­ment. Syn­chro in fourth has now failed.”

At least most sell­ers come clean about the is­sue and you can al­ways check the ’box’s op­er­a­tion on the test drive. As­sum­ing it’s okay, the rest of the car is a treat. Did we men­tion the sus­pen­sion? That can be a lit­tle flaky too, which is a shame given how cru­cial to the Clio’s ap­peal it is. It’s a gen­eral wear and tear thing, though, and to be ex­pected at this age.

Now the good news. At launch in 2006, the Clio RS 197 cost just £15,995, so it’s no sur­prise that prices of used ex­am­ples are so at­trac­tive to­day. In the wake of its bril­liant pre­de­ces­sor, the 182, ex­pec­ta­tions were high. The 197 didn’t dis­ap­point. It used a more pow­er­ful ver­sion of the same ea­ger 2.0-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine, which has since proved re­li­able with reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing. Stan­dard kit in­cluded Brembo brakes, a rear dif­fuser and ded­i­cated Con­ti­nen­tal tyres.

In 2007, it was joined by the more fo­cused, cheaper and stripped-out 197 Cup, with crisper steer­ing, a low­ered chas­sis and stiffer springs. That same year, this set-up also found its way into the F1 Team R27, a lim­ited-edi­tion model that cel­e­brated Renault’s 2006 For­mula 1 suc­cess. In 2008, the TL4 gear­box got re­vised ra­tios, in­clud­ing a taller sixth gear.

A facelift came along in 2009, of­fer­ing a nose job and im­proved in­te­rior, a few ex­tra horse­power and a new name: 200 (the met­ric power out­put). It also gained a lit­tle more torque, im­prov­ing pick-up. The sus­pen­sion was im­proved fur­ther and torque steer all but elim­i­nated, while Cup vari­ants got an even quicker rack. More power, even sharper sus­pen­sion? No prizes for guess­ing the 200 is the one to have.

The Raider spe­cial edi­tion, with 18in wheels and leather Re­caros, led the farewell pa­rade (a 2011 with 40k miles costs £11,000). Pro­duc­tion ended in 2012 with the ar­rival of the all-new Clio RS 1.6 turbo auto, a damp squib that has only stiff­ened the val­ues of late 200s.

❝ In the wake of its bril­liant pre­de­ces­sor, the 182, the 197 didn’t dis­ap­point ❞

‘There is no other small hatch so per­fectly resolved’ Au­to­car’s first test, July 2006

Sus­pen­sion is on the firm side, even more so on Cup mod­els

Bucket seats suf­fer from wear on the bol­sters

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