Renault gets it

right - fast

Renault Clio RS, front action
Renault Clio RS, front action 2
Renault Clio RS, rear action
Renault Clio RS, front static
Renault Clio RS, full front static
Renault Clio RS, scenic shot
Renault Clio RS, dashboard
Renault Clio RS, sill trim
Renault Clio RS, seats
Renault Clio RS, steering wheel
Renault Clio RS, lights detail
Renault Clio R.S., boot

THERE are two ways of turning an everyday shopping car into a sporty one - fake it with body bits and fancy trim (cheaper) or spend money and do the job properly.

Renault, bless them, has a strong history of doing it properly with a string of highly regarded hot hatches since the 1980s. The latest one is very hot indeed.

Better than that, the warming upgrades spread much further than the engine, to places with a lower glamour count but where long term driving satisfaction is to be found.

But we'll start at the bit that provides a proper kick in the back when the throttle is floored. You can have a Clio Renault Sport with 200 horses from its 1,681cc engine or with 220 of them. One costs £19,725 and the other is £22,425.

The less expensive car is still plenty fast, with 143mph available and the sprint to 62mph in 6.7 seconds. Quite enough to provide thrills on a corner by corner basis and at a price that looks almost a bargain.

But you'd stretch your budget (or monthly payments) to find the extra £2,700 for the faster one, wouldn't you?

It may only add three miles an hour to the top speed (now 146mph) and shave an insignificant tenth of a second from the sprint time (to 6.6 seconds) but in this world of speed, faster is better.

Then you spot that the official fuel consumption of both versions is an identical 47.9mpg and that clinches the case for spending extra cash. Not that any driver of these most sporting of Renaults is every likely to approach that figure. Not by miles; an enthusiastic hour in the car showed 26.9mpg as things cooled down.

Tailpipe emissions of 133 versus 135g/km won't swing things either way but whichever version you choose, it will be a long way from a stripped out race track refugee. Not many track-bound cars have satellite navigation, heated door mirrors, air conditioning - or a tyre inflation kit and five doors.

The dearer 220 model adds a better sat nav, sound system, parking sensors and reversing camera, auto air con and bigger alloy wheels as part of its upgrades.

But we haven't yet touched on what makes either fast Clio so special, even after considering their race inspired body bits that actually generate downforce at speed or fancy new LED lights that combine fog, cornering, side and main beams in a single unit.

We haven't either looked at an interior lifted by properly clingy sports seats in cloth or leather and anthracite coloured aluminium paddles for the manual override of the standard six-speed automatic gearbox.

Automatic? On a car this sporty? Yes, and it's a feature that's divided the very vocal community of rapid Renault owners, or potential owners.

Renault hints that the next ones will have the option of a DIY manual gearbox and has quickened the response to a change request on these latest versions and all seemed fine, with lazy changes in town when you couldn't be bothered to take control.

But we must dig deeper to find the depth of engineering buried in the Renaultsport line up, with a clever electronic differential that subtly brakes an individual front wheel without cutting power when it detects a loss of grip. Sounds complicated but it keeps things pin sharp and laugh out loud fun when pressing on.

So to does a ride that is almost indecently good for a car this potent. Choose the 220 Trophy model and even with lowered and stiffened suspension over the 200 version it smooths away a British road surface with the sort of aplomb only a fanatical team of engineers could manage.

That, for me is the crowning glory of this particular roaring Renault, knowing it's been developed with passion by people who bother deeply. You know they'd sneer at a set of go faster stripes.


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