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Car reviews - Renault - Clio - RS200 Cup 3-dr hatch range

Launch Story

26 Mar 2010

RENAULT is upping the hot-hatch ante with the release of the X85 Clio III Phase II Renaultsport (RS) 200 series in Australia.

Already a leading driver’s car alternative to the Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen Golf GTI, the super bébé from Dieppe has been improved in subtle but important ways, as the result of feedback garnered from its lauded RS 197 predecessor launched in Australia less than two years ago.

So buyers of the new RS 200 can expect better low-rev performance, sharper steering, more responsive handling, improved cabin presentation and higher specification levels.

Yet prices have fallen compared with the old car, with the standard Cup costing $1500 less while the Cup Trophee is $1000 cheaper than the limited run RS 197 Cup.

Two Cups? Fans of the Clio RS – and there are apparently many of you out there in Australia according to Renault – should be delighted to hear that only the more driver-orientated ‘Cup’ chassis cars are heading to the Antipodes.

The regular Cup kicks off from $36,490 while the better-equipped (but no more honed dynamically) Trophee retails from $38,990. The latter’s price puts the three-door-only hot hatch straight up against the equivalently configured Golf GTI.

Renault says that more special editions may arrive to keep the series fresh, highlighting the importance of the Renaultsport sub-brand in Australia, which has been a top-10 market for the series since 2001.

Unfortunately, the rest of the X85 Clio range – the light car series that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year in Europe – is a non-starter for Australia due to its price incompatibility, ageing status and suitable automatic gearbox unavailability. So it’s RS or it’s nothing.

As the name implies, the ‘200’ is more powerful than the old 197, and refers to the brake horsepower rating of the latest quick Clio. That’s also a nod to how important the UK market is to Renault even though the French invented the metric system. But RS 147.5 (kilowatts) doesn’t have the same ring to it, apparently.

That’s the new power rating anyway, a meagre 2.5kW rise from the 197’s rating. The RS 200’s identical 215Nm torque top also seems disappointing until you learn that it occurs at 150rpm below the old engine at 5400rpm.

Changes to the 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder F4R RS engine include revisions to the cylinder head, CVVT continuous variable valve timing, ECU device, and exhaust system. The camshaft’s calibration has been modified so valve lift rises from 9mm to 11.5mm for a larger valve aperture. The compression ratio remains at 11.5:1.

It all means that there is now 20 per cent more torque available at lower revs, and that 95 per cent of it is accessible at 3000rpm. The 147.5kW power max also happens sooner, at 7100rpm (it was at a very heady 7250rpm). Zero to 100km/h happens in 6.9 seconds, while top speed is 225km/h (in UK spec).

Consumption and emissions also drop slightly, by 0.2 litres per 100 kilometres and four grams per kilometre to 8.2L/100km and 195g/km respectively.

Renault has also shortened the first three indirect gear ratios on the Clio’s TL4 six-speed manual transmission (no automatic is available), while open road users should appreciate the slightly higher sixth gear that strives to reduce engine noise at speed.

Since this is a Cup chassis, the springs are stiffer by 27 per cent up front and 30 per cent out back, while the shock absorbers have also been hardened, by 15 per cent.

Furthermore, torsional rigidity has risen by 10 per cent, and the rack and pinion steering ratio is 7.5 per cent faster. Brakes are 312mm ventilated discs paired with four-piston Brembo callipers up front while the rears use 300mm solid discs with single-piston TRW callipers.

Other changes include a 21mm front anti-roll bar (up by 1mm), and the tyres are specific Continental Sport Contact III measuring 215/45 R17. The new standard alloy wheel is 1kg lighter than the old design, which is retained for the Trophee.

As with the previous model, the RS 200’s body is wider than the non Renaultsport Clio cars, featuring larger front and rear wings to accommodate a bigger wheel and tyre package, as well as the side skirts and a semi-rigid under-bumper splitter. It also sits lower to the ground.

Extractor vents and an active rear air diffuser have been devised to aid stability and prevent rear-end lift by creating a zone of low pressure beneath the car to achieve suction.

This results in a 40kg downforce rating at high speed, while lift is lowered by around 65 per cent, eliminating the need for a rear spoiler and improving aerodynamic flow over the car.

Underneath is a development of the Renault/Nissan Alliance B Platform that underpins the current Nissan Tiida and Micra, but the RS departs from normal Clios in having a 10mm longer wheelbase, 48mm wider front track, 50mm wider rear track and 15mm lower ride height.

The subframe is the same used on the Megane RS 225, and employs transverse strengthening for greater front-end rigidity, according to Renault. Its bushes, front shock absorber mountings and rear suspension mountings are also stiffer.

The double-axis front suspension system uses aluminium to cut 7.5kg, for improved steering response. To this end, Renault says that separating the steering axis from the damping system eliminates torque steer.

As with the RS 197, the 200 earns a five-star European NCAP crash-test result. Helping out in this area are anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, a (revised for 2010) electronic stability control that is sports-tuned with higher threshold programming and can be disconnected, ASR traction control and eight airbags – including two anti-submarining devices underneath the front seats (Cup only – the Trophee’s Recaros miss out on these).

Standard features include climate control air-conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, Bluetooth connectivity, front fog lights, electrically adjustable and heated rear view mirrors, auto-on headlights and wipers, remote central locking, power windows, a multi-function trip computer, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, 17-inch alloys, reach and rake adjustment for the Renaultsport leather steering wheel, MP3/USB/aux media and drilled aluminium pedals.

The Trophee adds the Recaro front seats, keyless entry and start, electrically folding rear mirrors, different alloy wheels, faux carbon-fibre trim and an anthracite finish to the exterior trim.

Both cars have a flat tyre spray repair kit in lieu of a regular spare wheel.

The key options are an integrated TomTom satellite navigation system and metallic paint. New colour choices include Alien Green.

That’s the hero colour as first seen when the RS 200 was released in Europe earlier last year. The facelift sees a new nose featuring an aerodynamic bumper blade, a redesigned rear diffuser, a yellow tachometer and the Cup’s different style alloys.

Renault won’t talk exact sales numbers but expects that there may be about “150 to 200” prospects for this vehicle in Australia.

The RS 200 is the fourth Clio hot hatch since the 85 or so 124kW/200Nm X65 Series 1 original were imported into Australia during mid 2001. The Series II followed later on that year while the higher-out 131kW/200Nm RS 182 took over from September 2004 until late 2006. The third-generation Clio-based RS197 was released in the middle of 2008.

Like other RS models, the Clio RS 200 is built in Dieppe, Northern France.

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