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Driven: Renault’s $29k RS Clio spreads its wings

Hot to trot: Renault weighs in to the hot-hatch battle against Ford's Fiesta ST and the 208 GTi from Peugeot.

French brand Renault launches four-pronged RS Clio attack to corner growing market


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12 Dec 2013

RENAULT has launched its four-pronged assault on the booming light-sized hot hatch market with the latest Clio RS.

Along with the entry-level Sport from $28,790 plus on-road costs, the Renault Sport-developed five-door-only slingshot now known as the RS 200 EDC (to denote the Efficient Dual Clutch transmission that’s standard across the range) is also offered in a more driver-focussed Cup version starting at $31,290.

Both will also be available in either standard or up-spec Trophy guises for a $5500 premium, taking the Sport Trophy and Cup Trophy variants to $34,290 and $36,790 respectively.

In a sure sign of Renault Australia’s ever-sharpening pricing pencil, the top-of-the-tree Cup Trophy is only $300 more expensive than the previous-generation X85 Clio RS 200’s $36,790 base starting price, despite having two more doors, more engine torque and a lot more equipment.

Trophy variants bring luxuries such as rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, climate control air-conditioning, upgraded audio, leather seats (heated up front), and Renault’s R-Link multi-media interface with a vehicle telemetry readout.

This is on top of the standard Sport’s keyless entry and go, cruise control with speed limiter, satellite navigation, steering wheel paddle shifters, and an ‘RS Drive’ sports mode that alters the speediest Clio’s electric power steering, throttle, transmission and ESC stability and traction control responses.

The Cup, meanwhile, employs a revised chassis with a 3mm lower ride height, 15 per cent stiffer suspension (spring rates are firmed up by 27 per cent up front and 20 per cent in the rear), different damper settings, red brake callipers and 18-inch rather than 17-inch alloy wheels.

The latter is expected to account for about 60 per cent of Clio RS orders, with Renault forecasting around 500 sales annually all up.

“The new Clio RS 200 EDC is a vitally important addition to the Renault range,” Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said at the launch if the new series in Melbourne this week.

“The light hot hatch market has shifted dramatically in the past few years and is now heavily skewed towards five-door body type and automatic transmission.

“Renault has watched this shift in the market closely and we have been able to develop the new Clio RS to appeal to more buyers than ever before.

“Australia is a strong Renault Sport market and in fact we are currently the second highest selling country in the world for the Megane RS 265. We are confident that (the Clio RS) will build upon this already strong market position.”

It competes in the B-segment hot-hatch class that is up by almost 500 per cent in three years, driven by the success of the current-generation Volkswagen Polo GTI launched in 2010, as well as Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTi, Skoda Fabia RS and Suzuki Swift Sport.

Although the body in white is made in Flins, France alongside all other right-hand drive B98 Clios, the RS is assembled in the specialised Alpine factory in Dieppe, Northern France, with the unique RS drivetrain, exterior and interior detailing added.

Like the rest of the B98 Clio range, the RS is a five-door only proposition, but matches the Polo GTI and Fabia RS by sidestepping a manual gearbox for a mandatory dual-clutch transmission.

The equivalent Volkswagen five-door version comes in at $29,190 while the $29,990 price tag for the sole three-door manual Peugeot 208 GTi further underscores Renault’s aggressive positioning.

Only the highly lauded Fiesta ST matches the Clio RS for sharp pricing, kicking off from $25,990 – though Ford buyers receive two fewer doors and a manual gearbox for that.

Under the bonnet is a variation of the Renault/Nissan Alliance M5Mt 1618cc 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine found in recently introduced flagship versions of the Nissan Pulsar and Juke.

Differences here include an RS-specific air inlet, distributor, throttle and turbo installations, to boost both low-rev torque and high-rev power for improved all-round driveability.

The result is 147kW of power at 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque between 1750 and 5600rpm, channelled to the front wheels via an electronically controlled limited slip differential. The 1218kg Clio RS can hit 100km/h from standstill in 6.7 seconds (a 0.2s improvement), on the way to a 230km/h top speed.

On the flipside, the EU5-rated powerplant running on 95 RON premium unleaded is capable of averaging 6.3 litres per 100km and 144 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.

‘RS Drive’ offers a trio of settings – Normal, Sport and track-focused Race – with heightened engine-idling, accelerator pedal response, engine pitch, EDC shift times (to just 150 milliseconds in paddleshift manual-only Race mode), steering weighting and ESC/traction intervention times.

Keeping all this in check, the standard B98’s MacPherson strut front suspension has been stiffened, with larger shock absorbers featuring new hydraulic bump stops acting as secondary dampers for better ride control, while a 10 per cent thicker anti-roll bar is fitted to the torsion beam rear end.

Brakes are bigger too, measuring in at 320mm discs in the nose and 260mm discs in the back.

Speaking of stoppers, the aforementioned electronic front differential works by monitoring the speed of the rear wheels in a corner, applying “almost imperceptible” braking to whichever front wheel threatens to lose grip of break traction – but before the ESC intervenes so as to minimise torque restriction.

To that end a ‘Launch Control’ system is part of the RS 200 equipment levels, but only kicks in with RS Drive set to Sport or Race modes.

Visual differentiators compared to the regular Clio include a redesigned grille and bumpers – with the front featuring a Formula One-style front blade, LED daytime running lights, and a restyled rear diffuser and bigger spoiler that respectively add 80 per cent and 20 per cent more downforce.

The standard 17-inch alloy wheels have their own RS style, while blacked-out 18s are Cup-only items.

Inside there are red highlights on the doors, seatbelts, and gear shifter, drilled aluminium pedals, sports seats and more standard features.

As part of global Renault Sport policy, the RS 200 is limited to a three rather than five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty (due to the more demanding driving regime they are subjected to by owners, according to Mr Hocevar, though he points out that there is no mileage cap like on most rival hot hatch contenders, while capped-price servicing of $299 per calendar year for the first three years still applies as per regular Clios.

As Renault revealed in October, the RS 200 arrived in Australia three months earlier than anticipated, with sales commencing on December 12.

Renault Clio RS pricing*
200 EDC Sport$28,790
200 EDC Cup$31,290
200 EDC Sport Trophy$34,290
200 EDC Cup Trophy$36,790
*Excludes on-road costs.

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