New models - Renault - Clio
First drive: Extra punch for Sport Clio
Renault's latest Sport Clio adds even more punch
28 Sep 2004
By TIM BRITTEN
THE Renault Sport Clio 182 is a development of the previous 172 model that earned a decent reputation with its combination of surging, non-turbo performance and slot-car handling.
Weighing little more than a tonne and sporting a punchy 124kW 2.0-litre engine, it equalled the Subaru Impreza WRX in terms of power to weight ratios (if not torque to weight ratios) and simply outclassed the modern-day Mini Cooper S with its compact shape and giant-killing punch.
The latest version adds even more punch – it goes from 124 to 131kW – and develops its 200Nm of maximum torque a bit lower, 5250rpm compared to the previous model’s 5400rpm.
Renault says the Clio 182 will cover the standing 400 metres in an alarmingly fast 15 seconds and better the previous model’s ability to accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds by 0.2 of a second.
It also gets new suspension geometry resulting in a slightly longer wheelbase, more suspension travel at the back and wider tracks front and rear, as well as larger wheels, up from 15x7 to 16x7. It also wears wider, lower-profile 205/45R16 Michelin Pilot tyres.
Visually, there’s not a lot of difference between old and new apart from details – although the Clio also picks up the twin exhausts that are now the Renault Sport signature.
Equipment includes dual front and side airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, xenon headlights, climate control, trip computer, six-speaker CD sound system, Alcantra/leather upholstery and – recognising the Clio Sport’s on-road willingness – cruise control.
A "Cup" version of the Clio 182 adds lower, firmer suspension, refined steering geometry and charcoal coloured wheels for an extra $1500.
Renault Sport Clio 182 $32,990
Renault Sport Clio 182 Cup $34,490
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:THE previous Sport Clio was impressive enough. What you got for not a lot more than $30,000 was a true latter-day Mini Cooper S.
The latest version takes it all a small step further, with a power-weight ratio almost equal to that of the Megane Sport 225 and a refined chassis that makes it easy to drive fast.
With its light weight (at 1090kg just over one tonne) and 131kW, its acceleration is almost phenomenal for a car of its size. The normally aspirated Clio 182 will reach 100km/h in just 7.1 seconds and cover the standing 400 metres in 15 seconds.
The gearing is pretty close to perfect - although there are times when you feel it could use a six-speed gearbox, as 100km/h requires it to spin at 2900rpm in fifth - and the clutch/shift lever work in unison to encourage smooth, quick gear changes.
The brakes, with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution, are tenacious yet progressive.
The new engine makes its respectable 200Nm torque maximum 250rpm earlier than the previous model, but 5250rpm still makes it a pretty high winding powerplant.
This means the Clio really starts to motivate once revs climb past 5000. It’s not difficult to get it moving, but it develops an almost VTEC-style second wind towards the top end of the rev band. With maximum kilowatts developed at 6500rpm (previously 6250rpm), this gives a reasonably useful power spread.
Maybe you wouldn’t expect it, but the Clio 182 rides pretty well too, despite the shortish wheelbase and larger 16-inch wheels with their low-profile 205/45 tyres.
The redesigned chassis actually gives more rear wheel travel than the previous Sport Clio, as well as a slightly longer wheelbase (by 13mm) that comes from the new front suspension geometry. Front and rear tracks are wider as well.
The Clio’s steering is more straightforward than the Megane’s and it feels more natural as a result. The weighting is just right, it goes from lock to lock in just 2.8 turns and there’s a nice feeling of connection with the road surface.
The Cup version costs another $1500 but the thought is that it might be well spent, even if the only external identifier is a charcoal grey finish for the wheels.
What really counts is the reworked, lowered suspension with new, heavier duty front wheel hub carriers, the stiffer springs and a redesign of the steering system that relocates the attachment points to give sharper response to the wheel.
It’s difficult to imagine where you’d find more fun in a three-door hatch.
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