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Renault Aus wants next Megane RS manual, Clio RS16

Sweet 16: Renault Australia would welcome a production version of the Clio RS16 concept revealed earlier this year.

2018 shaping up as big year for Renault Sport and Alpine locally

Renault logo2 Sep 2016

By DANIEL DeGASPERI

FIVE of the top-selling Renault Sport markets have asked for the next-generation Megane RS to be offered with a manual gearbox, and some have begged for the wild Clio RS16 concept to be produced, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar has revealed.

Controversy has followed Renault Sport since its decision to abandon the manual gearbox for the fourth-generation Clio RS but the brand refuses to confirm whether the next-generation Megane RS, due in 2018, will switch to an auto-only strategy.

Speaking with GoAuto at the national media launch of the Renault Koleos in northern New South Wales this week, however, Mr Hocevar confirmed that although a final transmission decision had been locked in, Australia has been part of an overwhelming number of markets that pushed for a manual.

“That (manual or automatic decision) has been and gone, that vehicle (next Megane RS) is advanced,” he said.

“In an ideal world we’d have both and that’s what we’ve asked for. We’re not on our own (asking for Megane RS manual), any of those traditionally strong Renault Sport markets, the UK, Japan, Australia, the domestic market France, even Germany … I think they’ve all said that’s what we’d really love to offer.”

Mr Hocevar said the brand believed the market had changed since the decision to produce the Clio RS only with Renault’s Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) six-speed transmission, and Renault Sport had listened to customer and media feedback.

“We brought a lot of new people to Renault with Clio RS in auto, but there’s some people out there who have said, ‘I want a manual’ and they (Renault Sport) know that, they’re aware of that,” he continued.

“They (Renault Sport) thought the wise thing to do (with Clio RS) was to follow what performance cars were doing in general and go with the paddle shift.”

He also argued that because the outgoing Megane RS was still available with a manual until it finished production this month, it had not completely alienated a traditional Renault Sport audience, giving the greatest hint yet that a Clio RS and Megane RS auto-only strategy was not on the cards.

“Maybe we’ve alienated a few people along the way (but) we did that at a time when we still had a manual offering (with Megane RS) and you know I’d say at not at a vastly different price point,” he added.

Although Mr Hocevar said the next-generation Megane RS would not be revealed at this month’s Paris motor show, he expected Australia would be among the first in line for the new hot-hatchback after it was revealed and would not suffer the same fate as the regular Megane hatchback that was unveiled more than a year ago but was just arriving on local shores.

“(Megane RS) timing is still not confirmed, it’s still a fair way away,” he said.

“I think it’s highly likely left- and right-hand-drive development on Megane RS will be very closely aligned, if not at the same time, and if that’s the case we’ll be in a strong position to launch very close to the global rollout.”

The likely 2018 launch of the next Megane RS would leave Renault Australia without a manual hot-hatchback flagship for the entirety of next year.

Mr Hocevar further revealed, however, that the local outlet was also prepared to support Renault Sport in placing the wild Clio RS16 concept car into production, likening the local intake of the Nurburgring-taming Megane RS275 Trophy R of which Australia absorbed 50 of 250 units made worldwide.

“I know they (Renault Sport) would love to (put Clio RS16 in production) and we will definitely try to support them,” he said.

“We were able to support them with the Trophy R that they did on Megane and we’ve certainly put our hand up for a road-going development of that concept vehicle.

“It’s still a concept vehicle but it’s a concept vehicle that we’d all love to bring to market (although) it would be very modest numbers.”

The Clio RS16 concept unveiled at the Monaco Grand Prix in May pinched the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed manual transmission from the Megane RS, installing it with a front limited-slip differential (LSD) in a wider body capable of being driven on public roads.

While 2017 will be quiet for sports models for Renault Australia, the additions of the next-generation Megane RS, potentially the Clio RS16 and the unique Alpine revival confirmed for local consumption, would all likely follow to create a busy 2018 calendar year.

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