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The first impression
You know the saying, ‘dynamite comes in small packages’. It’s true for Renault’s Clio RS. Renault has a long history in motorsport, ripping up racetracks with their decades of formula one racing pedigree. On the flipside, it is funny how a brand with such high levels of racing achievement produce a buffet of pleasant, wallet friendly, people’s cars. Definably their bread and butter, while the investment in racing is their preverbal Nutella spread – or the cherry on their cake of car making.
What has been learnt, has not been wasted – the investment in creating the quickest and most dynamic car around a racetrack has filtered its way into Renault’s RS range. The previous Clio 3 RS was perhaps over endowed with racing prowess. It alienated some customers who complained it was too hard-core for a daily road car. I know my spine would agree, it had bone chattering firm suspension.
Enter generation 4. The Clio 4 is stunningly beautiful and a hands down winner with local South Africans, selling several hundred every month. The mainstay of the Clio range is driven by a sewing machine sized 900cc 3-cylinder turbo engine. It’s great for city commuting and pretty frugal to run. That’s great, but for those of us who like some muscle when we hustle – enter the Renault RS.
On the road
The Clio is arguably the best looking compact hatch on the market. Its curves scream mischievous trouble; its voluptuous rear, accentuated with flared wheel arches and large double exhausts pipes confirm it. The Clio may have a girl’s name, but the RS (RenaultSport) is most certainly a boy, and he is bad, but in a good way.
This trouble maker isn’t all talk and no substance either. Rather, it’s a cocktail of just the right concoction of: power, responsive steering, firm suspension (not hard), agility and handling prowess; all mated to a slick shifting, automated and double-clutch 6-speed gearbox.
The RS is powered by a 1.6 4-cylinder motor, sending all 147kW’s of power to those 17” sport magnesium wheels, fitted with low profile high grip tyres.
The RS suffers from covert-aggressive personality disorder; it’s the archetypal wolf in sheep’s clothing, doing justice to its RenaultSport label. Covert in the way that the RS isn’t conceited about its looks, but rather comfortable in its skin, ready to perform on demand - especially when one switches into RS mode. Adding just the right amount of adrenalin to awaken the aggressive wolf which lies within. The sound emanating from the twin exhaust pipes is intoxicating. Gushes of air blast through the turbo on aggressive acceleration. The automated gear changes are urgent, but with each change comes a stunning back fart from the exhaust - all the while still remaining civilized. This combination of sounds could be likened to half a dozen bumblebees trapped in a glass jar and provoked.
The RS feels light on its feet with sharp steering, responsive breaking and fantastic handling characteristics. The seats fit like the tight grip of a baseball glove around a baseball just before it is thrown – tightly! It completes the driver’s experience.
What I liked
What I’m not mad about
The extra stuff
As is the case across Renault’s entire product range, the New Clio RS 200 EDC LUX and CUP derivatives come with Renault’s industry leading 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty and six-year anti-corrosion warranty service, including the standard Service Plan: 3-year/30 000km. Service intervals are at 10 000km.
Young or middle aged, the above list of cars is a great way to get your rocks off.
The Ford Fiesta ST, like its bigger brothers, the Focus ST1 or 3, is the cheapest road going thrill on the market. This value for money pocket rocket is dynamic and I believe (having not tested it myself) is just that much more fun to drive than a Clio RS (if that is possible?). At its price it’s hard to beat and if a manual transmission is your preferred method of gear changing, it is the best option here.
The Peugeot 208 GTi is a gem. Polished, playful and quick. Its tiny steering wheel and fanciful dashboard does the quirky French brand justice. It’s a great car but perhaps not as outstanding as it forefather, the 205 GTi from which it comes.
The VW Polo has just been refreshed. I’m glad, because in this fast paced playground the competition is tough. I need to drive it to give an honest account of its characteristics, but I believe the Polo is best suited to those who hold build quality as a priority over dynamic driving ability.
Finally we have the MINI Cooper S. Bigger in every respect, and now not so mini. It is a designer pocket rocket loaded with BMW DNA, which is a good thing bar the premium price tag. In my mind, if you’re buying a new MINI, go for the standard Cooper, it’s cheaper and just as much fun.
In closing, if you want a gorgeous looking car that is reasonably priced and loads of fun to drive, and have no interest in changing gears in traffic, buy the Clio RS, it’s bloody terrific – It my choice!
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