Don’t be fooled. This car is nothing like the girly ‘Papa! — Nicole!’ Clio of advert fame. The only thing it has in common is the `Va Va Voom’. The Clio RS (Renault Sport) was first introduced in 1998 as a flagship version designed to give the Clio a more macho image. The Renault engineers have pulled out the stops for the third generation.
They have used all the expertise of the marque’s racing heritage and the latest Formula 1 aerodynamics technology to come up trumps with an exciting front-wheel drive, six-speed hot hatch that is seriously fast for such a small road car. Those plastic slats at the rear aren’t just for show — they’re air diffusers to prevent Clio from lifting off.
The 197 tag refers to the Clio’s horsepower. Being French it is given in PS but that still translates to 194 bhp — an impressive figure for a car this size. It is a really exhilarating drive, with a genuinely racy zappiness and a satisfyingly throaty engine thrum; at the same time it feels extremely safe with tenacious grip and barely perceptible body roll.
It is a car that gives its best at high revs, better suited to winding country roads than long, dull stretches of motorway. But the 197 is not just designed for thrills on the open road; its agility, maneuverability and practical interior make it a really pleasurable children-and-chores city car.
A few critics have argued that, despite the 197’s greater power, it lacks some of the character of the second generation Renaultsport 182, but for others, the 197 is the jewel in the Clio crown. Certainly, it is widely regarded as the best performing and most attractive affordable small hot hatch around today.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
2006 (Third generation)
1,998 cc Straight Four
Top speed of 134 mph (216 km/h); 0-60 mph (97km/h) in 6.8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Clio Renaultsport 197 has won the Track & Race Cars Magazine ‘Hot Hatch Car of the Year’ award for two years in succession.