Renault’s performance arm, Renault Sport, is likely to move away from manual transmissions in the coming years as it seeks to further exploit its links with modern motorsport and expand its global reach.

At the international launch of the all-new Renault Clio RS, Renault admitted that a move to automatic transmissions was necessary to grow the Renault Sport brand globally. Interestingly, Australia has moved up to be the second-largest market for Renault Sport models anywhere in the world.

The new Clio RS has not only ditched its naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder for a 1.6-litre turbo (developed as part of the Renault-Nissan alliance), but it has gone from offering a six-speed manual only to being singularly available with a six-speed dual clutch transmission.

The Clio RS follow other competitors in the class, notably the Volkswagen Polo GTI, by no longer offering a manual transmission, a move which Renault says was engineered into the project from the very beginning.

According to Christophe Deville, the company’s head of public relations, the reason for ditching the manual transmission in the Clio RS comes down to transmission advancements that allow dual-clutch automatics to shift faster than ever before (150ms for the Clio RS in race mode), deliver better acceleration time than a manual transmission model, and also improve fuel economy and emissions.

The company also emphasised that it seeks to further exploit its association with Formula One cars – for which Renault has been a championship-winning engine supplier – as F1 also utilises dual-clutch transmissions.

Asked if the move from manual to dual-clutch for the Clio RS was a sign of what was to come from Renault Sport in the future, particularly regarding the successor to the currently manual-only Megane RS, Deville said it’s still early days and that the current dual-clutch transmission system in the Clio RS couldn’t handle the torque of the more powerful Megane RS265 engine (195kW/360Nm).

This also means that owners seeking to further modify or tune their new Clio RS (147kW/240Nm) are likely to put undue pressure on the dual-clutch transmission.

Deville admitted that Renault’s “competitor’s had shown the way” when it comes to transmission choice, in a reference to the popularity of Volkswagen’s DSG system in the Polo and Golf GTI. Furthermore, given Renault Sport’s growing commitment to serve overseas markets, the need for an automatic transmission was vital to the brand’s survival.

At the Paris motor show last year, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar commented that “if you don’t have five doors and an auto [in the Clio RS class] buyers go down the road to Volkswagen…”

Are the days of manual transmissions numbered?

  • Andy

    There’s this little thing called choice and driver involvment, say ta ta to those selected costomers

    • Brett

      Agreed. How lazy people have become. Can you imagine a world these days without electricity or even mobile phones? Cars have been taken for granted and become appliances to the world, nothing more. Give it a few more years when autonomous vehicles take over and nobody could give a toss about cars.

    • Guest

       Not if it’s the only option.  What are you going to do… walk?  Buy a Chery?

      • Guest

        For clarification:  I, for one, am kind of excited to see what Renault can do with the tech.  I had a 225 Cup which I loved to bits, and traded it in for a DSG R.  I sold it less than six months later.  Heavy, uninspiring, a distinct lack of flair.  The new Clio though… lighter than the old one, a DSG that can multi-change downshift – it could be an absolute cracker.  Porsche can see the benefits to the point they’ve made the GT3 PDK-only – who’s to say Renaultsport are wrong to try?

        • The Realist

          Double Clutch transmissions will be the only option available on sporty cars in the future. Learn to love them people. You’ve got no choice. 

    • U mad?

      Choice? You either buy the car, or you dont!

  • bob

    Absolute shame. I can understand its probably cheaper from a manufacturing point of view for Renault to only have to build and design one drivetrain. But I’d still prefer the choice of a manual.

    Have driven the current Cup and its a hoot. Great drivers car. Fantastic gear box. Perfect throw distance. Smooth.

    A car like this needs a manual. Engagement. I don’t care if the auto is faster. How fast am I going to go on Sydney roads?

    • Zaccy16

      all i hope is that the megane rs will always have at least manual as a option!

    • OGU

      Is it cheaper? When a manufacturer can develop 1 transmission rather than 2.
      If dual clutch tech is so on the nose… Why is almost every discipline of Motorsport there now? Why are almost all super cars there now.
      I think RS guys are doing te right thing to employ this kind of tech & sell more cars rather than sale proof cars into obscurity.

      • Gf

         The design of manuals hasn’t really changed for a while, so there’s no need to develop new ones all the time, they just carry over the manual from the previous model or use a off the shelf design.
        The new Cliosport has the same power as the old model and only a little more torque, so they should be able to just use the old one.

  • filippo

    Notice how the next generation of Golf GTI will be offered as a manual? If VW’s experiment of offering the Polo GTI as an auto-only was such a success, then why didn’t they replicate this with the Golf GTI (or R series for that matter)?

    It’s fine to offer the choice of an automatic – for those who use their hot-hatches for the daily commute – but removing the manual choice is very risky, especially in Europe where automatics are mostly bought by the elderly and the disabled.

    • JooberJCW

      Maybe the demographic of buyers they have researched over the years for the Polo are young women, hipsters, those less enjoying the thrill of the drive to rather something small convenient and stylish. And, that people who want performance move on to the quicker Golf with the bigger engine.

      But who knows, they are a multi billion dollar company who fork out millions on market research, they should know more than us…

  • nickdl

    ¿Pour qué no los dos?

  • G21

    Good thing I can’t afford a new Renault Sport Clio or Megane… otherwise I’d be pretty upset.

    As for the connection with motorsport, I personally can’t see any similarity between a Renault Clio and a Red Bull F1 car.

    • Modern Man

      so the 1.6 litre turbo engines in the F1 cars are not the same size? (understand cylinder count etc is different) but renault was the pioneer of turbo tech in F1 years ago.

      Paddle shift gearboxes have been used in F1 and other forms of motor racing for Years now and Ferrari Lamborghini etc are all going dual or single clutch automated manuals.

      Dont get me wrong, i want a manual, but, if they dont offer it i will await judgment but from insiders i have been told the flair is still there just easier to access for all.

      BRING IT ON.

      • TheRealThomas

        Note the 1.6L V6 will rev out to 18,000rpm. on a car that weighs half of a clio.

  • Slick-slim87

    Hey Alborz, just to let you know f1 cars don’t use dual clutch gearboxes! They use seamless shift, or zeroshift. They are near conventional dog boxes that have free floating tapered dog teeth between 2 gears and in affect are in 2 gears for a split second. Absolutely nothing 2 do with dual clutches in road cars. no offence

    • kevin

      do you know more or Renault which supplies 1/4 of the starting grid!

      • Slick-slim87

        What kevin?

  • Hung Low

    The days of manual becoming only a purist option have arrived. The sheeple have been dictated on what’s best for them based on the laziness of the masses requiring all aspects of their existence to be automated whilst it allows them more time to work and pay off their choices of convenience. pathetic!

  • John of Perth

    Am teaching my kids to drive manuals though it may be a lost cause with future hybrids and electrics.  I can rest easy in the purity of my manual only E39 M5 & Bora V6 – both gearboxes providing an absolute tactile feast. Daily freeway driving – no issue – driver involvement and alertness at least 50% better than the average  ‘sheeple’ – love that word Hung Low.

  • TomW

    Oh, get over it. I’m sure your ancestors were complaining about hand-cranks disappearing or having to wear them new-fangled seatbelt things. It’s the 21st century. Manual is dying. The only problem is, the human-controlled car may also soon be a thing of the past.

    • Hung Low

      The manual tranny is not about being backward or a lack of progression, it is about connection, passion, involvement, not the fastest 0-100 time or best lap time or best fuel economy. I don’t care that its the 20th century, taking the passion out of enjoying a driving preference is not progression, its a move backward. That’s exactly what I love about driving my Cooper S and HDT Group A on a sunny weekend… fancy bits, although a radio in the mini would not hurt on a long drive :)

      • Hung Low

        *21st century*

        • LeStori

          More like the dark ages…Lazyman gearboxes  take the pleasure out of driving.

          • TomW

            I still see people speaking as if *their* personal opinion is the only one that’s relevant. For the record, I can drive a manual, but currently have a Fabia RS. I can “manually” change gear, by tiptronic or paddles, or not as I choose. Most of the time the gearbox makes better choices, so I’m happy to let it. Adding the left foot to the equation does not make me more (or less) in control or more “connected” as some would have it. It merely adds a greater degree of motor co-ordination skills to the task.

            However…. I would agree that it would nice if manufacturers gave punters the choice. The sales results will tell if the choice is correct for Renault (I’m tipping is would be). For those that still prefer a manual, Ford and Opel for two examples, are still catering to you.

          • Hung Low

            Thanks for “your” opinion. While there is no right or wrong for the perception of “manually” changing gears vs the old school method, some may say paddle shifts or tiptronics are a simulation. I am sure people wouldn’t have a problem with a cvt auto with tiptronic or paddle shift gear change then either?

          • Ace

             I couldn’t agree more with TomW. I don’t mind if people prefer Manual but I really don’t like it when the same people claim “Auto are for sheep, lazy drivers, much more passion and engagement than Auto etc). Perhaps if they didn’t paint their opinion as superior or fact then I’d be more sympathetic.

            No different than the RWD drones who knock on FWD every chance themselves: Seem like they are trying to convince themselves more than anybody else.

  • Jav

    No matter how you look at it, the DSG is the best for performance numbers and these are performance cars!

    • Buddy

      but not the most fun!!

      sorry very biased as i drive a RS Clio R27 and will not be buying the new clio due to it not being manual.

    • Gf

       There are a range of problems with DSG/SMG style gear boxs.

      – Durability/Reliaiblity seems to be appalling with plenty of complaints about VW’s DSGs. Alfa’s “selespeed” (and other Italian brands) & BMW’s SMG gearboxs apparently just burn through clutches – around 50,000kms I’m told is the typical lifespan.
      – Many of the ones without a launch control function simply won’t launch off the line, even if you try loading up the tranmissions by powering and braking at the same time.
      Problems with low speed hesitations & hill starts.
      – Many/if not all of them get confused by handbrake turns. Try doing a handbrake turn then stop on the power for the quick get away in the return direction – after the wheels stop turning due to the handbrake, they select N then the engine just revs while u try the getaway, then it CLUNKS into 1st.
      – Then there’s a question over performance numbers, Fifth gear did a test (its on youtube) where they did lap times in a Porsche manual & a identical Porsche but with the PDK and the manual was quicker.

  • Resident

    Thankfully my dreams of a 200 are still there – just for the Clio III 200 instead of the Clio IV 200.

  • Dave W

    If manual ever go the way of the dodo, I’ll be getting a semi auto. At least I can still control the change of gear.

    It’s sad really. Manual car is so much fun to drive, even a lowly Yaris can be fun to drive with manual. Though understandably the bulk of driving most people do is during rush hour traffic, which means auto is the better choice.

    • subaruuu

      I had a manual Corolla before and that was 100x better than the auto version.

      No sure about the DSG in the traffic though, I drove a rental A1 with DSG and it hesitates a lot when in traffic and at intersections which was quite annoying. Lucky it was a short trip, but I don’t think I can stand it day in day out.

      • Dave W

        By the time manual gearbox is phased out, hopefully never, surely the DSG had already ironed out all its kinks.

  • Douglas9305

    Yup – I’ll stick with the manual also – I like knowing when I pull out at a junction the car will move under my direct control (and not think about it for a while); I look ahead to anticipate what gear I should be in for that ascent/descent/corner/obstruction/overtaking gap…’s all part of the enjoyment of driving, and taking pleasure in doing it well…….

  • FarkThat

    I own a MINI and there is now way I would get it as an auto. Ever. It’s about driver involvement and being one with the machine. I went from manual to DSG (Audi S3) and back to manual. Never will I buy an auto again.

  • Phil

    It’s just history repeating itself. Back in the 1930’s the gearbox of choice for sports and racing cars were preselectors, like the Wilson. Manual boxes regained favour only due to synchromesh making them easier to drive. Now, emissions and fuel consumption is driving the move to automated boxes.

    And let’s be honest, even with constant mesh, synchro boxes, they aren’t what you’d call clever engineering. It was simply a low cost means of achieving a result. It’s not really a matter of preferring manual – in some cars the manual is so goddamn awful you’d beg to have the auto. Stiff, notchy or long-throw shifters. Clutches with no feel or too high a take up point. Slow synchros, baulky on changes. You appreciate a good manual simply because so many aren’t. And that doesn’t factor in yourself. I know I stuff up a change more often in a manual than I’ll get it perfect. You like manuals because you like the feeling you get for getting it right, and forget how you felt when you didn’t. It’s just psychological. I enjoy the feeling of driving a manual well, but I don’t pretend that’s what driving is about. If in the future a DSG is all I can get, then I’ll still enjoy driving.

    • TomW

      Well said.

    • John of Perth

      Driven all sorts of manuals from no sync first gears, column change 3spd boxes, to those with electric overdrive, hydraulic or cable operated to current state of art six shifters. Also driven DSG – no doubting the fast gear changing but they have their limitations in take off on hills/reverse etc as well as ability to handle high torque.  I rarely stuff up a gearchange and can even change without the clutch. I think the complete body balance with that third pedal entering/exiting bends or at speed on gravel is superior than the ‘twitchy/on edge’ feeling with a DSG box (I have only experienced the VW GTi and std 1.9TDi – over 1,000kms in each and settled back to a manual.

      However each to their own – the art of driving is enjoying the experience and as they say, ‘whatever floats your boat’.

      • Phil

        Can we put to bed the myth that dual clutch gearboxes can’t handle high torque? Nissan GTR, Merc SLS, BMW M3, the Veyron all have dual clutch gearboxes. You can even get a 6sp dual clutch in the Fuso Canter light trucks. Graziano’s DCT is said to handle 750Nm. The one Ricardo did for the Veyron copes with the 1250Nm on tap.

        Limited experience with VW is not enough to judge the whole gamut of these transmissions.

        • Sleepsy

          I think most people here moaning and groaning about the demise of the manual gearbox should try a well sorted DCT. I used to be like many here, stuck with manual only or nothing for 12 years until recently, took the pludge and not looking back. Of course if you compared a manual to an crapbox auto in a yaris, the manual will be better….modern upmarket DCTs are fantastic. Quick snappy changes and exhaust burbles from overruns and down changes make for a another kind of fun. Driving a manual 6 is like driving an auto 5 box, can still be very good, but in reality is outdated tech. I would still love to drive a fictional 7 speed manual, however most manufacturers haven’t invested enough in manual gearbox technology for years.

  • John of Perth

    Fair enough Phil, except VW were first on the scene with a ‘production’ DSG – the boxes you refer to are in vehicles that are almost custom built with prices to match. 

    They are getting better, but just like DPFilters in modern diesels, I cannot help thinking DSG clutches have a use by date.

    Google SMG issues on M3’s to get an idea of possible issues with ‘third pedal missing’ manuals.  If you are 500-1000 clicks from any major city, the inherent reliability of a manual gives a certain peace of mind (& in the rare situation it breaks, you can tow it unlike DSG or other automated units). Did I mention flat battery rolling starts in a manual – some of you wouldn’t know how to.

    • Sleepsy

      SMG? That’s old tech. Haven’t heard of that since the E46…BMW have moved on to DCT and 8 speed ZF gearboxes. Why are you bringing up reliability issues with old single clutch tech?

    • Phil

      Clutches with a use-by date, and roll starts. Not much of an argument given the clutch in manuals also wear out, as does the pressure plate and thrust bearing.

      As for roll starts with a flat battery, that’s assuming you have sufficient power in it to deactivate the factory immobiliser, power the ECU and fuel pump. That doesn’t even factor in those that require the clutch depressed and possibly gearbox in neutral to start. Toyota and Hyundai come to mind. There is so much dependency on electronics in modern vehicles, a manual ‘box is no guarantee of getting you out of trouble. Cars fitted with stop start tech also require the clutch depressed. For car makers, a manual gearbox is more trouble than it’s worth given demands for lower consumption and emissions.

  • MisterZed

    The French will never accept this – they hate automatics over there.