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  • Respectable oomph from turbocharged 1.6-litre engine; impressive ride and handling balance; resilient brakes and tyres
  • Entirely ‘manual’ shifts only available in more extreme ‘Race’ mode; RS Monitor proved glitchy; overall engagement and enjoyment held back by paddle-shifted gearbox

LIFESTYLE RATING
8 / 10



Renault likes to think of its RS road cars as having ‘DNA’ spawned from the racetrack. So what better way to test the theory than flip things back the other way and take its city-dwelling Clio RS to Sandown Raceway for another CarAdvice weekend warrior track test.

One of the latest additions to CarAdvice Melbourne’s long-term garage, this particular little fella is our Liquid Yellow Renault Clio RS200 Sport Premium.

A top-spec version of the range’s entry-level model, the RS starts at $34,790 (before on-road costs).

Under its stubby nose is a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine developing 147kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1750rpm.

The old naturally aspirated Clio III’s three pedals and six-speed manual gearbox are gone, replaced by a new six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and two steering column-mounted shift paddles.

Outside, things look suitably sporty. Up front, there’s a satin grey F1-style aero ‘blade’ and a matching rear diffuser out back. Gloss black door handles and wing mirrors are present and join a rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tips, and 17-inch alloy wheels running 205mm-wide, 45-profile Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres.

An electronic limited-slip front differential – intended to prevent one front wheel spinning faster than the other – is also standard, as is Renault’s ‘Sport’ chassis.

2015 Renault Clio RS200 Review:: Sandown Raceway weekender

Inside, drivers get to put their bums on heated leather sports seats, their feet on aluminium pedals, and their hand on a proper handbrake. There are plenty of bright red highlights to impress the style conscious and a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation to please the techies.

Keeping the boy-racers (such as yours truly) happy, the in-dash screen is also home to the zippy Clio’s RS Monitor telemetry system.

Able to display real-time vehicle information such throttle, braking, steering angle, power, torque, g-force and vital engine temperatures while on the fly, the system additionally supports data logging. Very cool and a big plus for those serious about improving lap times.

Sitting proudly below the gear lever – right next to the Renault’s supremely oddly placed cruise control switch – is the Clio’s ‘RS Drive’ button. Finished in silver, this little button allows drivers (or annoying passengers) to switch between three different driving modes: ‘Normal’, ‘RS Sport’, and ‘Race’.

Another neat trick of the little Frenchy is its launch control function. Easily activated by simply pulling both shift paddles simultaneously while keeping a foot on the brake, the feature helps the Clio RS claim 6.7 seconds 0-100km/h.

Oh yeah, it’s also got five doors, five seats and a 300-litre boot, but who cares about that when you’re at a racetrack. Track days are all about removing all loose items from the car, and giving it a pounding on the black stuff – and hopefully, not off it.

2015 Renault Clio RS200 Review:: Sandown Raceway weekender

Helmet on, it’s go time…

It’s always exciting rolling down Sandown’s pit lane, past gathered cars and out onto the main circuit. You give it some hot sauce, grab a gear and realise that out here, you don’t have to worry about traffic (usually) or wildlife (also usually) or police.

In fact, as strange as it may sound, track driving really is an excellent form of relaxation; even meditation. I’ll explain.

Clearing the head is vital for both and when all you are concentrating on is putting the car in the right place at the right time with as much speed and as smoothly as possible, there isn’t a lot of room in your head for much else.

Nestled comfortably into the Clio’s heated leather seats, lateral movement is limited by some mild bucketing, and headroom, even with a lid on, is no issue – unlike in the previously track tested Kia Pro_cee’d GT.

Vision out of the mirrors is also excellent, allowing fellow track-day participants to be easily spotted.

Amply punchy when navigating inner-city streets, the little turbo 1.6-litre is far from a stonking powerhouse out on track.

Revving out to just shy of 6500rpm though, it’s plenty pokey and, while overtaking manoeuvres are best tackled with some time on your side, it provides enough hustle to help us reel in and pass a Mini Cooper, Toyota 86 and first-gen Porsche Boxster.

2015 Renault Clio RS200 Review:: Sandown Raceway weekender

Feeling quietly pleased with our 190km/h-odd top speed down Sandown’s 910m back straight, the sometimes cruel mistress of context rudely interjects as we get devoured at speed by a Nissan GT-R.

In front of us by Turn 6, we manage to at least keep the Japanese supercar in eye-shot down through Turns 7 and 8 and into the approach of the tight Turn 9. Upon corner exit, though, the all-paw twin-turbocharged Nissan briskly and easily pulls away. Still fun…

Even with the gear lever shifted over to ‘manual mode’, you still have to decide just how keen you are and how hard you want to go.

Leave things in ‘Sport’ and a buried right foot will eventually be greeted by an automatic up shift. Push and hold the RS Drive button for a few seconds longer though, and you’ll engage ‘Race’ mode. Apart from backing stability and traction control right off, this setting also means all shifts, up and down, are entirely done on the driver’s terms.

It’s worth noting too that the Clio RS’s clever little gearbox can be encouraged to drop down to its lowest possible gear for any given speed by pulling and holding the left paddle.

As smart as it is, it can’t quite give you the same engagement and driving experience as a ‘proper’ manual gearbox and somewhat requires drivers to tailor their driving and driving style to the transmission.

2015 Renault Clio RS200 Review:: Sandown Raceway weekender

Impressing us throughout the day, the Renault’s Sport chassis delivers a sound balance of reasonable ride comfort with taut body control.

Not quite as edgy as the lower and stiffer Cup chassis, the Sport setup gives little away in terms of on-track performance while still making speed humps around town more than manageable.

The 1218kg RS200 does move around a little under harder braking, but if you’re smooth and smart with it, it will remain well balanced and composed.

Helped by consistent and excellently weighted steering, which also provides good feedback, the Clio happily tips into corners and nimbly changes direction.

Doing its bit here too is the solid grip awarded by the standard Eagle F1 tyres. Succumbing to some minor squealing later in the day, overall the Goodyear’s provide plenty of lateral purchase and turn-in response.

Starting out well in the initial laps, as the laps go on, the brakes do demand deeper and deeper left-pedal applications, but they steadfastly soldier on, generally remaining bitey and tied to a firm pedal underfoot.

A bit of fun on the street, the real-time RS Monitor telemetry system is a helpful and informative tool at the track, however, we experience intermittent freezing of the system and a complete lock-up at day’s end – surely something that would displease circuit-focused owners.

2015 Renault Clio RS200 Review:: Sandown Raceway weekender

Formula One ‘DNA’ or not, the Renault Clio RS is no track racer. And as the Nissan GT-R highlighted, it’s no supercar either. But to its credit, as a whole package, the sporty French five-door pretty much does want you want it to do most of the time. Highly capable, impressively agile and loads of fun, as entertaining as it is, we can’t help but miss the old car’s manual transmission…

Note: CarAdvice attended the day at Sandown Raceway as part of a Driver Dynamics Level 3 High Performance driver training day.

Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Renault Clio RS200 images by Tom Fraser.

Videography by Igor Solomon and Frank Yang.


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RENAULT CLIO BREAKDOWN

2015 Renault Clio RS200 Review:: Sandown Raceway weekender
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Renault Clio Specs

RS SPORT PREMIUM : X98 : 1.6L TURBO MPFI - 6 SP AUTOMATIC - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 5D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
RENAULT
Model
CLIO
Variant
RS SPORT PREMIUM
Series
X98
Year
2015
Body Type
5D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$21,340 - $24,250
Dealer Retail
$22,760 - $27,060
Dealer Trade
$16,800 - $19,400
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
TURBO MPFI
Engine Size
1.6L
Cylinders
TURBO 4
Max. Torque
240Nm @  1750rpm
Max. Power
147kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
120.7W/kg
Bore & Stroke
79.7x81.1mm
Compression Ratio
9.5
Valve Gear
DUAL OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
0
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
45Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.3L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1218
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1448mm
Length
4090mm
Width
1732mm
Ground Clearance
118mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.9
Front Rim Size
7.5x17
Rear Rim Size
7.5x17
Front Tyres
205/45 R17
Rear Tyres
205/45 R17
Wheel Base
2589
Front Track
1504
Rear Track
1500
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Comfort
Automatic Air Con / Climate Control
Control & Handling
Air Suspension, 17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Hill Holder, Sensotronic Brake Control, Sports Suspension, Traction Control System
Driver
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control Rear, Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer
Engine & Transmission
Electronic Differential Lock
Entertainment
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Exterior
Side Door
Interior
Leather Upholstery, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Control & Handling
18 Inch Alloy Wheels
Exterior
Metallic Paint, Metallic Paint Special
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  10,000 kms
Warranty
60 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
RHS - On Floor in Boot Comp
Country of Origin
France