The little Clio RS200, although a capable and fun thing, proved a polarising prospect for the CarAdvice team.
As we welcome newcomers like the Lexus NX 200t, Mercedes-Benz GL 350 and Ford Focus ST to CarAdvice’s long-termer garage, it’s time to wave goodbye to an office fave: the little Renault Clio RS200 Sport Premium.
With 5554 kilometres of action that varied from hill-stalking and behind-the-scenes camera work to daily commuting and furniture hauling, it’s fair to say this little Renault Clio has been put through the wringer.
There’s a lot to love about the smaller of Renault Australia’s hot hatches, but it’s not entirely without its quirks - perhaps a few too many for some in the CarAdvice offices, but for others, the Clio RS200’s idiosyncrasies are nothing compared to the fun it delivers and - in this optional $750 Liquid Yellow metallic paint - the looks it gets.
Even without the special signature paint option, the Clio RS is a stylish thing, more mature in its look than the toy-like Ford Fiesta ST, yet a little more audacious than the all-angles Volkswagen Polo GTI. And, while you can get bigger wheels, the grey 17x7.5 examples on our Clio, tightly tucked at each corner, make for a sweet finishing touch.
Looks aside, the Clio RS quickly became a point of contention within the CarAdvice team. As the second instalment of our long-term test showed, the RS was a favourite for Tom Fraser and Scott Davison, while Mike Costello and James Ward - among the taller and broader lumber in the Melbourne office - took issue with the little hatch’s ergonomics.
One sentiment shared by all, however, was that the absence of a manual transmission option has robbed the new Clio RS of more than a little of its predecessor’s fun factor. (It’s no surprise that the Fiesta ST is manual-only, or that the Polo GTI's recent upgrade added a manual.)
Even as a commuter, crawling through the daily grind that contributed to a final average speed of 31.8km/h, the RS200’s six-speed dual-clutch auto can be a troublesome thing. Often unable make up its mind on a shift, the EDC gearbox is perhaps best dealt with by switching to Sport mode and shifting yourself all the way to work - and the added pops and crackles from the exhaust certainly don’t hurt the experience.
Of course, it’s in that Sport mode, with faster shifts and those fixed-position paddles at your fingertips - among other tricks - that the RS truly comes to life. Get away from the gridlock and there’s plenty of fun to be had, as our June visit to Sandown Raceway showed.
The Sport model’s suspension, although softer than in the Cup model, is still noteably harsh while commuting along secondary roads - but get out into the twisties and that’s all quickly forgotten as you succumb to the addictive urge to attack every corner, the RS200 Sport forging through flat and nimble.
The hot Clio's tarmac-eating prowess makes it a delight in the right situations, but there’s no denying that you do have to go out of your way to create that situation. And, as our comparison reviews with the Fiesta ST and the Mini Cooper S have shown, there are better buys - if only slightly better - for the purely performance-minded.
Like the Fiesta ST, the Clio RS isn’t blessed with the finest of interior materials, encumbered as it is with hard-wearing but cheap-feeling plastics. Creaks and rattles through the dash and door panels also stood out on bumpy roads.
On the plus side, the tablet-like centre control panel - standing apart from the dash like the big black obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey - gives the Clio a clever styling twist and a unique talking point. That said, red interior highlights against a yellow body... what is this, a McDonald’s special-edition model?
The hot Clio isn’t short on technology quirks, either. For one, our attempts to charge an iPhone 6 via USB cable frequently led to lost connections and an inaccessible display screen.
And, as discovered by Mike Stevens, CarAdvice’s only Android user, the Bluetooth audio connection to his Galaxy S6 was consistently terrible, both for phone calls and for media streaming. Say what you will about ‘iPhone v Android’ (and we know you will), that’s simply an unacceptable flaw for a modern infotainment system.
The system does bring a neat trick, though, in the form of the RS Monitor. Gimmicky fun, for the most part - like the torque steer/wheel spin gauge - but the data-logging features should prove appealing for enthusiasts.
Other kinks included an automatic wiper system that would go overboard one minute with rapidfire sweeps of a merely drizzle-affected window, or sleeping through a torrential downpour the next. The reversing camera was likewise afflicted with a persistent case of the Mondays, often taking a torturous couple of seconds to activate after the reverse gear had been engaged. Frustrating, given the compromised rear visibility forced by that wide C-pillar and tiny hatch window.
One pleasing quality that the Clio RS shares with its RS-less Clio siblings, all offered in five-door form only, is its 300 litres of rear storage space - compared to 285, 280 and 276 litres in the 208 GTi, Polo GTI and Fiesta ST, respectively.
As a camera-crew car, the Clio RS200 Sport’s boot proved capacious enough for a few big camera bags, backpacks and suitcases. Dropping the back seats for the full 1146 litres of space, however, we comfortably fit a number of baby-related IKEA purchases: a full cot and mattress, a changing table, and a baby bath. That’s no small haul.
And there’s the thing: some aspects of the Clio RS’s liveability feel flawed, while others reveal a surprising amount of utility. It's reasonably practical, and plenty quick. The price is high, but there’s also plenty of standard equipment for the spend.
The Renault Clio RS is a good thing. It doesn’t quite match the performance of the cheaper Fiesta ST or the more expensive Cooper S, but it’s nonetheless got a pearler of an engine and chassis setup for spirited driving, it looks the business, and it’s loaded with kit.
Still, we’d give much to have that manual transmission option back. Perhaps Renault will take a hint from Volkswagen’s Polo GTI update?
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Renault Clio RS200 images by Tom Fraser.
2015 Renault Clio RS
Date acquired: February 2015
Odometer reading: 8127km
Travel since previous update: 2636km (5554km total)
Average fuel consumption since previous update: 9.9L/100km