It’s small, and it has a lot of rattles and it’s not the most refined car in the world but I love it.
Renault Sport built their reputation on driver’s cars and this is certainly one of those. My particular example has had the typically made-of-cheese French engine mounts replaced with rigid items which greatly increases NVH but also increases throttle response (and they won’t need to be replaced again!). Speaking of throttle response, the 124kw 2 litre engine is still a gem. My car has over 220000kms on it and the motor is still reving freely all the way to 7500rpm and with a lovely note to boot (partly to do with the aftermarket intake). As mentioned, response is immediate, something that newer turbo charged engines find difficult to replicate and no doubt the barely over 1 ton kerb weight helps here too.
The steering is nicely weighted with great feedback but a little slow for my liking. The clutch is heavy but short with a low take up and the pedals are perfectly placed for some heel’n’toe action. The gearbox doesn’t like to be rushed and is a particular point of weakness if abused. The seating position suffers from the usual European predilection towards short legs and long arms but I’m about the right height to sit up nice and close to the wheel which is the preferred seating position for spirited driving anyway.
And spirited driving is what the Clio Sport does best! From quiet country roads to race tracks, the Clio is just bags of fun. It’s not the fastest car is the world but in skilled hands can certainly hold its own but at almost any speed it’s just an enjoyable experience. Changes of direction are where it is at its best. The tendency to understeer at the limit can be countered by deft footwork and steering input letting the lift off oversteer do its work. On track the lightweight comes to the fore as even on standard brakes you can out-brake most cars although the pedal will get long within a couple of laps without dedicated track pads and fluid. Mine has stripes so goes extra quick.
Ride on aftermarket springs and standard shocks is on the firm side with larger bumps not being dealt with very well (mostly due to spring/damper mismatch) so new aftermarket shocks are at the top of the to-do list.
Onto the every day aspects of the cars – the front leather/suede seats are supportive but as mentioned, the seating position itself is a bit compromised. Materials are actually soft-touch around most contact points including a coating over the hard plastics that over the years has become tacky and is best removed with mild soap. Visibility out of the cabin is a highlight with a high seating position and large windows all round so whilst not feeling very sporting it’s actually quite practical and my young child enjoys the view he gets out of the low-sill glass.
The Clio is a light car so overall space is understandably restricted but it’s enough as a second car and the size means you can perfectly place the car through the many roundabouts we have in the nation’s capital.
For a light car of its age, the Clio Sport is actually pretty well appointed with power windows & mirrors, climate control, auto-HID headlights, auto-wipers and mine has had the cruise control from a later 182 retrofitted too.
As with many cars of this ilk, it’s best to find a specialist when it comes to servicing. I do all minor servicing – oil, filters, brakes – myself but belts are due every four years or 100,000kms and they’re a labour intensive job best left to someone who knows what they’re doing. The light weight means it’s actually pretty good on fuel, getting 7.5L/100kms around town dropping to 6L/100kms on the highway and only about 19L/100kms on the track. Other consumables will be consumed if the car is driven as intended!
There is a small but fanatical group of owners and enthusiasts of RenaultSport vehicles in Australia so there is always plenty of support available via forums and like minded locals as well as a national meet every year which is a highlight for me personally.
Not a car for everyone but certainly something driving enthusiasts should at least jump behind the wheel of once in their lives. So much fun and so much character, I can’t see it being replaced by anything on the market today.