Despite being wrapped in the same camouflage as an earlier prototype of the standard fourth-generation Clio hatch, the racy design leaves no doubt that this is the new flagship Renault Sport hot-hatch version.
The front-end sports a gaping lower air intake spanning the width of the car and Renault’s signature F1-inspired splitter, along with sinister, dark-tinted headlights and a larger grille opening beneath the badge.
Pillar-mounted handles do their best to disguise the Clio’s rear doors – the new range will be offered exclusively as a five-door hatch – while large 10-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in low-profile performance tyres do little to hide the boosted brake package.
There are more RS giveaways at the rear, such as the prototype’s larger spoiler and subtle diffuser with twin rectangular exhaust pipes.
The new Renault Sport Clio is set to trade its naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine for a smaller turbocharged unit, potentially a 1.6-litre. International reports suggest the new motor will produce similar power to the current model (approximately 150kW) but will get a sizable step-up in torque from the current model’s 215Nm peak.
The Clio RS will also sport a number of racy interior enhancements, including bright red seatbelts visible inside this prototype.
The standard Renault Clio will debut at the 2012 Paris motor show in September, although the Clio RS is likely to remain under wraps until next year.
The Clio range is scheduled to go on sale in Australia in the first half of 2013 and will be priced below $20,000 to compete with the Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo.