The new Renault Clio RS has switched from a long-serving normally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder to a 1.6-litre four-cyliner turbo that is the engine configuration for WRC regulations.
The surprise change of engine for the Clio hot-hatch is purely coincidental and all about downsizing for improved fuel efficiency, says the French car maker.
It says there are no plans to join the series that features some of the Clio's market rivals, including the Ford Fiesta, Citroen DS3 and, from 2013, the Volkswagen Polo. Mini also joined this year with its Countryman compact SUV.
"I don't think we are going to go into rally, honestly speaking," said Renault's design boss Laurens van den Acker. "The problem with rallying is that it's really hard to TV. And that's why F1 has become such a tremendous success. Because F1 is completely controllable - two hours, full circuit, you can capture anything that happens around a track at any given time.
"I was talking to Jean-Francoise Caubet, the head of the Renault F1 engine team, and one of the reasons he's convinced rallying [is not the way to go]... in the 70s and 80s there was a time when F1 and rallying were equally successful and equally attractive but F1 has taken off and rallying, with all respect, has plateued.
"And it's due to the fact that rallying is hard to televise, the cars start one after the other so there's no racing, the tracks sometimes take several days. I don't we'll go into rally any time soon. Plus it's just as expensive as Formula One to get into."
Renault says it will continue to optimise its involvement in Formula One. The company says it is also the second biggest sponsor, behind Qantas, of the Australian Grand Prix.