While in Tasmania last week to steer the 'practical' five-seat version of the hardcore two-seat Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R, the Megane RS275 Trophy, CarAdvice also jumped at the chance to have a quick blast in the limited edition Renault Clio RS Monaco GP.
Price isn’t everything when it comes to purchasing a car but it can often lead to battles between head and heart. When the model in question is one of the most expensive Clio variants Renault Australia has ever sold though, that fight is made even more difficult.
Sitting $1000 above the top-spec Clio RS200 Cup Premium, it’s also the second-most expensive Clio model Renault Australia has ever offered local buyers, trailing only the Clio III RS-based Angel & Demon (2012), 20th Anniversary (2010) and F1 Team R27 (2009) special editions – all priced at $39,990.
So to the heart… The Clio RS Monaco GP is exclusive. It’s limited to 55 cars Australia wide, with 21 sold since its September release. Its name is a nod to the French car maker’s motorsport history and to one of the world’s most famous races and racetracks. It also follows in the wheel tracks of the limited edition Megane RS Monaco GP released in 2011.
The GP is unique. Only available in a Pearl White finish with contrasting Diamond Black roof – a first for the Clio RS – the Monaco has a gloss black front splitter, rear diffuser, rear spoiler and tailgate strip along with gloss black side strips, door handles and door mirrors. There's also a ‘Monaco GP’ badge under each rear door and numbered ‘Monaco GP’-stamped sill plates.
Coming with the same Cup chassis and electronic limited-slip front differential as the regular RS200 Cup, the Monaco GP is equipped with identical 18-inch gloss black Radicale alloy wheels and Dunlop tyres.
Reminding you of your ‘special’ purchase when sat in the heated leather front seats are silver/grey seat belts and silver/grey stitching highlights on the seats, steering wheel, gear selector and handbrake. Silver accents on the doors and around the air vents, speakers and gear selector complete the look, along with silver/grey piping around the standard Renault Sport floor mats.
The Cup’s standard cruise control and seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation are carried over however, helping the head’s argument, the GP gains automatic climate control, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, a six-speaker stereo and Renault’s connected R-Link infotainment system with RS Monitor 2.0 and data logging functionality.
Under the Monaco GP’s stubby bonnet, the Clio RS200’s turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder remains unchanged, producing 147kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1750rpm.
Proving, yet again, to be flexible and surprisingly potent on the road – particularly once you’ve depressed the silver RS Drive button long enough to engage ‘Sport’ mode – the engine managed an on-test average fuel economy figure of 9.5L/100km (up 3.2L/100km on its official ADR claim).
Blasting between Coles Bay and St Helens, the six-speed paddle-shifted dual-clutch transmission also benefited from being woken out of its ‘Normal’-mode slumber, with paddle pull response times reduced from 200 milliseconds to 170ms.
Leaving the gearbox in ‘auto’ mode is fine when coasting through small towns but it did exhibit some indecisiveness unless full throttle applications were employed to clear up any apparent apprehension.
Feeling somewhat like a caricature of a hot-hatch, the city-sized Clio RS Monaco GP – like its base car – entertainingly combines impressive stability and agility with a great engine note and exhaust pops.
Sounding arguably better than the gruff-noted Megane RS275 Trophy, the Monaco GP can’t match its manual-only bigger brother for outright ability and engagement but it is light and nimble enough to be just as dynamically fun in its own right.
Steering is light but responsive once loaded up and although the 3mm lower Cup chassis teams the car with noticeably stiffer springs and dampers, ride is a liveable combination of firm compliance that helps the GP sit relatively flat through corners.
Along with some road and wind noise penetrating the cabin, though, the little Clio also feels noticeably cheaper and more toy-like compared with the Megane RS.
The dash-top plastics are hard and scratchy, the gear lever’s plasticky button squeaks, all power window switches bar the driver’s (the only one that’s automatic) are clicky and hard to depress, the climate control temperature dial is super light and flimsy and our test car even had a few minor rattles and creaks.
The back seats are ‘cosy’ with excellent rear headroom offset by a flat and basic rear bench and little legroom. Rear passengers do get door pockets and two map pockets but a fold-down centre armrest, cup holders and rear passenger air vents – and rear curtain airbags – are all absent. A long-time pet peeve, the five-door hatch’s rear windows also don’t fully open.
A win for the head, the Monaco GP, as with all non-commercial Renault models, does receive a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with five years roadside assist and three years capped-price servicing (at $299 per year or every 10,000km).
Undoubtedly huge fun, the Renault Clio RS Monaco GP also has the appeal of being a strictly limited-edition offering.
But you could also argue it to be a tough sell given the price premium over those within its own range. Take, also, rivals outside the brand into consideration, such as the $25,990 Ford Fiesta ST, and things begin to look even shakier.
So, head or heart? Perhaps only those with bank accounts in Prince Albert II’s sovereign state will be swayed towards this unique proposition, sharp and fun though it undoubtedly is.
Images by Peter Watkins and David Zalstein.