Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Ok, let’s start with the bad news. Auto Express reports Renault won’t be producing an RS version of its new, fifth-generation Clio.
The good news? There may be a replacement of sorts – a hotted-up version of the Renault Zoe electric hatch.
While it would be wonderful to see both Clio and Zoe RS models in showrooms – we called the outgoing, fourth-generation Clio RS the “firecracker of the compact hatch segment” – a Renault executive told Auto Express the sporty Clio is no longer a viable business proposition.
Ali Kasai, executive vice president of product planning at Renault, said “today a Clio RS would need very elaborate technology to reach lower CO2 levels".
"And by keeping the high performance necessary for such a vehicle, you would have to charge such a big premium that those customers would be mostly unable to afford it," he went on.
"At the moment, even if we love sporty cars, as is our history, we can’t find the solution to that equation – it’s impossible.”
Automakers are seeing small car profit margins diminish as stricter emissions targets are introduced. Already, the European micro car segment is thinning with the withdrawal of Ford and Opel/Vauxhall.
Renault’s confirmation a next-generation Clio RS can’t be introduced at an affordable price could be an omen that the micro car segment’s travails may soon afflict the larger light car segment.
We recently reported Renault was considering bringing the Zoe e-Sport concept to production. The electrified concept featured electric motors on both axles – instead of just one, like the regular Zoe – and was rated at 340kW and 640Nm. The quoted 0-100km/h time was just 3.2 seconds.
For comparison, the RS Trophy variant of the outgoing, fourth-generation Clio produces 162kW and 280Nm and does the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.6 seconds.
Of course, 0-100km/h times aren’t everything. Kasai said a souped-up Zoe would fit the company’s electrification strategy but still had to be a serious performance car while offering sufficient electric range.
“Renault Sport is a serious player, so if we do the car it has to have the performance. But if it can only do one lap of a track and then it has to go to a charging station, well that’s not what we want to do," he said.
Renault’s not the only company considering a move to an electric drivetrain for its hot hatches. Peugeot is considering an electric replacement for its 208 GTi, though it mightn’t use that name. This shift may also lead to an electric OPC/VXR variant of the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa with which the 208 shares its EMP1 platform.
While the performance numbers of the Zoe e-Sport concept seem almost excessive for a light car, let's not forget Renault's rich hot hatch heritage which has spawned some truly wild models. Arguably their wildest model was a mid-engine, V6, rear-wheel drive Clio, the Renault Clio V6 Renault Sport, which produced upwards of 188kW and 300Nm in production spec.
Renault produced 2822 of these models between 2001 and 2005 but they shared virtually no parts with the regular Clio despite extremely similar styling.
Regardless of whether the Clio RS earns a stay of execution, the new Clio will be available in a sporty-looking RS-Line trim inspired by its high-performance models. The fifth-generation of Clio is set to arrive locally in 2020.