After six months it’s time to bid hooroo to our Renault Clio RS200 Cup Premium and I’m confused whether I’ll miss it for being a great car, or just because as someone who is, how do I say, “between” cars, I’ve harboured unattached affections to which the Clio was ripe for receiving.
Having all my adult life tended to grow sentimentally fond of four-wheeled fast things, I suspect my rosy feelings towards 1CD6HB teeter more towards dumb affection than reverence.
That’s not to say I don’t think it’s a good product. I very much think it is. Particularly after a blast through the foothills of Melbourne’s easterly alps this month, where despite a suspected dud tank of fuel putting the brakes on power output, said Renault, we were reacquainted with the Clio’s fondness for going rather fast through a corner.
But let there be no doubt about two things: this generation Clio just isn’t as plain thrilling as its three-door, naturally-aspirated, manual predecessor. And that this new generation is an easier, more comfortable car to drive on a daily basis. So the question remains is it a better all-rounder and, if I could, would I sign up for another six months?
I wouldn’t mind a punt in the new Volkswagen Polo GTI first. I’d be silly not to, if I was in the market for an automatic, four-door front-driver – which might suggest I do a bit of commuting. Its 141kW/250Nm (in DSG-spec), is more or less the same as the Clio’s 147kW/240Nm. They both claim 6.7sec to 100km/h. And, though I haven’t even sat in the new Polo, I suspect it’d have a more polished interior and a sharper, sweeter twin-clutch ’box. As for goodies, gadget fetishists can tick two options packs costing $5K which up the frill ante, and still you’d pocket $2500 over the plump Clio RS Cup Premium.
But during a yak in the office associate editor Newman postulated the Polo just wouldn’t be as much fun on a track. Fast, sure, but fun? That’s one thing the Clio’s absolutely got going for it.
Our track day at Winton showed that, in the Clio, you’ll be looking at your wristwatch down the straights, such is the slightly hohum powertrain, but come a corner and the thing will tip easily sideways. And depending on your level of skill, after 20 laps you might feel like there are depths to the Clio’s chassis necessitating time, patience and experimentation to unravel, as opposed to some wobblier self-titled performance car you’ll ‘get’ after five corners.
Its suspension bits did, after all, come from the same people who made the bewitching Renault Megane Trophy R.
Having spent six months in the Clio and 10,000km, it’s a doddle during the commute, too. I’ve raved myself senseless about the seating position – it just seems to fit me right – and I quite like the steering, a nice rack speed for about town. The ride is generally nice enough though drive over a patch of dodgy road and you’ll know it. Perhaps my only day-to-day bugbear was a rattling headrest to which I practised my skills of scorn, and some gearbox clutches which could occasionally engage with an intolerable jerk.
So after all this time, we can say, do you just want front-drive thrills, but care less about a flash interior and back doors? Get the Fiesta ST. But kinda want back doors and an auto? The Polo GTI is surely a nicer place to sit, but if fun rules your world, the Clio seems the best bet (we’ll find out for sure at Bang For Your Bucks). After six months perhaps the best advice we can offer is drive the $29K Sport before the $37K Cup Premium – and if you can forgo a few frills for no less thrills, put the $8K into the Megane Trophy R fund.