Even in much slower – and much less costly – Clio Authentique and Expression form, Renault Clios have flair and talent that give them character and make them fun to drive. In a Clio RS, the speed, grip and fun-factor are turned up to 11. Given such a terrific donor car in the basic Clio, the result is pretty special.
Yet, the Clio Renaultsport’s pursuit of performance isn’t so single-minded that it overrides the great qualities of the cooking versions.
For example, a Clio RS remains easy to drive, with the 1.6-litre turbo engine providing effortlessly swift performance around town.
The dual-clutch auto is the only let-down here: it exhibits the common dual-clutch characteristic of being less than smooth away from a standstill, and during low-speed manoeuvres. And unless you select Race mode, it is a bit slow – for a performance car – to respond to the shift paddles.
When you flatten your right foot, the turbo four-cylinder has a nice, rorty note. And with a claim of 6.7 seconds for a sprint from a standstill to 100km/h, any Clio RS is quite quick.
But the Clio’s party trick is handling, rather than speed. It dives into corners with alacrity, and hangs on with tenacity. In fine front-drive hot-hatch tradition, lift-off oversteer – the tail sliding subtly on a lifted throttle to help point the nose – is part of the Clio’s repertoire.
The Clio is very entertaining to drive on a twisty country road, thanks to its quick responses, great grip and turbo shove. In these conditions, Sport is the pick of the driving modes: it beefs up the steering and makes the engine more alert, while leaving the electronic stability control on. The ESC system is lenient enough to let you have a lot of fun – if you’re driving beyond its limits, you should be on the track.
In the track-focussed Race driving mode, the Clio responds more immediately to the shift paddles, holds gears for as long as you please, and switches off the ESC so that you can have as much oversteer as you want.