When Renaultsport puts its name to something the result rarely disappoints. However, the all-new Renaulsport Clio 200 broke the mould when it arrived back in 2013. Gone was the rev-hungry engine and snappy six-speed manual of its predecessor, in its place a downsized turbo and an automatic gearbox. Against the much sharper Ford Fiesta ST it didn’t stand a chance.
But now Renault has responded and create this, the Renaultsport Clio 220 Trophy. The in-house revamp will set you back £2,650 over the standard 200 model but you can see where that money has been spent. The 1.6-litre turbo now develops and additional 20bhp – 217bhp in total – the exhaust system has been overhauled to reduce backpressure and the springs have been stiffened by 40 per cent. But that’s not all. There’s also 20Nm more torque, gearchanges are claimed to be 50 per cent faster, plus the engine now revs out to 6,800rpm – a 300rpm increase over the RS Clio 200. Sounds promising.
In practice, the Trophy doesn’t feel any more urgent than the standard model – only 0.1 seconds have been trimmed from the 0-62mph time at 6.6 seconds – despite the added grunt, but the Clio was always quick enough to ensure the Fiesta and Peugeot 208 GTi remained in your rearview mirror.
The bigger issue has always surrounded the gearbox. Keep your right foot buried and the Clio rips though the gears with a fraction more severity, accompanied by a snort from the exhaust. Yet to most, the faster shifts would only be tangible if you’d jumped from the standard model directly into the Trophy. Pulling the paddles yourself also takes less time as the travel has been reduced by 30 per cent, but what should be a satisfying thud of selecting the next cog remains rather mushy.
Renault has also quickened the steering, but there’s still an initial degree of vagueness before the front end bites into the tarmac. Beyond that the Trophy is seemingly unwilling to loosen its grip regardless of how ham-fisted your inputs become. It also rides with far greater compliancy that a 217bhp hot hatch has any right to – despite the being 20mm lower at the front and 10mm lower at the rear. It flows with the road in a way the Fiesta ST could only dream of, smothering imperfections and absorbing bumps – you can thank the motorsport-derived hydraulic bump stops for that.
What remains missing, though, is that sense of involvement and level of connectivity you feel in the Fiesta ST. Where the Ford feels sharp and alert, the Clio can feel limp and bit lifeless unless you're at maximum attack – and there’s still no getting away from the ever-present sense of detachment due to the lack of a gear stick and a third pedal.
Another niggle is with the optional (£1,600) Trophy sports seats, which provide huge amounts of support, locking you in place, but the side bolsters protrude to an extend which can restrict the amount of lock you can apply. We suggest you stick with the standard seats and pocket the cash. Other unique add ons include a smattering of exterior Trophy badges, chrome air vent inserts and an embossed steering wheel and gearstick.
Being a Clio it’s also more practical than its closest rivals, with a five-door body and spacious 300-litre boot. Yet, that sort of stuff is unlikely to be of highest priority on a car such as this.
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