In recent years though, it has been hot variants of the Clio, that have been making headlines. Right up from the Williams to the very first RS and of course the crazy mid-mounted V6, Renault’s small hot hatch has never been short on excitement with words such as “handling”, “grip” and “response” often standing out in articles.
The arrival of the fourth generation RS was however tainted with the loss of the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine in favour of a 1.6-litre turbo, along with the dropping of the six-speed manual gearbox for a less than perfect six-speed EDC being cited as the biggest buzz killers.
With the recent launch of the facelifted Clio range, Renault South Africa has not only offered the RS with the same subtle exterior updates, but also added the previously forbidden RS 220 Trophy in addition to the regular RS 200 Lux.
Although it is fair to say that the standard Clio still rates as one of the best looking cars in its class today, the Trophy takes this one step further thanks to a lowered ride height, gloss black 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber, red brake calipers, black lower air intake with Renault Sport logo-shaped foglights, dual Akrapovic exhausts and satin silver rear diffuser.
In addition to its RS specific door sills, reshaped bumpers, integrated boot spoiler and red Trophy badging at the base of the rear doors, our tester also came finished in Renault’s signature (optional) Sirius Yellow metallic hue which made it stand out even more.
Open the door, and you are greeted by a mostly unchanged interior with hints to the Trophy’s talents being the superbly bolstered, and indeed comfortable, heated sport seats, red seatbelts, oversized shift paddles, thick rimmed sports steering wheel with red 12 o’ clock marking, red stitching on the gear lever and handbrake and piano key black finish on the centre facia.
The biggest addition though is the new RS Monitor contained on the seven-inch R-Link touchscreen display, which provides a clear readout of vehicle stats such as the gearbox temperature, graphs showing power and torque peaks, boost pressure, G-meter, engine temperature, brake pedal pressure and even a lap timer.
While likely to leave an instant smile on the faces of those seated up front, space in rear remains the Clio’s biggest downside with insufficient head or legroom for adults, the latter made even worse by the fitment of those inviting seats. In truth though, the Trophy is not the sort of car designed to surprise those seated in the rear. Insert the obligatory key card and press the start button, the blown 1.6-litre engine fires up with a menacing bark before settling down to a smooth rumble.
On the move, its limitations became quickly obvious with a coarse ride and less than smooth gear shifts. Despite Renault claiming it had made improvement to the ‘box, it still rates as one of the RS’ weak spots compared to the EDC employed in the Megane GT.
A quick weekend trip to Witbank netted a rather surprising fuel consumption figure of 7.8-litres/100 km, but if we are honest, the Trophy is all about thrills and dynamics, aspects which really come to the fore when you put the RS Drive in Sport mode and take manual control of the gearbox.
Pumping out 162 kW / 260 Nm of torque with 280 Nm available on overboost, the response, without mentioning the real words uttered at the time, is nothing but explosive with hardly any turbo lag, immediate throttle response and a thoroughly brutal sound from those twin pipes. A further bonus is that the gearbox is slightly better trained in Sport, serving-up faster shifts. Top speed is a claimed 235 km/h and 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds, although it feels significantly faster with Launch Control activated.
Add in unrelenting levels of grip, pin-point accurate steering and face-removing stopping power from those 320 mm ventilated disc brakes, the Trophy feels unashamedly hardcore and spoiling to give its direct rivals a bloody nose.
South Africans have had to wait a long time for the Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy and in most aspects, it delivers in terms of dynamics, looks and sheer excitement. With a sticker price of R419 900 however, it ultimately comes down if you can stomach the hard ride and underwhelming gearbox just to be wowed when the moment arises.