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Renault’s blistering Clio swansong

23.01.2013

IT'S NOT that hard to make a hot hatchback – simply add a more powerful engine and a stiff, sporty suspension. Building a great one, however, is a bit more difficult. A great hot hatch needs to be fast, yes, but it also has to cope with every motoring situation its driver might be faced with on a day-to-day basis.

Most of the hot hatch manufacturers in South Africa follow this traditional recipe, with the possible exception of Renault. This French manufacturer is all about the speed. The biggest, most powerful hatch it currently makes, the Megane RS Trophy, holds the front-wheel-drive record at the fearsome Nürburgring in Germany.

As such, you’d expect its cars to be too compromised and to a certain extent they are, but enough to persuade you to buy something else? I don’t think so. Practicality means nothing when you’re standing around the braai telling your friends about your latest set of wheels.

I’ve just spent a week with Renault’s latest hot hatch offering, the Clio RS Red Bull Racing RB7. It is, quite simply, the most fun I’ve ever had in a front-wheel-drive car. Oddly, it has nothing to do with speed.

Handling

With the Red Bull Clio, it’s all about enthusiasm. Forget the fact that it doesn’t feel as fast as its direct competitors and don’t think too much about its lack of a turbocharger. The Clio more than makes up for it with a unique personality that’s as aggressive as a rabid dog. You keep on pushing it faster and faster, but it never runs out of grip. I love the way it simply bounces around a corner without as much as a chirp from the wheels.

The throttle response is immediate, while the suspension constantly keeps you updated about what’s going on underneath the car. I know it’s a tired old cliché, but it really does feel like you and the car connect to one another to form a perfect organic/mechanical driving machine.

In terms of practicality it loses a few points. The bucket seats take up a lot of space in the front. The side bolsters are very high up and unless you can strike a few creative yoga poses, it’s a hassle getting in and out. They are quite comfortable though and do keep you in place when you pitch it into a tight corner.

While practicality isn’t exactly its strong suit, it does offer a lot of exclusive bling to go with the Red Bull badge. The list includes a Renault Sport badged gear lever, personalised numbered plaque and an electronic on-board display that relays
performance-related data (acceleration times, throttle settings, etc.) to the driver. Features like, automatic climate control, automatic headlight activation and a sound system with all the necessary inputs are also standard fare.

Fun factor

The Red Bull Clio is a magnificent machine, but there is one fatal error that I purposely haven’t mentioned until now. Only 20 have been made available to South Africa, so chances are you won’t find one for sale any time soon. This is the kind of car you keep for the rest of your life to remind you what a great car should feel like.

Luckily, the new Renault Clio is on its way and the RS model - if the hype is to be believed - will be equally sensational. If it’s half as fun as the Red Bull Clio, it’s going to be a winner!

Article written by Autodealer
23.01.2013
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