If you like plenty of low-down pulling power, then the Clio 197 is probably not for you. It might be worth looking at one of its turbocharged rivals. However, if you like high-revving, tuneful engines that need frequent gearchanges to keep them on song, then the Renault will be a delight. Although it develops 197bhp (reached at 7,250rpm), maximum pulling power is perhaps surprisingly low at and it arrives high up the rev range.
While quick, the car doesn't actually feel that fast until you reach 4000rpm when you feel a noticeable surge on full throttle. The close-ratio six-speed gearbox means it's easy to keep the engine operating in its optimum torque band to get the most out of it. The gearchange itself is short, but could be a bit more precise, while the brakes are excellent, and coped well with a spell on the racetrack during our assessment of the car.
Revisions - May 2009 The Renaultsport was given a bit of an overhaul in May 2009 with some exterior changes including wider wings to make room for the wider front and rear tracks. A more aggressive front to the car was also one of the major changes and includes a new, bigger low positioned air intake. The engine in the latest version was also given some tweaks which have pushed the power output up to 200bhp which gets it from 0-62mph in less than seven seconds.
This is the forte of any hot hatch and the Clio is no exception. It feels just as agile as any of its predecessors, despite the extra weight it carries over the older 182. Throw the Clio into a corner and it grips and grips, feeling surefooted and nimble all the while. There's virtually no body roll and the taut chassis means it deals easily with quick changes of direction.
The overly-assisted steering feels artificial at first, but it firms up with speed and once you're used to it, provides great response to even slight inputs.