- FIRST DRIVE – CLIO RENAULTSPORT 200 TURBO
THE astute minds who originally patented the turbocharger probably weren’t around when the company they represented became the first to produce a turbo-powered Formula One car.
Ridiculed by its rivals, the car became known as the Yellow Teapot. But its makers, Renault, enjoyed the last laugh when the RSO1 secured fourth place in the 1978 US Grand Prix and a pole position the following year.
Within three years of the Yellow Teapot’s arrival most rival teams were also using turbochargers.
Fast forward to 2014 and the French brand’s pocket rocket the Clio Renaultsport 200 features a powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged engine with direct fuel injection, mirroring the downsizing programme that’s also being adopted in F1.
While delivering the same 200bhp output as the 2.0-litre normally aspirated unit in the outgoing model, the new engine generates an extra 25Nm of pulling power.
This alone gives more flexible performance for comfortable everyday driving, but without compromising pace and acceleration, both of which have improved to 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and a 143mph top end.
Select the Race mode and downshifts take less than 150 milliseconds, while there’s also an F1-style Launch Control set-up to prime the car for sizzling starts from standstill.
Put this little lot into practice and you have a hot hatch that’s up there with the very best, a definite match for Ford’s Focus and Fiesta ST models and the VW Golf GTI.
Where the Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC also scores is because it’s chic, classy and civilised.
It has more style than its Megane RS stablemate yet still offers agreeable interior space. There’s also a reasonable sized boot, five doors, folding seat backs and concealed rear door handles – all very practical.
Then there are the sexy bits, like a rear diffuser and lip spoiler, side skirts and a deep front bumper with Formula One-style front blade.
They aren’t designed for show either, instead engineered to boost the Clio’s downforce, grip and stability at speed.
Inside, the black and gunmetal grey cabin has an upmarket feel, its centre console dominated by a tablet-style touchscreen and there are blood orange details in the gearstick and trim while the bright red seatbelts look cool too.
A test route through the Cheshire countryside brought out the best in the Clio Renaultsport as we switched the car’s RS Drive system through the everyday Normal mode, the more engaging Sport setting and Race mode to exploit its performance.
The car’s handling feels seriously planted courtesy of an RS Diff, which limits understeer and improves grip through corners – all topped off with a snarling engine note fed directly into the cabin.
Prices are from £18,995 and standard spec is thorough; Lux trim is an extra £1,000 but adds stuff like climate control, extra-tinted rear windows, auto lights and wipers, R-Link with 7-inch touchscreen and Arkamys audio with 3D sound.