What it's about
A pocket rocket should be mostly impractical for any reasonable adult, but nearly all of these cars will convincingly negate any arguments with a grin factor bar none. And this Limited Edition Clio, as with the "regular" Renault Sport version, definitely fits the bill.
While the hot hatch landscape may be fast-changing, there's no mistaking the bigger displacement engine matched with a small and nimble body remains a winning formula.
Despite the myriad other problems that may plague Renault, one thing is certain: the French are still capable of churning out a proper sports derivative or two. Remember, too, that it was Renault who chose to shoehorn a six-cylinder into the Clio's petite frame to produce the mad-cap Clio V6…
The R26 F1 Limited Edition may not sport a V6 engine, but its 145-kW 2.0-litre screamer may as well be one.
This car is unmistakable, even in the cute cherry red paintwork. If you're in any doubt, imposing grey decals slapped across the roof, on the front bumper and along the flanks clearly states this as a car produced by the same manufacturer responsible for championship-winning F1 cars.
And with a name like "Renault Clio Renaultsport F1 Team R27 Limited Edition" it has to be very special…
Thankfully, for those who own them, the chances of spotting too many of these are about as much as seeing a blue crane on your balcony - only 27 of these beauties are being offered in SA.
Upping the coolness factor is that every one of these models carries a plaque mounted alongside the handbrake lever denoting its position in the local line-up and bearing the signatures of Renault F1 pilots Nelson Piquet Jr and Fernando Alonso. Incidentally, the unit supplied to Wheels24 was number two of 27.
This car may have the makings of a proper racer (it shares its underpinnings with the European Cup competitors), but does it skimp on kit? Never!
The limited edition Clio is packed with features such as anthracite alloys for its 17-inch rollers masking bright red brake calipers, headlamps with a cornering function and windows carrying an extra layer of tint.
Its interior is fit for a hot hatch king (or queen) with snug Recaros for the front occupants ensuring minimal sliding action, climate control, an updated audio system and keyless entry and go.
Under the metal
This car's 2.0-litre naturally aspirated powerplant is identical to the one inhabiting the engine bay of the Clio Renault Sport, which is another worthy little hot hatch.
The four-cylinder unit produces 145 kW at a head-spinning 7 250 r/min and peak torque of 215 Nm is on tap at 5 500 r/min.
Its power is channeled to the front wheels via a short-throw manual shifter that sees the R27 hurtle to 100 km/h from a standing start in a claimed 6.9 seconds. It gulps up the 1 000 m strip in 27.5 seconds.
Renault also quotes a fuel index of 8.4 l/100 km. However, this is very doubtful if you drive this car in the manner it would like you to. See, if it demands to be driven enthusiastically, why would you want to go against its wishes?
The suspension has been completely revised with front and rear spring rates stiffened by 27 and 30% respectively. Stiffness is said to be up by 10% over the Clio Sport - and you feel it, especially through the seat, on those rougher sections of tarmac often meant to pass as roads.
Its Cup chassis places this car 7mm closer to the ground than the garden variety Clio Sport and this lower centre of gravity is most evident under cornering, where this little monster displays seemingly limitless levels of grip.
It's a very focused little racer, and even though you're being cosseted in what is a very comfortable cabin, it does not detract one bit from the white-knuckle ride.
Typically French, it is also very refined and while some may not be too impressed, it does not try its utmost to kill you at every bend. While trying to elicit some hooligan traits may be grumpily rewarded with some rear-end action, for the most part R27 is simply too sorted for that.
Traction is astounding and body roll virtually undetectable, and it's especially noticeable when cornering at speed when you have a few other details to worry about…
Stopping power is the unenviable task of four-pot Brembos at the front and single-piston calipers at the rear, although they seemed equally tireless under many kilometers of hard driving.
Also, its rear diffuser and menacing front fenders are not just about sporty appearances; the race-derived diffuser creates downforce for greater stability at speed, while the air vents are instrumental in blasting cool air onto that hard-working powerplant.
There's nothing quite as satisfying as blazing across an empty mountain pass with a crazy-revving naturally aspirated powerplant screeching in glee while pounding your way through a precise short-throw 'box.
And with a price tag of R236 000, we'd take this little fiend over the equally cute Corsa OPC (turbocharged 1.6-litre for R230 000) any day. Wresting it from the hands of any of the lucky 20+ to have taken delivery of theirs? Well, you have a go and tell us how it went, okay?
If that fails, try your hand at the regular Clio Renault Sport instead. It shares an engine with the R27 and while it's not as purposeful, it's no less of a racer.
It never tires
One in 27 makes it truly exclusive
Comes standard with joie de vivre
It's a small one; the short-throw 'box could perhaps be a wee bit tighter