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'A special, little giant killer' - Renault Clio RS tested

2017-12-01 07:00

SA'S NEW HOT HATCH: Renault claims its launched its hottest hatch yet. Meet the new Clio RS. Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids

Alan Rosenmeyer

Johannesburg - Since the early days of motoring certain letters added to a model designation denotes that a car is something special. Beginning with the GT legend, which was used to denote a larger, comfortable car that was capable of higher than normal cruising or touring (Gran Turismo).

There are many other similar combinations that have been used through the years, some synonymous with a particular marque while others have, perhaps, been used by many.

Take the legendary 'RS', currently used by several manufacturers with one common factor - cars that bear this signature are guaranteed to blow my hat off.

GALLERY: 2017 Renault Clio RS


Take the little pocket-rocket that graced the my driveway recently - the Renault Clio RS.  In this instance, RS denotes RenaultSport, the motorsport arm of the french automaker that transforms  mundane hatches by breathing fire and magic into them.

The latest Clio RS was almost sneaked onto the SA market not too long ago, blink and you may have missed it, especially when it goes flying past you on the road. There was a hint of things to come with the fairly recent introduction of the 'middle sibling', the excellent but now totally overshadowed GT-Line. Whilst the GT-Line has many of the looks and interior additions of the RS, in this case it’s all about the engine first, plus many extras that you will notice later.

The test car was almost understated in white until you looked closely at its sport clues such as the triple foglights at the front, the dual-squared exhausts at the rear, the not-so-subtle body kit and finally, the RS badges at the front and rear.

Moving to the interior, you immediately notice the RS signature along the running strips as you open the drivers door as well as the signature design along the dashboard. You can't miss the promise of something special in the bucket seats that virtually envelope you with their large side bolsters and red stitching (these could prove uncomfortable if you are wide of girth).

Red seat belts could also tell you something, but it becomes obvious when you notice the elegant, curved paddles behind the steering wheel. A final clue could be a little button below the gearshift with “RS DRIVE”, but more about that later.

The engine and power blew me away. You can choose between Lux at 147kW and the full phat Trophy version offering 162kW. Both options will swiftly boot you straight into the illegal sector of driving pleasure. All this power generated by a 1.6-litre mated to a fire-breathing turbo.

The test car was sported Lux spec but it certainly didn't feel like I had been cheated in any way although I suppose I would have to experience those extra 15kW before making a final decision. From the moment you fire up the engine by pressing the start button, you know that fun with a capital 'F' is about to start.

With lowered and stiffened suspension, I was a bit concerned that it may be a bit hard during normal driving and commuting. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised and with the 6-speed auto box left to its own devices I could plod along in a manner that an older driver would be expected to drive. 

But an RS is not for the fainthearted and certainly not created to be abused by living its life in commuting mode. Within the Renault touchscreen is a very special section linked to that extra button I mentioned earlier. RS DRIVE is a section in the multi-media system that immediately informs you of the true intentions of the creators of this special little giant killer.

Preferably employ the services of a co-driver to operate the system while you get on with the business of driving and he can scroll through the multitude of screens that show all manner of sporting aspirations and capabilities of the car.

From timing modes, to power and torque readouts to sprint and acceleration times, plus so many more. If you can’t afford a co-driver, then make use of the facility to download all your readings to a USB and you can then peruse at your leisure or use them for boasting rights. Trying a few exercises in (mild) anger resulted in my hat going missing after it was blown away.

Standard fitment on the RS versions is the EDC 6-speed auto transmission, as always some will rue the lack of a manual option. I did notice a slight hesitation from the box a few times when coasting to a stop and then immediately wanting to accelerate away.

Perhaps I should have simply flexed my fingers and used those stunning paddles to avoid this instead of lapsing into lazy mode, however this is such a minor criticism in a car with such performance potential.

Overall, the Clio RS is a very special car designed for a niche fanatical market but you have to congratulate Renault SA for bringing it here. There are many Regie fans that I’m sure will snap up these cars and I predict that they will become collectors items in due course. 

The price of admission to this exclusive club:

Clio RS 200 Lux - R399 900
Clio RS 220 Trophy - R429 900

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