Mark Higgins’ first drive of the 2014 Renault Clio RS Sport with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
In a nutshell The Clio RS Sport is the first rung on the Clio RS ladder and for the money represents exceptional value. Sure, it does without the Cup chassis but it’s still a fun and practical little hatch.
Practical Motoring Says The Renault Clio RS Sport offers hot-hatch performance and street cred in a light-car package. It’s a rewarding drive that seduces you into finding the long way to every destination.
WHILE SOME BRANDS see their light cars as commuters only, the Europeans tend to give their tiddler cars a bit of a warm-through, and Renault’s Clio RS Sport certainly fits that bill. This thing is a shopping trolley with bite.
The versatile five-door body has sharp looks with a gloss black and matt grey single blade and mesh grille, a large air intake with a silver and grey surround, piercing daytime running lights as well as large curvy headlights. A steeply raked windscreen, long roofline, narrowing side windows and a rear spoiler, accentuate its aero profile. Its sculptured flanks have silver panels along the doors, side skirts and 17-inch five twin-spoke alloy wheels with low profile tyres under slightly flared guards. Around the back is a smallish rear window and large rear diffuser with a rectangular exhaust poking out each side.
Non-glare black and grey hues with red highlights give the interior a subdued sporty look. The black fabric sports seats have red stitching with matching red seat belts. The small three spoke, thick, black leather trimmed steering wheel with contrast red stitching includes a ‘straight ahead’ red band at the top, cruise control buttons and a discreet RS badge on it.
Behind the wheel are grey gearshift paddles that annoyingly don’t turn with the wheel and the obscured phone and volume controls. The chrome-ringed easy-to-read instrument cluster has a large central digital speedo, with a black-faced red needle fuel gauge on the right and a grey-faced red-needle tacho on the left. Between the two is the indicator light for the RS drive’s three modes: Normal, Sport and Race, as well as the multi information display operated by buttons on the end of the indicator stalk.
Next to the instrument binnacle and above the console is the 18cm multimedia unit, with controls for the sat nav, Bluetooth audio streaming, phone book and keypad. The console features two smallish vents and climate controls, which are a bit clunky in their operation but not effectiveness. The gear lever surround is in red as is the stitching of the black shift boot. Behind that are the RS Drive button and main cruise control switch plus two cupholders.
The large-bolstered sports seats are cosy and supportive, while the tilt and reach steering wheel ensures a comfortable driving position is easy to find even for taller folk. Despite its dimensions, from the front seat the Clio RS Sport feels quite airy and spacious with ample leg, head and shoulder room, however rear seat passengers, especially taller ones will struggle with little leg and headroom.
Overall the cabin, like the rest of the Clio RS Sport has a quality feel about it, right down to the plastics used on the door trims. The flat-floored 300-litre boot space is acceptable, although its partly robbed by the two zip bags containing the tyre repair kit of a compressor and sealant canisters that replace the spare tyre.
Forward and side visibility is good, but the rear view is compromised due to the small rear window and large c-pillars – shoulder checks are a must when changing lanes.
At the heart of the Renault Clio RS Sport is a 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine toting 147kW (at 6000rpm) and 240Nm of torque at 1750rpm). This is mated to a, and purists should look away now, twin-clutch six-speed gearbox. The Clio RS Sport will get to the legal limit in 6.7 seconds and has a claimed fuel consumption of 6.3L/100km, although the best we got was 8.1L/100km.
The competition-inspired engine note can be enjoyed inside via a mechanically amplified membrane and transmitted by a pipe to the cabin adding a new dimension to the drive, without being intrusive.
There are three driving modes available to Clio RS Sport drivers, Normal, Sport and Race. Normal is the default mode and makes the car feel like a commuter with soft gear changes and a gentle throttle response. Choose Sport, however, and a ‘Sport’ light illuminates below the speedo; throttle response becomes sharper, the idle bumps up to 1050rpm (and that’s so you can get into the meat of the torque more quickly), the stability control is eased off (but still keeping an eye on things) and the steering feels quicker and more direct.
Move the gearshift to the manual position and push the RS button again and ‘Race’ flashes up. This keeps the Sport settings but also quickens the gearshifts to just 150 milliseconds and cuts out the ESC (which is quicker than the time it actually takes to say 150 milliseconds), and sharpens the drive right up.
Plant your foot from a standing start when in launch control mode and the Clio RS Sport shoots forward; revs race to the redline, the shift control rings an audible warning and the ‘Race’ light changes from green to yellow, flick the paddle shift again and the speedo rapidly starts displaying three figures. A turbo ‘pop’ signals each upshift and a rev, each downshift. And, like an, ahem, F1 car holding the downshift paddle allows the gearbox to optimally change down through the gears. Sport became the default mode and as often as possible, Race mode was selected to fully exploit the Clio RS Sport.
The wide stance, grippy tyres and electronic differential give the Clio RS Sport outstanding agility and poise when cornering. At all times the Clio RS Sport feels planted, it takes all manner of corners with composure and instils confidence behind the wheel. Indeed, the MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear does a good job of riding bumps and ruts and thanks to the secondary dampers within the dampers, rarely gets flustered. Find some corner-laden roads and the handling will have you smiling more broadly than Daniel Ricciardo. The Clio RS Sport is one of those special cars that seduces you into driving the longest route to your destination. Ensuring you arrive safely at said destination are 320mm front and 260mm rear disc brakes that have a nice progressive feel under foot.
The Clio RS Sport isn’t a stripped-out special wearing a Sport badge. Priced from $28,790 (+ORC) standard fare includes cruise control with speed limiter, keyless entry and start, air-conditioning, automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, sports body kit, paddle shifts, the RS drive with normal, sport and race mode, sports body kit, 17-inch alloys on Goodyear F1 205/45/17 tyres and daytime running lights.
On the safety front, the Clio RS Sport has front, side and curtain airbags, anti-whiplash design headrests, ABS with Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control, Electronic Traction Control, Cruise control with speed limiter and Hill Start Assist. Strangely, parking sensors are an option and a reversing camera not available. It has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
It has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, three years roadside assist and capped price servicing for just $299 per year for the first three years.