Renault Sport Clio 220 Trophy review - Is the turbocharged Clio finally any fun? - Ride and handling

The new Clio gets a facelift, a new exhaust and the Trophy becomes a proper production model

Evo rating
from £22,425
  • Tenacious and grippy chassis, but one that’s still fun
  • Lacklustre drivetrain and lifeless steering make it hard to enjoy

The revisions to the Trophy’s chassis over the standard Clio 200 seem huge on paper. It has a 10% quicker steering rack, it’s 20mm lower at the front and 10mm at the rear. While the Trophy’s dampers are firmer and the rear springs have been replaced with ones that are 40% stiffer.

The changes don’t feel as dramatic as they sound, though. You’d imagine 40% stiffer springs would be unbearable on British roads. The Trophy certainly feels stiff initially, but over 50mph a real quality to the ride starts to shine through. It doesn’t glide over bumps, but it also doesn’t crash into them. It’s just firm enough to help communicate what the chassis is dealing with without being uncomfortable. There’s also a huge amount of body control; not once does the body fall out of sync with the road.

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

As you’d expect with such a stiff chassis there’s also very little roll. Combined with the quicker rack, this makes turn-in feel very direct. There are also vast reserves of grip at the front axle so you can carry a lot of speed into a corner.

The Trophy isn’t fitted with a proper mechanical limited slip differential. Instead the front brakes interfere with the front wheels to increase traction. For the most part on the road, you aren't missing out. Occasionally in slow corners, where you need the very low 2nd gear, the inside front wheel will spin up. It’s rather unexpected as there’s so much grip most of the time. An LSD would help this, but as it happens so infrequently it doesn’t feel like a necessity.

Advertisement - Article continues below

On track the lack of limited slip differential is more noticeable. At turn-in, the effect of sudo-LSD is very helpful and the Trophy really darts into a corner. Once on the power though it can’t stop the inside front wheel from spinning. 

The Trophy isn’t as lively as the previous generation, naturally aspirated Clio 200 Cup. It’s not as expressive and doesn’t want to rotate quite so easily. The old Clio felt lower and it felt very square on the road. The Trophy’s wheelbase feels longer, like it simply doesn’t have the physical layout to ever be as fun as the old car. But the Trophy still possesses some of the qualities that have made Renault Sport cars so loveable. The chassis displays all the traits you’d expect from a well-sorted front-wheel drive hot hatch and trail-braking or a lift of the throttle helps bring the rear into play. The Trophy’s rear might not be as mobile as the old car, or need the same deliberate corrective inputs, but the Trophy’s chassis is effective, intuitive and, if you get the opportunity to witness its talents, it is satisfying to drive.

The quicker steering that has been fitted to the Trophy has not helped generate any more feedback. The rack is fairly lifeless and never communicates any meaningful information from the front tyres. The lack of feel isn’t a huge problem when trying to gauge grip levels because the chassis is so transparent. However, the lack of feedback just adds another layer you need to penetrate before you can start to enjoy the Trophy.

The chassis is undoubtedly talented, but the uninspiring engine, lifeless steering and less than engaging gearbox mean it’s difficult to tap into what’s great about the Trophy. The small glimmers of genius that it does show are often only fleeting and don’t last long enough to be really enjoyed.


Most Popular

Toyota GT 86

Toyota GT86 vs Mazda MX-5 vs Abarth 124 Spider – lightweight sports car shootout

Three affordable sports cars from Japan and, er, Japan battle it out on the Yorkshire Dales
14 Jan 2020
sports cars

Porsche ditches four-cylinder for flat-six in Cayman and Boxster GTS

New models eschew turbos with detuned 4-litre from the Spyder and GT4
15 Jan 2020

2020 Geneva motor show preview

Electrification will likely dominate proceedings, but Geneva will have plenty of performance metal to get excited about too
17 Jan 2020
Hyundai i30 N

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Nurburgring

We brought the Hyundai i30 Fastback back to its spiritual home in Germany's Eifel mountains, where there is a racing track you might well have heard o…
7 Oct 2019