Our guide here is William Moses of Clio197.net, and his first tip is to avoid cars with patchy history or missed services. The 12,000-mile/12-month service intervals are fine for cars used only on the road, but 6000 miles is preferable for cars that see track action. The cambelt service, due at 72,000 miles, is very important, should be undertaken on time and is an expensive job – £500 from an independent and over £800 from a Renault dealer.
Engine and gearbox
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If correctly serviced, both engines are tough and reliable, although Moses advises avoiding cars with aftermarket induction systems. Also exercise caution with ‘performance’ exhausts; many reasonably priced systems have a reputation for exaggerating a flat-spot at moderate revs. Gearboxes are known to be awkward when cold, but all changes should be smooth when warm. Both versions of the gearbox are prone to premature synchro failure – generally most noticeable when changing down into third, especially if you skip a gear, though some owners have first noticed issues with fourth, so pay attention to the ease of the shift on the test drive.
Suspension, steering and brakes
Steering link rods seem prone to wear, though this is cheap to resolve. A clunking noise from the steering can indicate a failing rack; complete racks are not prohibitively expensive (£400-450 from Renault) and since they come complete with new track rods and track rod ends, it’s an opportunity to upgrade any 197 or non-Cup 200 to the slightly quicker Cup rack. Before doing so, make sure that this is the issue – there have been suggestions of failed power steering motors. These are part of the upper steering column and a replacement will cost close to £1000.
Body and interior
Both standard seats and Recaros are prone to wear on the outer bolsters. The top layer of the leather trim on the steering wheel can also peel off. Both can be retrimmed at around £50 per seat bolster, or £150 for a wheel retrimmed in Alcantara. The wiper mechanisms can be faulty, so check that the wipers operate freely, while you should also check that both key cards work – they cost £170 to replace.
Parts prices from smcrenault.co.uk. Tyre prices from blackcircles.com. Prices include VAT but not fitting.
*Tyres (each) £108.20 (Continental ContiSportContact 5) *Brake pads (front set) £114.24 *Pin kit (per caliper) £34.84 *Front discs (pair) £165.60 *Front damper (Cup chassis) £83.40 *Exhaust (cat-back) £963.29 *Clutch (exchange) £189.28 *Oil filter £8.76 *Air filter £16.68 *Set of spark plugs £33.12
Prices from smc.renault.co.uk, inc. VAT at 20 per cent
*Every 12,000 miles/12 months £215.77-£320.92*Cambelt service (72k miles) £852.62 *Cambelt with water pump £1070.27
What to pay?
Early 197s have just started to dip below £5000 from private sellers. Generally these cars have higher miles (over 60,000) and more than one owner, but provided they’ve been well-maintained, they can still be a good buy. Take extra care to check the service history (including the cambelt), and pay particular attention to the gearchange and steering on a test drive.
Pay a little more, however, and from £5500 there’s a wide choice of average-mileage cars with Recaro seats and Speedline alloys. Cars with the Cup chassis start at around £6k. Expect to pay £6500-plus for a well-specced 2007/2008 car, and from £7k for the very best in terms of spec and condition. Reckon on adding around £500 if buying through the trade. Top price for an end-of-line 197 with Cup chassis is £9k – about the same as a cheap 200.
*Clio197.net (forums, advice, events) *cliosport.net (forums, advice, events)*www.smcrenault.co.uk (parts and servicing) *renaultsport.co.uk (manufacturer site) *forsale.evo.co.uk (sales)
|Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1998cc|
|Max power 194bhp @ 7250rpm|
|Max torque 159lb ft @ 5550rpm|
|Weight (kerb) 1240kg|
|0-60mph 6.9sec (claimed)|
|Top speed 134mph (claimed)|
|Price when new £15,995 (2007)|