Renault Sport Clio: history of the french hot hatch hero from 172 to 220

Who hasn’t considered an RS Clio? If one is on your shortlist, take a look at the models from the 172 through to the 220

The Renault Clio has hot hatch herritage that few superminis can match and as a result, there are a wealth of Clio-badged options out there for buyers seeking an affordable and fast hatchback. Here we're looking back at the Renault Sport Clio era, kicking off with the Mk2 Clio in 172 guise and running through to the turbocharged Clio RS 220 based on the Mk4 car.  

The phase 1 Renault Sport Clio 172 was launched in the spring of 2000 and featured a 170bhp 1998cc 16-valve engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. It was an instant hit. With bespoke bumpers, wider front wings and a set of OZ Racing 15in alloys, it looked the part, while under the skin was a sports handling pack with uprated springs and dampers and a reworked steering rack.

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Renault Sport has served up many special-edition Clios over the years and the first, also arriving in 2000, was the Exclusive. Just 172 came to the UK, all in Scarab Green with grey leather and 15in BBS alloys.

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The Phase 2 172 made its debut in June 2001, and while the engine was unchanged, this facelifted model gained 16in alloys, a further stiffening of the chassis, xenon headlights, and climate control instead of air con.

The pared-back 172 Cup arrived in August 2002. With no xenons, air con or ABS, weight was reduced by 99kg. It had a wider track, lower and even firmer suspension, an additional front lip and a larger rear spoiler. The engine remained unchanged but the claimed 0-62mph time dropped from 7.2 to 6.9sec. The 172 Cup came in either Mondial Blue or Iceberg Silver and it was a significant £2100 cheaper than a standard 172.

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In 2004 Renault Sport went one better with the 182, giving the engine an extra 10bhp and trimming the 0-62mph time of the standard car to 7.1sec. Its spec included xenon headlights, half-leather seats, climate control and twin exhausts, and there were two optional Cup packs – a spoiler pack and a chassis pack. The former brought the 172 Cup’s external additions while the latter brought a 3mm lower ride height, stiffer springs and dampers, and anthracite wheels.

A specific 182 Cup model was launched in September 2004 and this featured both Cup packs while deleting the xenons. ABS and air con were retained, so the Cup was not significantly lighter than a standard 182. Like the 172 Cup, the 182 only came in two colours, this time Racing Blue or Inferno Orange. It was £1000 cheaper than the base 182.

The 182’s swansong was the Clio Trophy, launched in July 2005. Five-hundred examples were made for the UK, plus 50 for Switzerland, all in Capsicum Red. It had Recaro seats, manual air con, Sachs suspension, 16in Speedline Turini wheels, a front splitter and a larger rear spoiler.

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The third-gen Clio arrived in 2005 and in mid-2006 the Renault Sport version, the 197, made its debut. It followed the successful formula of a pumped-up body, RS-fettled chassis and an uprated engine, now good for 194bhp. Weight was up by 200kg from the original 172 but a six-speed gearbox with closely stacked ratios resulted in a 6.9sec 0-62mph time, while Brembo four-pot calipers ensured it stopped properly. A year after its launch, the F1 Team R27 edition made its debut, limited to 500 units for the UK. The R27 saw the arrival of the Cup chassis, which was 7mm lower and featured stiffer springs and dampers along with anthracite 17in wheels, Recaro seats and a number of F1 decals and logos.

Later in 2007, the 197 Cup arrived with the same chassis as the R27 but no xenons and with manual air con. Colours were restricted (Racing Blue, Nimbus Grey and Glacier White) and like earlier Cups it was cheaper – by £1000 – than a standard 197.

To coincide with the Clio’s mid-life refresh, the 197 was updated in 2009 with reshaped bumpers, new headlights, five-spoke alloys and an additional 3bhp to become the 200. Both the standard car and the 200 Cup were available at launch with spec more or less as per the 197. Unlike previous Cup models, most of the RS Clio’s colours could be chosen.

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The 200 spawned three special editions: Gordini, Silverstone GP and Raider. The Gordini arrived in 2010 and was a well-optioned 200 with Gordini addenda – mainly stripes and badges. The Silverstone GP was limited to just 50 cars, all metallic silver with a host of extras such as the Cup chassis. Just 28 Raiders came to the UK and they had 18in alloys, the Cup chassis, leather Recaros and a host of bespoke trim.

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In 2013, Renault Sport turned its attention to the fourth generation Clio and turbo power – closing the book on the naturally-aspirated hot Clio. The manual gearbox was ditched too, in favour of a twin-clutch auto, as part of Renault's attempt to broaden the appeal of the new 200. With 197bhp and 192lb ft of torque, 0-62mph was dealt with in 6.7sec and a 143mph top speed was possible.

Two years later the 220 Trophy was introduced, sporting more power and torque thanks to a larger turbo and revised exhaust system, and the lamentable dual-clutch transmission was reworked to deliver 50 per cent faster shifts. Elsewhere, the cup chassis constituted lower and stiffer suspension to make the most of a quicker steering rack and the fitment of Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.

Renault Sport Timeline

172 (Phase 1)Spring 200
172 ExclusiveDecember 2000
172 (Phase 2)June 2001
172 CupAugust 2002
182Spring 2004
182 CupSeptember 2004
182 TrophyJuly 2005
197June 2006
197 F1 Team R27June 2007
197 CupOctober 2007
197 LuxNovember 2008
200/200 CupMay 2009
200 GordiniJuly 2010
200 Silverstone GPJully 2011
200 RaiderOctober 2011
200June 2013
220 TrophySummer 2015
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