What is it? The Renaultsport Clio 200 hot hatchback, but with a fancy paintjob, the addition of some Gordini badges and a higher price tag. This car – without the firm’s famed Cup chassis option – costs £19,650. Technical highlights Under that stripy skin lies a standard Clio 200, its rev-happy naturally aspirated engine and the transparency of its dynamics providing a lesson in basic (if not particularly technically advanced) brilliance. Adding the Cup chassis (£410) stiffens the suspension springs (27 per cent front, 30 rear) and front anti-roll bar (10 per cent) while the ride height is 7mm lower and the steering rack 7.5 per cent quicker. Going Gordini ticks pretty much every box on the Clio’s equipment list, adding keyless entry and go, auto lights and wipers and Renault’s best stereo package. The only remaining gadget options are an integrated TomTom sat-nav (£460), which works brilliantly, and Renaultsport Monitor (£200), a digital unit that provides lap times, engine data and real-time G-force, power and torque figures. What’s it like to drive? Cracking fun and best in class, which shouldn’t be a surprise when its base is the Clio 200 that did so well at evo Car of the Year 2009 and has impressed so much on our Fast Fleet. Without the Cup chassis, as tested here, it’s still a keen, involving drive, with a more compliant, accessible feel on the worst of British roads. Properly keen drivers will appreciate the extra intimacy the sharper Cup set-up brings, however, and at just £410 more, it’s a relative bargain. The car is certainly worth a test drive before buying – those trading in a turbocharged hatch may find the Clio’s engine infuriating, the bulk of its power and torque delivered very high up the rev-range. Power is delivered in a cleaner and more linear manner than its forced induction rivals, though, and with heaps more noise and character. How does it compare? Add sat-nav or the Cup chassis and you have a £20,000+ Clio, which makes comparisons tricky. And while the Gordini exclusivity may please some, it ultimately doesn’t make the mid-range Renaultsport much plusher. The two most compelling alternatives are a Mini Cooper S (review of the 2010 car here) and a regular Renaultsport Clio 200, which, priced from £16,710, suddenly looks even better value than before. Anything else I need to know? You don’t need to have the blue and white stripes or those OTT wheels, with white, blue and black colour schemes available. And if you happen to be taken by the Gordini look but not the Clio itself, you can save five grand and buy its Renault Twingo sibling.
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1998cc|
|Max power||197bhp @ 7100rpm|
|Max torque||159lb ft @ 5400rpm|
|On sale||Now, £19,650|