Hot on the heels of Fernando Alonso’s second consecutive win at the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix, Renault’s smallest hot hatch, the Clio Sport, now as the RS 197 has returned to New Zealand.
Priced at $39,990, the limited edition three-door Clio RS now produces 197 horsepower from its two litre fuel injected engine, a 15 horsepower improvement on the previous Clio RS 182.
Only a handful of cars have arrived on New Zealand shores and can now be spotted at Renault dealerships. The next shipment will not arrive until well into 2009.
Compared to the regular Clio III, the RS’ body has wider front and rear wings to accommodate the larger wheels and tyres, side skirts and a semi-rigid under-bumper splitter, while the stance has been lowered. Extractor vents and an active rear air diffuser are fitted to aid stability and prevent rear-end lift by creating a zone of low pressure beneath the car. This results in a down force rating of between 40 and 70kg at high speed, lowering lift by around 65 per cent and eliminating the need for a rear spoiler.
Underneath is a development of the Renault/Nissan Alliance B Platform, which is also used by the Nissan Tiida and Micra. But the Clio III RS 197 is significantly different thanks to a 10mm longer wheelbase, as well as 48mm wider in the front track and 50mm in the rear, compared to the regular Clio III hatch. It also rides 15mm lower. The subframe is the same as used on the Megane RS 225, and employs transverse strengthening for greater front-end rigidity. Its bushes, front shock absorber mountings and rear suspension mountings are also stiffer.
Braking is via Brembo-supplied callipers at the front, featuring 312mm cross-drilled discs) and 300mm solid discs in the rear, while the 17-inch lightweight alloy wheels are shod with 215/45 tyres.
Turning the front wheels, via a new six-speed manual gearbox, is a development of the old RS 182’s normally-aspirated 1998cc 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine with variable valve timing.
The French may have invented the metric system but Renault panders to Great Britain, the largest consumer of its RS products, by revealing the RS 197’s horsepower rating in its name. That’s 145kW, achieved at a high 7250rpm, while the 215Nm torque comes at 5550rpm, courtesy of the RS division. The result is a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.9 seconds.
RS has optimised the engine’s intake, exhaust port length and profiling for greater efficiency, worked on the valve seat aerodynamics, improved air intake and gas flow, increased valve lift from 9mm to 11.5mm to create a longer and wider valve aperture, and redesigned the combustion chamber and piston heads for a high compression ratio of 11.5:1. Lower emissions are a result, with carbon dioxide pollution dropping to 199g/km, while the combined average fuel consumption rating is 8.4L/100km.
On the safety front, the Clio III has earned a five-star European NCAP crash-test result. Present are an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), electronic stability control (ESC) that is sports-tuned with higher threshold programming and can be disconnected, ASR traction control and eight airbags — including two anti-submarining devices underneath the front seats.
Interior trim includes aluminium pedals, a perforated leather wrapped steering wheel with red centre-point stitching, RS logos on the instrument faces, door sills and front seats (which are of a bolstered ‘sports’ design), and a chrome-zinc centre console.
Standard features include air-conditioning, cruise control with speed-limiter, remote central locking, power windows, a multi-function trip computer, single-CD sound system, 60/40-split folding rear seat and 17-inch alloys.