Sometimes when new things come in; jam-packed with fresh new philosophies and unorthodox ideas can result to two very extreme response – either negative or positive. It doesn’t matter what product, be it electronics, food or even the way things are done. It’s very difficult to please everyone. But the majority enjoys familiarity.
Apple is an excellent example at this. They’ve figured out that whilst their market enjoys technological advancements, they don’t like change very much. They enjoy to use what they know and love… but they want new things to be even better in every way. We consumers – we demand new things, we want innovation but we don’t seem to like change very much.
Take a look at the last 7 iPhones. And what has really changed about the iPhone? Other than faster processors, a better camera and a bigger screen; the iPhone has actually remained ergonomically unchanged. As I write this, I’m waiting for the launch of the iPhone 6 and I KNOW that it’s going to be better than my current iPhone 5S. BUT… I’ll bet you that nothing has changed drastically.
This brings me to the all-new, highly controversial Renault Clio RS 200 EDC. Because… you’re going to have to scratch whatever you know about RenaultSport. And scratch whatever you love about the old Clio RS. Here’s why…
The elephant in the room. The gearbox. Moving into the digital age that we are today, car manufacturers are under pressure to improve things by the millisecond. Two very important cars has turned heads towards the dual-clutch transmission this year and it’s a surprise for us purist that this change of heart is coming from RenaultSport. Why? Because they have never had a dual-clutch transmission before…
As these flappy-paddle gearboxes go; they are all definite deal breakers for purist and enthusiasts. Yes, having the shifters right behind the steering wheel means you are uninterrupted from the focus of driving and all for a similar reason, manufacturers opt for it to be more efficient against power losses, fuel economy and at the same time, ease of use. But we ‘petrolheads’ demand for manual gearbox, especially on a hot hatch because we like to do things the old way. We just prefer the experience.
So RenaultSport Clio 200 EDC, why do you have a flappy-paddle dual-clutch gearbox? – Let me come back to talk about the ‘Digital Age’. Undeniably, the new generation of teenagers; or rather what they’re called, the Generation-Y grew up with gaming consoles like Gran Turismo on Playstation or Forza Motorsport on Xbox. And since, there has been a little lost of touch with what driving in the good ole’ days were like. They’re unexposed to the world of 3 pedals where drivers learn, practice and apply such skills like ‘Heel-and-Toe’, ‘Rev-Matching’, ‘Double Clutching’ and the list goes on…
Everything is done for them, with a click of a button. So moving ahead with time, these ‘one-click’ shift flappy paddle systems are our future. Manual cars are soon to be dinosaurs and because of the growing market in this ‘one-click’ shifters, manufacturers move ahead in the pursuit of selling more cars.
It’s sad. Sad to know that the days of the hairy-chested, man’s man petrolheads are coming to an end. Such is life, we have to move on. Because once you get rid of these thoughts, what you actually have underneath the new Clio RS 200 EDC is a genuinely surprising hot hatch.
What is the purpose of a hot hatch? – When you’re young and fun, you lust for million bucks exotics that you can’t afford, but what you actually want in your life is a hot hatch. A car that you can drive every day, serving all your basic practical needs yet has the capability to tickle your funny bone as-and-when you feel like it. You want something that is “affordable” yet fast enough that a 911 can’t shake you off on the streets.
The recipe has always been:- simple, light, powerful (and usually boosted), practical and most importantly, affordable. It was why the greats like the early Golf GTIs and Fords were so successful. Built to cater for the orthodox Gen-X. But we are now in 2014.
Modernisation is the key word here. What RenaultSport has done with the all new Clio RS is; they’ve taken that same basic philosophy, however modernised to appeal to the all new PlayStation/Xbox generation that loves technological gizmos. The recipe remains, but just served differently…
Underneath you’ll find a boosted 1.6-litre 4-pot, downsized from the previous gen’s 2.0-litre normally-aspirated powerunit that churns out 200bhp and 240nm at crank. Thanks to the dual-clutch transmission mating, it’ll do naught-to-sixty in just under 7 seconds courtesy of launch control and as tested; it’ll run out of puff at 242km/h.
- 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder
- 200bhp and 240nm
- 0-100km/h – 6.9 seconds
- Top Speed – 242 km/h (as tested)
- RM 172,888.00
Again, because of the modern day power game… 200bhp sounds snail-like. Bring your head around from cloud 9 however and realise that it is in fact a lot of power. To be honest, this downsized and boosted engine in the new Clio RS 200 feels a little lazy compared to the normally aspirated power unit of the last generation. For one, boosting a little 1.6-litre engine requires quite a substantial turbo force, and due to this, the lag is quite strong. It seems to have lost the sense of urgency that the last car had, but it WILL still go like a stabbed rat once spooled.
Power may not be this car’s strongest suit; but the handling is. It’s a pleasure that despite the new age tech that the purist may not enjoy, underneath, this new Clio is still an RS car. If you’re familiar with RenaultSport’s handling characteristics, you’ll know what I’m about to talk about…
With the Sport chassis package – the Clio RS 200 EDC is not on the hottest setting possible. It is about 27% less stiff as compared to the Cup chassis version thanks to different spring and damper settings. Despite that fact, it still handles like a charm. There is plenty of mechanical grip to play with in corners, and the more you learn about the way the car reacts, the more rewarding it gets to drive.
When you have all the electronic aids off – you’ll find that the chassis progression can be a little bit twitchy. Go in hot enough with the systems off and you’ll discover the car’s lift-off oversteer characteristics. It seems that the chassis wants to rotate a little to give a pulling sensation to counter for the usual front-wheel drive understeer. It’s playfulness always leave me grinning for more though.
Don’t get me wrong however, it is in no way detrimental. Have it on Sports mode on the road and the systems will let you have the fun, but won’t let you kill yourself. And that is ALWAYS the cherry on top of the icing in these cars. I’ve always found that RenaultSport’s cars tend to give me confidence the harder I drive it. While some cars may tend to fight you in corners, RS cars motivates you to push a little harder every time and that feeling to me is just oh-so rewarding!
But as rewarding as this car can be – there is still something missing about it. And I’m afraid it’s still the gearbox. I’m sorry to keep banging on about this dual-clutch transmission malarky; but on the drive, you have this sensation that you’re missing something about the whole experience.
I completely understand the appeal. The Clio RS is in many ways an excellent car. It drives really well, it’s practical, comfortable and pretty well equipped with all the gimmickry gizmos like the “R-Sound Effect” that let’s you drive around sounding like a Nissan GTR and the all-new RS Monitor 2.0 that displays all sorts of info and telemetries of the car. All this will absolutely appeal to the new generation of drivers.
But for the old-skool folks; this is not the car for you. You’ll hate the gimmicks. They’re a distraction to your driving experience and you’ll never understand why is there a need to sound like a Nissan GTR when you’re not one. You’ll absolutely despise that the Clio RS has electric steering and flappy paddles that you know for a fact are all interruptions to the real driving sensation. You have the bigger brother for that, the Megane RS.
The whole purpose of the new Clio RS is to tap into a whole new market that it never had before. It’s to catch the group that enjoys driving, however requires the ease of driving that an automatic gearbox can offer. The kind of people who demands creature comforts like GPS navigation and a modern looking dash with a screen that will keep you entertained in traffic. Puts the importance of practicality like 4 doors as and when they need to use it.
In trying to achieve to be an all-rounder vehicle – RenaultSport has lost a little bit of the essence that they usually have in their car. But it is a step forward to the future of the brand. It shows that RenaultSport wants to go head-to-head with the big names in the industry. And I for one, seriously envy that!
I love the new Clio RS. I think it looks really handsome, especially from the back. I enjoy how exciting it is to drive, especially on hill runs and I like how it’s different to it’s nearest rivals like the VW Polo GTI and the Peugeot 208 GTI in many ways. But nevertheless, it’s balanced with things that I despise. And by now I’m sure you all know what it is already.
Don’t cut the Clio RS off though. It’s a little sad that people don’t seem to realise this car’s presence in the Malaysian market. It has so much potential and is just that much better to have than it’s rivals. It may not be a pure RenaultSport breed, but deep in it’s DNA – you’ll still find the characteristics that we have always adored about them. Have a look at it people, you might just like it more than you think.
Words: Qhalis Najmi | Photos: Mursi & Qhalis Najmi