Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy

Harder, sharper and faster equals better

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

YOUNG person’s car. It’s almost like a back-handed statement from the Baby Boomer generation, bringing to mind an overstickered, heavily spoilered thing they wouldn’t be seen dead in, with a ride as brutal as the hip-hop thumping out of it.

But what about a car that makes you feel young?

A great hot hatch has that effect.

With enough snot to embarrass the ‘big boys’ and enough handling to dislodge retinas from eyeballs, it’s amazing how a proper ‘on rails’ experience can make you feel young and cool again. Just like being asked for ID...

While Renault’s current Clio hottie hasn’t quite achieved the cult following its manual-only predecessors still enjoy, you’d have to be desperately morose not to have a good time in one. But Renaultsport has a solution – the harder, faster, stronger, pricier $39,990 Clio RS 220 Trophy.

Its update list reads like a who’s who of go-fast enhancements. The suspension cops stiffer dampers with hydraulic bump stops and the ride height drops a little (20mm up front, 10mm rear) to make the Clio’s stance even tougher. A faster steering rack (with a drop in ratio from 14.5:1 to 13.2:1) reduces the turns lock-to-lock from 2.67 to 2.41, while the Clio Cup’s 18-inch Radicale alloys score a diamondcut finish for the Trophy and Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (instead of Dunlop Sport Maxx).

Making the most of the Trophy’s match-fit chassis is a considerably enhanced drivetrain. Fresh engine mapping, a larger turbo, a redesigned intake system to reduce back pressure, and a revised exhaust system with ‘Euro 6’ catalytic converter nudges power to 162kW (up 15kW) and torque to 260Nm (up 20Nm). A ‘torque boost’ function in fourth and fifth gears unleashes an additional 20Nm during full-throttle bursts, and the dual-clutch ’box has been injected with adrenalin for 30-percentfaster shifts.

The net worth is a much firmer car, with an almost unyielding ride at low speeds, but in fine RS tradition, it never crashes through.

Hasten your pace and the Trophy comes together beautifully, providing you’ve hit the ‘Renaultsport’ button between its new front seats. Only then do you get the most consistent steering weighting and some exhaust bark to support the Trophy’s superb handling poise and grip.

When it’s on song, a hearty thrash in the Trophy is like being 21 again, drenched in sweat, fistpumping the air as your favourite band lights up the stage.

But when it isn’t, the elephant in the room becomes painfully obvious. No manual ’box. Improved as the EDC is, a rip-snorter like the Clio 220 Trophy deserves a stick. h entmuch nyielding t shes nd

PLUS & MINUS

Crying out for a manual ’box; bulky front seats; firm low-speed ride Styling and stance; balance and grip; barky exhaust at full song Pretty on the inside Pretty on the inside Unique front seats with onepiece backrests are excellent, but they block vision from the rear, particularly the nonheight- adjustable passenger’s pew. Just 220 Trophys will be coming to Oz; 77 have landed since December and the rest are on their way. Uniquely in Trophy spec, matte ‘Frost White’ paint with a gloss-black roof (pictured) is optional. one