At $394,900 the Renault Clio RS will require more introduction than “this is a powerful little runabout” to attract the Mexican market. Competing with Audi’s A1 and Alfa Romeo’s Mito in the same price range, and even more expensive than the sporty Mini Cooper S, the Clio RS has a lot to prove.

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Fortunately the Clio’s first impression makes waves. The color is stunning and the design is not even remotely reminiscent of the mass-production Clios brought to Mexico 8 years ago. After a wait of almost a decade, Renault and compact fans have built up high expectations, and it seems Renault have pushed the boat out with this sport version. Over the last 12 months the brand has also played off its involvement in the Formula 1 through advertising campaigns personifying its vehicles with Formula 1 aspirations, and it seems that the RS is another step in this direction.

Ride and Performance

The four-cylinder 1.6 liter engine with a turbo compressor certainly lives up to expectations, clocking up 200 hp at 6,000 rpm. The sound on ignition is captivating, though drops down at low speeds allowing the Clio to be more low-key than its color suggests. The Getrag dual clutch transmission promises quality as well as economy. However, the turbo means that changes at low speeds are extremely jumpy and anyone trying to cruise through a packed city center will be jolted on the automatic’s shift to 2nd gear, as the Clio insists on remaining in 1st gear at speeds below 10 mph. The manual version is certainly recommendable for this reason, even in cities suffering from interminable traffic jams. However, this cute compact comes into its own on the freeway, taking curves beautifully maintaining its fun side.

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In the Driving Seat

Unfortunately, the interiors do not reflect the racy reputation that the RS has built up for itself, and neither does the 5 door set-up. Racing chairs would have been more fitting, especially to match the Clio’s acceleration, and 3 doors would have been more suited to the price segment. It seems unlikely that the RS would be a common choice for a family so the 2 extra doors mainly detract from the racing-car guise. The gentle red details, 7 inch touch screen and GPS add to the interior comfort, which only seems to be a further negative. The RS is too comfortable inside to feel truly racy. The dashboard, on the other hand, is perfectly minimalist and styled to the car’s character, while heated leather seats add to the look.

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Features

The Clio RS offers paddle shift technology, to facilitate gear changes and keep the drivers’ hands on the wheel having engaged the two driving modes: Sport and Race. From a simple touch of a button the driver can adjust the transmission, steering and accelerator sensibility to make the ride more exciting. That is one of those technology details we actually do like on these little racing cars.

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Safety and Security

Sport pedals, Anti-Slip Regulation and Electric Stability Program improve the driving experience; Halogen and LED lights illuminate the track ahead; and light and rain sensors, ABS brakes and emergency braking assistance maintain safety. For the family market, Isofix technology ensure maximum safety when installing car seats, a slightly unusual addition to the hot hatch. The Day Running lights, the primary function of which is to make the car more visible, also generate instant brand recognition because of their distinctive shape.

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Final Verdict

Ultimately, the RS is distinctive and no other Clio will be released onto the Mexican market. It is clearly not just designed as a mass-production compact, and buyers will have to absorb a huge price tag to achieve exclusivity. The big question is, who is the audience? This car seems to price younger buyers wanting a fun driving experience out of the market, yet is not large enough to merit the “family car” label, nor is it true enough to the sporty character to attract much attention as a second or weekend car. Adding to the case against the Clio RS, Renault is not well-known in this segment. The brand has taken a huge leap of faith hoping to capture the public’s attention and has perhaps tried to please too many demographics. Predictions are uncertain, and all of the Mexican automotive industry will be looking forward to seeing if Renault’s huge gamble pays off in sales.

At a Glance

  • Make: Renault
  • Model: Clio RS
  • Engine: 1.6 liter 4-cylinder
  • Power: 200 hp at 6,000 rpm
  • MPG: 29/53 mpg
  • Top Speed: 142 mph
  • 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds
  • Renault Bass Reflex acoustics
  • Vehicle Proximity Radar
  • Rear view camera
  • Cruise control
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