What is it?
At last, the Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy has become part of the furniture. The Trophy was the beefiest version of the Clio RS range, but only available as a special edition. Now, accompanying a mild facelift of the Clio in general, it’s a regular part of the line-up. And, following a brief sojourn on a track in France, this is the first time we’ve had a steer in the UK.
Mild facelifts don’t get much milder than this one. There’s a new front bumper, which gets some signature RS driving lights, as well as a new design of alloy wheel and a titanium Akrapovic exhaust system on the options list.
Otherwise, mechanically things are as they were. With 217bhp, the Trophy makes 20bhp more than the regular Clio RS, while it sits 20mm lower at the front and 10mm lower at the rear. Our first go in this car was on a dry, smooth, small circuit in France a couple of months ago. Well, now it’s getting the autumnal roads of the home counties.
What's it like?
For the most part, the RS 220 Trophy is an engaging, enjoyable hot hatchback. It’s pretty firm on British roads – and feels even more so compared with the Ford Fiesta ST200, whose own dampers were recently revised to give it a softer ride – but taken in isolation, you don’t worry about that a great deal. Body control is terrific.
The chassis in general, in fact, is a strong point, which is no great surprise, given the pedigree of Renault Sport’s engineers. It grips strongly, has high levels of agility and is even a bit adjustable, although only to any great extent on a circuit.
What’s frustrating about this generation of the Clio RS remains, though. The EDC dual-clutch automatic gearbox means there’s no manual option and, although its shifts are fine, there’s no great level of interaction there. The turbocharged 1.6-litre engine zings happily enough at the top end but, again, the Fiesta has more rort about it. And when it comes to the steering – that ultimate deliverer of feedback and communication – the Clio’s rack is still less involving and rewarding than – yes, again, sorry – that darned Ford. But it's also, by my reckoning, inferior to that of, the DS 3 Performance, a car I have quite a soft spot for and which I think steers particularly nicely.
When the Clio was revised, it got some better interior materials, infotainment and switches, and they make their way in here too. They’re all worthwhile improvements – albeit small ones. None changes the intrinsic character or overall perceived quality of this five-door hatchback, which, to its credit, disguises the bulk of its extra doors well compared with its three-door rivals. So if you do need to put munchkins or a pet on the back seat, the Clio, slightly surprisingly, is the hot hatchback you’ll be wanting. That’s not quite what Renault Sport was about, though.
Should I buy one?
The RS 220 Trophy is a good car, make no bones about it. It’s grippy, quick and relatively enjoyable. Trouble is, ‘relatively enjoyable’ is not what we’ve come to expect from a Renault Sport product, and there is always that glaring, unavoidable comparison to be made with the Fiesta ST. Which means the Clio is perennially fighting it out for second place in this class with the DS 3 Performance and the Peugeot 208 GTI.
Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy
Location Hertfordshire; On sale Now; Price £22,030; Engine 4 cyls, 1618cc, turbo, petrol; Power 217bhp at 6800rpm; Torque 192lb ft at 2000rpm; Kerb weight 1204kg; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; 0-62mph 6.6sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 47.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 135g/km, 22%; Rivals Ford Fiesta ST200, DS 3 Performance