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Road Tests

2006 Renault Clio Sport: First Look

By Feann Torr - 8/Mar/2006

2006 Renault Clio Sport

2006 Renault Clio Sport

2006 Renault Clio Sport

Powered by a new 2.0-litre engine, the Clio
Sport generates 147kW of power and goes
from  0-100km/h in less than 7.0 seconds

2006 Renault Clio Sport

17-inch wheels and a new suspension system
will give the new-look Clio even better handling

2006 Renault Clio Sport

The air vents behind the front wheels are
not just cosmetic - they vent hot air from
the engine bay, keeping the engine cool

2006 Renault Clio Sport

The rear diffuser negates the need for a roof spoiler,
reducing rear end lift by creating a suction effect

The Geneva Motor was a hot bed of fiery hatch back models (not to mention the odd super car) with a number of stove hot hatch backs being unveiled, including the powerful Mazda3 MPS and the Peugeot 206 RCup.

Renault added to the recent surge in activity within the compact performance market segment,  announcing its new Clio Sport to the world, displaying a dynamic new look and a beefed up 2.0-litre engine, which it claims has the highest specific power output of its category.

Called the Clio Renaultsport in Europe, the new vehicle features a modified version of the revvy 16-valve 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, taking power from 182 to 197hp, which translates to about 147kW.

Having driven a number of Renault's Clio Sport models in the past (reviews here and here) and having been very impressed with their tenacious attitudes, I was naturally very excited about the prospect of a new 147kW model, and it looks great to boot.

While Honda's 2.0-litre engines powering its go-fast Integra cars have always been quite powerful, the difference here is that Renault's new engine generates significantly more torque than the Japanese cars - to the tune of 215Nm @ 5500rpm.

Delivering 147kW (197hp) @ 7250rpm and maximum torque of 215Nm @ 5550rpm, the new Clio Sport will reach 100km/h from standstill in 6.9 seconds, which is quite something for a nat-atmo hot hatch.

Renault insists that this new engine has two sides. The one below 5000rpm makes everyday driving a cinch, but when the revs rise beyond that figure it really starts to perform, unleashing what the French car maker calls a 'performance bark'.

With almost 100 ponies per litre, the new engine will be the benchmark 2.0-litre, 16-valve powerplant until Peugeot returns fire with the next-gereation 207 GTI. 

Generating a considerable punch for a naturally aspirated powerplant, Renault has upgraded the TL4, 6-speed manual transmission, which can now cope with 240Nm, to ensure the power gets to the front wheels, and will be handy just in case any owners decide to soop-up their motors. As mentioned, the 0-100km/h requires 6.9 seconds, while the Clio Sport takes 27.5 seconds to complete a (standing start) kilometre, while top speed is 215km/h (134mph).

Another feature we're all quite excited about is the car's improved stability. Having already proven itself as a very confident car in any given corner, the next generation model features a 10mm longer wheelbase, which will contribute to overall stability. Of more import however, are the increases in track at the front and rear, where new single-piece stub axles have been lengthened in order to widen the rear track.

Compared to the previous model Clio (Clio III) the width between the front wheels has increased by 48mm and by 50mm at the rear, adding to the car's ability to track through corners while promoting mid-corner grip, which should make the new Clio Sport even more fun to drive at full tilt.

Other modifications to the snappy-looking new Clio Sport include a double-axis strut system, which replaces the oft-used MacPherson strut suspension architecture that props up the front wheels. Renault says it "guarantees precision and optimal traction in all situations". Could this be yet another empty marketing claim or something more? We'll have to wait until we drive it for the definitive answer... 

This new double-axis suspension array is made from aluminium components to keep weight to a minimum, while at the rear a new programmed deflection torsion beam suspension setup has been refined to offer more strength and durability. 

With the employment of a new 30mm anti-roll bar, Renault reckons the overall stiffness of the Sport's aft suspension has been improved by 25%, which should keep the tail end following the front with even more obedience than before. Grip levels are heading north too, as the Clio Sport gets 17-inch wheels as standard for the first time, shod with what the French automaker calls "generously dimensioned" tyres - 215/45 R17s.

Brakes? They've been upgraded too. And with Italian Brembos, no less! This will be awesome, giving the little Frenchman a massive increase in deceleratory prowess, and when combined with the new suspension, the more powerful engine, the wider track and sticky rubber, the new Clio Sport may well raise the compact hatch performance bar to levels that were impossible just a few years ago. Getting back to the brakes, and the anchors are derived from the Mégane Sport, featuring 312mm diameter cross-drilled front discs with bad-assed Brembo 4-pot callipers and 300mm diameter discs at the rear.

Of course, performance is one thing, but you've got to like the look of what you drive to get the maximum enjoyment, and with the new Clio Sport, Renault has done a fairly good job. Up front there's a new-look bi-sected grille design that flows into the headlight clusters, lending the front end a sportier cowl, while the new engine demands increased oxygen levels, which called for much a wider air dam in the front apron, flanked by tastefully blistered fog lights.

Side skirts run between the front and rear wheels, and if you look closely you'll notice that there's even small extractor vents behind the front wheels, which, according to Renault, perform a number of functions. Most obviously, they help vent hot air from the engine bay, keeping the engine cool and running at optimal temperatures. These extractor vents on the front quarter panels also create a "direct air flow along the sides of the car to further enhance performance" according to Renault.

One gets the feeling that Renault is most pleased with the design of rear of the car, which features a "striking innovation" in the form of a air diffuser or air splitter, that was apparently derived from Formula 1. Renault explains it better than I ever could: "The diffuser's purpose is to prevent rear-end lift and maintain stability at high speed by channelling air flow in such a way to increase the suction effect. The radius of the diffuser's curve is engineered to create a zone of low pressure beneath the car. The downforce generated by the diffuser means there is no need for a rear spoiler to counter the phenomenon of lift. For optimal stability, the system reduces lift by a factor of three and produces the equivalent of 40kg of rear downforce at very high speeds." A diffuser that's not just a cosmetic accessory - I like that.

The twin exhaust pipes are almost hidden within the new rear diffuser. The flush fitted outlets are housed within the outer channels and are positioned thusly so they don't hamper aerodynamic efficiency. Unfortunately for those people who drive around construction sites and on roads with lots of smashed glass, the redesigned rear end meant that a flatter floor was needed to incorporate the new exhaust system, meaning the spare tyre is gone, replaced by a couple of tyre repair aerosols.

Renault's designers have given the interior a new look to match its maturing exterior style, and will feature optional Recaro sports seats for the first time, which in addition to the Brembo brakes give the car some imported-goods credibility. Other sporty bits include aluminium pedals, a perforated leather steering wheel and the rev counter incorporates a gear change light when the revs get close to 7500rpm.

With more power, better handling and some very slippery bodywork, the new Clio Sport makes a very positive first impression, and will be built at Renault's Dieppe factory in France, where the turbocharged Mégane Sport is built. European and UK deliveries are expected in the northern summer, around the start of June (winter Down Under) and though Renault Australia don't have a concrete release date just yet, it expects the pocket rocket to arrive locally in early 2007.

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