Ryan Bubear drives the Clio Gordini Renault Sport...
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The Clio Gordini Renault Sport is strikingly refreshing, in a back-to-the-future sort of way.
It sports an "old school" hot hatch charm, yet has more than enough modern gadgets tucked away to keep you tinkering for ages. Not that you'll want to.
You see, the Clio Gordini RS is built to be driven. Hard. Harder than seven-year-old cheese, even. The level of driver involvement is staggering — and highly uncommon in modern vehicles — and the car just begs to be revved. And then revved some more.
I've driven a number of vehicles more powerful than the Clio Gordini RS, but not many more entertaining. On my first drive home, I didn't bother with the air-conditioning, radio or any secondary settings. Indeed, the peripheries of driving did not matter one bit. Nothing distracted me from the job at hand: simply driving. This "fun factor" is surely one of the hatch's trump cards and makes it the type of car you want to take for a drive despite not actually having a destination in mind. As long as you take a long, smoothly surfaced road, that is...
Yes, the ride is extremely hard. So hard, in fact, that over unusually uneven surfaces you may well end up losing your breakfast all over the dashboard, on your way to the local hospital to get your shattered spine replaced. But find a smooth, twisty road (or, indeed, a track) and you soon realise that it's all worth it. Thanks to the "Cup" chassis and taunt suspension, the Clio Gordini RS sticks to the road like gum to the bottom of your shoe.
Add to that the beautifully weighted steering, a slick little six-speed manual gearbox and, of course, the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated lump lurking under the bonnet, and you have quite the driver's car. The last two words of the previous sentence need to be emphasised. I found that passengers were not as impressed as I was, which again points to driver involvement. Or to the fact that they just clinging on for dear life...
Throttle response is pleasing, and being naturally aspirated, there is no lag when you put your foot down — which you do often. Obviously, the lack of forced induction means that performance suffers a touch at the reef (no problems down here in the Cape, though), but to be honest it was great just to experience an NA hot hatch again. Renault claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.9 seconds, a top speed of 225km/h and a combined fuel consumption of 8.2 litres per 100km.
The 2.0-litre F4R 832, which is shared with the Clio Renault Sport, is a gem. It churns out a peak power of 147.5kW at 7100rpm, and gives you a quick beep as the needle slams into this number to encourage you to change up. Redline is at 7500rpm, and the peak torque of 215Nm is produced at 5400rpm. Large-bore twin-exit exhausts result in a tasty soundtrack once the revs reach the upper portions of the tachometer.
Clio Gordini RS vs Clio RS
The big question though — similar to one that is no doubt asked by those considering the Golf R over the Golf GTI — is this: how does the Gordini differ from the "normal" Clio RS? Well, for starters, it costs R20k more...
So, what do you get for forking over the extra cash? Well, the majority of differences are cosmetic: the Gordini version gets that unmistakable Malta Blue paintwork (it's available only in this trademark racing hue) plus twin white stripes, Gordini leather seats and trim (again, featuring blue and white detail), Renault Sport display, white door-mirrors, a smattering of Gordini badges, and a unique number plaque next to the handbrake. Of course, the Gordini also benefits from the "Cup" chassis mentioned earlier.
The brakes are more than up to hauling the powerful Gordini to a swift halt, and the bright red Brembo callipers peeping through 17-inch black diamond effect "BeBop" alloys hint at its racing credentials. Not that you'd need the hint. The exterior design — in much the same manner as the Clio RS — is not exactly subtle. From the F1-style aerodynamic front splitter (finished in white) to the eye-catching exhaust exits, and air vents behind the front wheels, the styling just screams "race".
Interestingly, Clio accessories — such as the Cup-inspired rear spoiler and chequer decals — are not available on the Gordini.
Inside the cabin, the Clio Gordini RS is obviously very similar to the Clio RS, other than the trim and plaque mentioned above. The Bluetooth system is a breeze to use and my phone was paired in under a minute. The hands-free key card and start/stop button are another handy touch.
A number of other useful features, such as cornering lights, automatic headlights, rain sensor, cruise control, and climate control, come as standard. And included in the price is a five-year or 150 000km warranty and a three-year or 60 000km service plan.
The Clio Gordini RS is the second model to be launched since the legendary tuning name was revived late in 2010, following on from what the French manufacturer dubbed its "giant-killing pocket rocket", the Twingo Gordini RS. The Gordini range is to Renault what the new DS range is to Citroen, the new 500 to Fiat, and the not-so-new Mini to, well, Mini. Purists may be offended by the so-called plundering of these celebrated names, but, truth be told, these purists are not part of the target market.
So, should Renault have tweaked an already-hot Clio RS engine for the Gordini version, as opposed to concentrating on visual twists? Part of me wants to say "yes", but...
As an exhilarating drive that outdoes the majority of its force-fed rivals in the fun factor department, the Gordini doesn't need more power (words I never thought I'd write). "Chuckability" and driver engagement are what it's all about.
And the Clio Gordini RS has both in spades.
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