We would never give up an opportunity to drive a car we’ve never driven before. Even if it is French. So when a friend sold his GT86 to buy a 2002 Renault Sport Clio 172 (and a farm in Wales) we were intrigued.
Everyone loves a hot hatch. What’s not to love about a small, light shopping trolley that can take all four of your friends to the drive-thru after college? But we don’t go to college anymore. We have jobs and are supposedly trying to be adults, so we bought a grown up saloon Subaru. It may not be that small or light, but now we go to McDonald’s listening to turbo noise.
Our friend told us they bought the Clio because it was a good price plus they had found our Subaru underwhelming. We know it’s really an attempt to feel like a teenager again. I mean, “Subaru” and “underwhelming” just don’t fit in the same sentence unless the word “interior” is also present. We met up to compare the two side-by-side.
The first thing we notice about the Clio is the size of our friends smile as he steps out. Clearly it’s not the 02C blue or multi-spoke wheels that they found underwhelming on the Subaru. We joke about our matching missing paint flakes and compare chavviest mods on our under £2000 cars. Our friend wins with the yellow sock hanging out the Clio’s mouth. Because race car.
Our friend is game to swap cars for a few miles, one of the joys of not being a teenager and having drive-any-car insurance. The Clio’s interior is anything but underwhelming, in fact it is bang on trend with this years winter velvet fashion. The entire dash is flocked in cobalt blue and black. It’s like sitting inside a 1970’s pimp’s wardrobe. This matters less once we turn the key. The Clio’s dust bin sized exhaust pops and burbles as we pull away, mental note to buy new pipes for the Scoob.
We have a blast down some lanes, the Clio feels light, relatively fast but twitchy. This Cup edition Clio comes with stiffer shocks and springs plus has a wider track with modified wishbones. Renault ripped out the luxuries like air con, xenon headlights, leather seats and automatic windscreen wipers. Renault then ditched the sound deadening, anti-lock braking and used thinner glass to maximise weight saving. This means the Clio has a cotton wool kerb weight of 1021kg. The addition of aftermarket camber plates on this particular car makes driving this Clio exciting but hard work.
The Clio boasts 172bhp from factory plus it’s owner is convinced a few more have been added through tuning. This makes it fairly evenly matched with our standard luxury laden Subaru (yes, compared to this Clio even the Subaru is luxury). While Subaru occupants can enjoy the whoosh of turbo noise and the gentle rumble of the flat four, Clio occupants are hit with a barrage of intake roar. This sound coupled with the steering twitching at every white line or bump in the road certainly makes you feel like you’re making good progress in the little Renault, but a glance in the rear view mirror will show a Subaru sitting comfortably behind.
All in all the Clio hits the spot when craving that hot hatch feeling. It’s fun, loud, cheap and a bit crazy, but compared to the feeling of coming on boost in the flat four, the grip of the all-wheel drive and of course the air con, we’ll stick with the Subaru. For now.