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Renaultsport are losing their magic touch

Not that long ago, if a manufacturer wanted a hot hatch to aim towards, they didn't need to look any further than the plainly named Renaultsport. Since the late nineties, Renaultsport have been churning out true gems, but their sporting pedigree can be traced back decades before that; back to the heydays of wacky Gordinis from the sixties.

In 1999, the Clio RS was introduced. It was packed with 167bhp and allowed for a very playful nature to the car; something that would become a common theme to the Renaultsport line-up. Along came 2003 with the Megane RS, offering around 220bhp and a very sophisticated chassis for maximum cornering ability.


Of course, the Clio and Megane were refreshed with new offerings in 2005 and 2008 respectively, but none of that Renaultsport magic was lost. To put it simply, they both had a good chassis, a crisp gearbox and nothing to get in the way of the driver. Just how a hot hatch should be.
The second generation was an absolute animal

But as 2012 was heading towards the end, the Clio was refreshed again. Fair enough, the design was becoming very dated, and what was revealed at the Paris Motor Show certainly rectified that somewhat. Despite appearing as though it had pigged out on one too many biscuits, the new Clio certainly looked the part with its classic yellow paintjob and black wheels. What a shame the rest of the car couldn't match the previous Clio…
It looks alright, but that's about it

As I have just mentioned, if you are going to make a good hot hatch you need the key ingredients: the good chassis, the snappy gear changes and minimal driver distractions. Whilst the new Clio certainly passes for the first part of that checklist (the steering is sharp, and the suspension is well balanced), the same can't be said for the rest according to countless reviews. That is a proper, proper shame if you ask me.
Firstly, never mind the new Clio RS not having snappy gear changes, there just isn't a manual ‘box full stop. That’s right, this is a 200bhp hot hatch that can only be specified with an automatic gearbox. You can almost hear the petrolheads weeping from a mile away. The gearbox itself isn't too bad, but it’s nowhere near DSG good. But even if the gearbox was the best in class, you still couldn't override the fact that it’s still an auto in a drive-focussed car.
Oh my good god, that is ugly

The second hurdle that the new Clio falls on is driver engagement. This may not come as such a surprise these days, because we live in an age where some cars are able to drive themselves with ease (yes I’m looking at you, Mercedes S-Class). But in a hot hatch, there really shouldn't be a beep that sounds identical to a microwave oven to tell you when to change gear. The concept sounds alright: the beep goes off so you don't have to peer down to your rev-counter and you can keep your eyes on the track. In reality, the beep goes off way too early and I don't think Renault could've chose a more annoying noise if they tried.
Not to mention, the electric steering lacks the wow factor. It can be adjusted, but you'd be far stretched to find good fun from it. And I’m sorry, but when you're pitching your car against the giant that is the Ford Fiesta ST, you can't afford to use an auto and you can't afford to play fake engine noises through the speaker system.
However, there is a glimmer of hope that may be showing Renaultsport still know who they are; they have a Megane in the works set to smash the Nürburgring record for front-wheel-drive cars. I seriously hope they keep making 'ring smashers rather than fat automatic autos, because this world needs a gem like Renaultsport. 
This post originally appeared on motorpaper.co.uk, written by me on the 8th May 2014. Check the site out for future content!
Renaultsport are losing their magic touch Renaultsport are losing their magic touch Reviewed by Jack Cooper on 13:31 Rating: 5

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