DRIVEN: Renault Clio RS18 F1

Renault Clio RS’s have always been one of our favourite hot hatchbacks. RS (meaning Renault Sport) is like AMG to Mercedes-Benz and M to BMW. They basically take your normal Renault and turn it all the way up to 11. This was our first taste of RS, and as much as we had a blast in the Clio RS 18, it was a love-hate relationship.

The Love

The styling of the car is quite unique. It’s completely blacked out with a colour scheme that of the Renault F1 team. The yellow accents are placed in the right places that give the car a lot of character. There are more RS 18 and RS badges than you can count and quite noticeable RS decal on the roof. One of our favourite design features on the car is the chequered flag inspired fog lights – beyond epic. The car is a definite head turner since people are not used to seeing such a unique Clio.

The interior is pretty straightforward. Making sure the front passengers are not flung out of their seats during hard cornering, the RS 18 is fitted with supportive and comfortable sports seats – which also happen to be heated. When you step inside you’re also greeted with an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel with controls. Being the top of the range it’s not stingy with standard features. You get parking sensors front & rear, rear camera, cruise control, sat nav, Bluetooth/USB/MP3 connectivity and RS Monitor (a dedicated telemetry tool that controls and measures your car’s performance). The car is relatively practical as I did ferry around three adults with ease (a fourth was going to be pushing it).

Utilizing its launch control function, the RS 18 is simply savage off the line. 

Power comes from a 1.6L turbocharged engine 162kW and 280Nm of torque. Renault claims a 0 – 100 km/h is dealt with in just 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 235 km/h. We believe the 0 to 100 time given by Renault. Utilizing its launch control function, the RS 18 is simply savage off the line. Accompanying the savage acceleration is the distinct sounds of “Vrrrphaa” from its Akrapovic® exhaust system – especially in Sports Mode. It’s on the handling front where the Clio RS 18 F1 shines. The car changes direction pretty well. It rides on stiff Trophy Chassis which has been stiffened even more and a lower ride height. The RS18 F1 doesn’t have a limited slip diff but it has crazy amounts of grip thanks to 18-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and its clever e-Diff (an electronic torque-vectoring system designed to mimic a mechanical limited-slip differential).

Did we mention how good the brakes are? Their pretty damn good. Featuring three drivers modes (Normal, Sport & Race) we opted to use Sport mode because gearshifts were more responsive and making the car more fun to drive quickly. Engaging race modes disables the stability control system, so you have to have your wits about you – especially on greasy roads.

The Hate

The Clio RS18 F1 ride quality.  Because its a Cup Chassis, the ride is very stiff. Using it as a daily driver is just a recipe to the chiropractor to adjust your spine every three days. During our seven days with the car, a simple trip came with five minutes of thinking of a route with the least bumps and uneven surfaces. The gearbox is the best set in Sport or Race mode. Reason being in normal the gearshifts are sluggish on up and downshifts. Another problem is the position of the paddle shifts – they’re in the wrong place. They’re positioned behind the steering column instead of behind the steering wheel.

Don’t get us wrong, its a great car but has some drawbacks that you can’t just ignore considering you’re paying close to half a million rand. 

Only 65 units are allocated for our market. Renault South Africa is hoping that the Clio RS18 F1 will become a collector’s item. Priced at R459 900 its R78 400 more expensive than its main rival, the VW Polo GTi which is priced at R381 500. Given the price difference, the RS certainly has more kit as standard. Don’t get us wrong, its a great car but has some drawbacks that you can’t just ignore considering you’re paying close to half a million rand. We think a hardcore enthusiast would appreciate this car more because of how it handles, and how it’s bound to leave this huge smile on your face.

Specs
Engine: 1.6 litre 4 cyl petrol
Power: 162 kW @ 6050rpm
Torque: 280 N.m @ 2000rpm
Transmission:  Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Acceleration: 0 – 100 km/h 6.6 seconds
Top Speed: 235 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 7.6 L/100km (claimed)
Price: R 459 900

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