WHEN DOES a hot hatch become just too hot? Drivers may soon get the chance to find out, when the Renault Clio, one of the smallest hatchbacks on the road, is fitted with the most powerful engine of any car its size.
Amid the glitz and glamour in the build-up to the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of last month, the French car maker revealed the Clio Renault Sport RS16, a hyper-hatchback that promises to put the boom into va-va-voom. Its 2-litre turbocharged engine bangs out 271bhp, which makes the Clio the most potent car in its class.
Renault says the RS16 was developed by a “commando unit” inspired by a tearaway from the company’s past: the Clio V6. The crack team was given just five months to build one of the wildest pint-size cars of all time.
Rather than develop a car from scratch, which would push the price sky high, the special ops team looked at what parts were available off the shelf. Its approach was to take the best bits of the Mégane Renault Sport 275 Trophy-R — engine, gearbox, brakes and various electronic systems — and crowbar them all into the smaller car.
To pack everything in, the designers had to widen the body and fashion a body kit that would keep the car stable at high speed. Its wheelarches are 60mm wider than in a standard hot Clio, the wheels are 19in alloys and the rear wing provides an additional 40kg of downforce at 125mph. Side skirts and decals complete the Asbo look.
Inside, the RS16 has sport seats with six-point racing harnesses; to save weight, creature comforts such as air-conditioning and back seats have been removed, a tried-and-tested approach when it comes to making specialist models such as this.
Renault has not revealed performance figures for its hottest Clio yet. Or, indeed, a price. However, fans of fast hatchbacks who are at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 23-26 will be able to see the RS16 in action as it tackles the West Sussex estate’s celebrated hillclimb.