| 15.9°C Dublin

Clio RS 200 has finally hit the designer G spot

REAL hot hatch fans will know this is no ordinary Clio ... it's a double edge sword.

Yes, I can hear you wondering whether she's a Clio Renaultsport RS 200 or a fully fledged Gordini?

To the expert eye, subtle clues slowly reveal its identity. Malta Blue paintwork, the twin white racing stripes, enormous brake callipers and twin exhausts at the rear.

Inside the tease continues with indigo leather trim on the steering wheel, matching gear knob, Recaro bucket seats, white clocks, piano black finish on the centre console and 'G' logos everywhere - including an individual serial number on a raised plinth.

Yes folks, this is a Renaultsport Gordini or a football hooligan in a designer suit.

Now the RS 200, which is a face-lifted and more powerful (3bhp) version of the savagely superb Clio 197 Cup is a true combination of substance and style.


But the 200 is about a lot more than the three extra horses, with greater torque (20% more) and shorter second and third gear ratios giving it the added grunt the Cup lacked -- now hitting 0-100kph in under 7 seconds.

It's leaner and meaner too - averaging 35mpg while emitting 195g/km, which sees annual road tax at €1,050 (€1,129 next year).

But it's the drive and handling which makes Renaultsport special.

And the RS Gordini is extra special.

From the time the hammer drops the power, torque and sheer propulsion is choreographed to the millisecond, leaving nothing but a cloud of dust in its wake.

The sound of the 2.0 litre 4 pot is pure magic as it gathers excitement and fear in equal measure ... all the way to 8,000rpm.

Handling is unrivalled with crisp, precise and engaged steering and taut chassis.

Never once did the little hot hatch not respond or hit the exact mark the driver intended. Sheer perfection.

Body roll and under steer are practically non existent since Renault engineers stiffened the chassis by 15% - giving it even more agility, grip and keeping torque steer to a minimum.

The only downside is the suspension which on the flat, especially motorways, gave a choppy ride and the raspy drone from the twin exhausts got louder and somewhat tiresome on long commutes.

Prices for the Clio RS 200 begin at around €28,000.

r Now if that's a bit rich for you, the good news is that Renault are giving buyers a little Budget lift with a promise to keep the Clio Expression at €9,990 on all cars ordered before the end of December.