This car was the replacement for a 280 bhp Legacy, for which the petrol bills had become monstrous with the price rises recently. I didn't want to lose it, but was forced to sell in the end - so the replacement had a hard job on its hands. That is the background to this review!
I wanted something with some power, also fun to drive, that would be affordable on the petrol.
Having decided on a hot Clio - it scored over other shortlisted possibilities because of the clean, purposeful design - I narrowed it down to a 182 Cup or a phase 1 172. The phase 1 Clio was rather lighter than the phase 2 facelift, and handled more nimbly. The later stripped-out Cup version was an attempt by Renault to replicate the handling of the phase 1 by reducing weight. I drove both, and preferred the driver involvement of the 172; also it was less expensive, so I could afford to replace the cambelt and tyres immediately.
Getting into the car, the leather upholstery is a nice touch that gives a good impression straight away. The dials and controls are well laid-out, and the driving position adjusts well to suit both me (tall, but with short legs) and my wife (just short!). I find it very comfortable on long journeys - even though the ride is firm, the seats are well designed and offer excellent support.
This car is French, so of course you get three separate buttons for the horn! One minor niggle is that there are very few cubby-holes for stowing bits and pieces away, but I have got used to that.
Visibility is excellent all round.
Although there are are only two doors, it is nonetheless easy to manage a small child and a baby with their seats - a big plus.
The car is easy to drive around town, and doesn't mind being an urban run-around when it needs to be. On motorways, it cruises comfortably and has enough power to accelerate out of situations when the need arises, although it starts to run out of serious acceleration at 80 or 85 mph - although of course that's not relevant in the UK! But it comes into its own on B-roads. Once you have become used to the torque steer, it's a joy to drive. The wide track and beautifully thought-out suspension setup make the most of the VVT power band (rather like a turbo boost) that goes from 4000 rpm, but really kicks in at 5000 rpm. It has serious power just where you need it for overtaking, 45 - 60 mph.
In ten months of ownership, it has proved very reliable given its age. It always starts first time, even on icy mornings. And the build quality is much better than I had expected, given Renault's reputation in that department!
All in all, I knew that whatever I had after my Subaru would be a disappointment. But I was wrong. This Clio of course doesn't have the same raw power and speed - or 4WD. But - and I almost feel disloyal saying this - it's very fast all the same, and much more fun to drive. And SO much nicer to look at on the drive!