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Looking leaner and sounding meaner, Renaults new Clio 172 Cup is aiming for the high-performance big time. The flyweight challenger is on a mission to crown itself hot hatchback champion, delivering a knockout blow to rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R and forthcoming Ford Focus RS, and even giving the V6-engined Clio a real fright.
The task of becoming a world favourite is not going to be easy, but the new Cup is well equipped for it - as we found out in this special first drive.
Based on the highly regarded Renaultsport Clio 172, the Cup combines decent value for money with plenty of power and unique looks. Priced from only £12,995, the newcomer has been built by the firms competition arm, and many of these models will find their way on to race tracks. Unique alloys and bright blue paintwork distinguish it from lesser models, while closer inspection reveals a distinctive rear spoiler and a front bumper fitted with a deeper dam.
Look inside and its clear nothing has been allowed to compromise the Clios turn of speed. Theres no air-con, while in the rear theres a simple bench. The front window glass is also thinner, and Renault claims it has fitted less soundproofing. Even the stowage bin usually found under the passenger seat has been removed, as have the floor mats.
Cloth upholstery replaces the half leather used in the £15,095 Clio 172. Although it feels a little cheaper to the touch, it proves equally as supportive once you are behind the wheel. A new-look dashboard has also been fitted, complete with body-coloured inserts. Aluminum trim on the gearknob and steering wheel completes the package.
Fire the engine and its clear this Clio is a hard-edged machine. The exhaust sounds louder and the throttle feels much more responsive thanks to a series of modifications made to the engine management system.
Slot into first gear, and the clutch feels a little more aggressive, too, mainly because of the faster revving engine. Thanks to the weight reduction, acceleration is strong low in the range, and builds rapidly as revs rise.
Capable of sprinting from 0-60mph in only 6.8 seconds, the 172 Cup is the fastest four-seat car available for less than £20,000. Weighing in at only 1,021kg, the Clio offers 168bhp per ton. By comparison, Hondas acclaimed Civic Type R offers a mere 166bhp. As the road gets more testing, its clear the Renault is not simply about straight-line speed, either, and some subtle but significant changes have been made to the suspension to enhance the handling. Firstly, the cars footprint on the road has been increased, with wider axles front and rear. The chassis has also been modified to improve turn-in and mid-corner stability.
The suspension has not just been firmed-up, however - the spring and damper combination is now more subtle than before, and the Clio absorbs bumps with ease. Steering feel is improved, too, and offers a near-constant stream of information to the driver.
Youll need to hold on tight at speed. The lowered suspension has increased the 172s tendency to follow imperfections on the road, as have the new tyres, which are built to take greater loads. This constant movement is no bad thing, however, and actually adds to the sense of drama behind the wheel. The competition feel is further enhanced by the lack of ABS, which has been removed to keep weight and costs down. The brakes are powerful, but require careful use if you are to avoid locking up when using them hard.
The result is a car that is far easier to drive quickly than the notoriously twitchy V6 version. Safety hasnt been ignored, however, with Renaultsport offering driver and passenger airbags. And a roll-cage is always an option!
Clearly some big changes have been made to the Clio Cup, and its thanks to these modifications that it has more character than ever. The result is a vehicle which is incredibly involving to drive, and easily one of the most thrilling hot hatches weve tried this year. Dan Strong
I think you have all got it wrong. The impression given here is that you look down on the car because it is cheaper and therefore is within the range of a buyers bracket that you do not seem to want to be aligned with. You seem to want to keep the price up to keep oafs away from the car and therefore you put it down. Snobbery is not a virtue.
If this is a Renuault marketing ploy, then so be it, but what it comes down to is CHOICE. People now have a choice. If they do not want all the goodies of a £15K 172, then they do not have to have them. If you wanted the 172, but not certain standard items, would you ask a dealer to remove them and reduce the price accordingly in the same manner as adding options to the standard 172 so the price goes up, before negotiation.
Personally, I can afford any new car I want up to probably a new 911 Turbo. Why do I not have one??,,,,, because I CHOOSE not to. The cars I have now are the one that I personally like and therefore want. I have choice. If another comes along that I want, I will get it. I do not care what people say. I do not care about the kudos value of certain keys fobs, I like what I like.
To this end, I CHOOSE the Cup over the "loaded version" (if you guys want it this way)because it meets my expectations and needs.
I believe the CUP is a marketing ploy having said that though it is one of the best performing hot hatches for under 13k, It doesnt have the air-con or xenon lamps etc but look at the likes of Peugeot with the 306 GTi (not the GTi 6) and the 306 Rally maybe a Peugeot marketing ploy ? or just some good ol fun.
I am not that bigger fan of the Cup thats why I didnt wait for it to come out. I like my creature comforts in the same way you would go for the 306 GTi in lou of the 306 Rally but I respect peoples choices as maybe they wont need it for everyday use and use it for a toy on the track !
Choice. A good thing. Im a car nut and love my Willy I. I also have had some great cars over the years. Some of my favourites were stripped out homologation specials. And one of these made the Cup look absolutely luxurious. But it was a ball to drive.
It was a Porsche 911 SCRS, #20 of 20 built. No sound deadeners, alloy wings, coilovers, short gears, mechanical injection, thin glass, no back seats, completely stripped, they even left off the glove box door!
I dont care about ICE, NAV, Sunroof, A/C, ABS, xenon etc., and Im glad I dont have to buy all that stuff just to get a great little car. And it is cheaper as well. No complaints here!
mmm .. its difficult to say but i feel i maybe swaying in favour of the cup.... come to think of it no air con or abs isnt that bad !! i mean if u live in the UK then aircon isnt that important, and sometimes i feel that ABS can be over rated .... but then again i do still feel that this is an enthusiasts car !! it would be a waste for someone to buy this car if there were just doing daily work commuting or poor annual mileage ..... not only that but maybe (and i mean MAYBE) renault have sorted out some build qaulity issues with the cup (did they have time to get feedback from the mk2), i gues well have to give it a few months ..!! u see i might be getting a CTR ...if i do buy then initially i wont be getting aircon ...so that makes it only have one thing that the cup hasnt and thats ABS ..!! can i live without that ...oh yes ... but i think i would still like to own a car where at least i can have an option to get aircon ..and i know that the build qaulity and residuals will be in favour of Honda....but if i am in a situation of choosing a Cup or a 172 ...i think it would down to a test drive to be honest !!
Basically it sounds as if the Cup is a slightly more focussed, sharper, faster, more dynamic tool than the standard 172. That is exactly what I am looking for. I have no interest in the "creature comforts" that others are so attached to-not in this particular car. It sounds as if it is simply a better drivers car than the 172, and that is to me a good thing, after all the 172 is pretty good itself.
After an EVO6 and an ITR, this sounds like its right up my street. I didnt even bother to install a radio in the EVO, so who cares if it has air con etc.
My understanding is that the Clio 172 Cup has been made so that Renault can take part in Group N racing. Apparently they have to produce at least 2500 vehicles to do that. Also on a race car you dont want Air Con, ABS, etc !!
in group n racing, you use the production version....and the normal 172 is just that....you can take out the aircon and stuff, but modifying the engine (to a point) is not allowed. neither is suspension mounting points, drivetrain, injection system and location of main components.
If the 172 CUP were for homologation, dont you think that they would of made it 190bhp!!! glass fibre or all alluminium, better brakes etc etc.
the evo is used in group N, and they dont have aircon in the rally car!
you can remove interior parts bar the dash (and in some cases the door trim), and safety fixtures are onbligatory.
I spose what will limit the choice on the car is that of the insurance.
Personaly, Insured on a; New 911 4s, BMW M5, Cooper S, 172 Sport, Golf 1.8T, oh and a standard new cooper. My fleet at the age of 20, i too can buy any car, but i love them fully loaded with all the mod cons ...so the 172 Cup is not for me.... (For mr 172Cup) lol.
Well, the only reall comparison i can make, is against the Golf 1.8T, and the Cooper S.... The cooper s to drive around town, and the golf is a lot smoother, pulling away from junctions etc....but they really dont have what the 172 has about them..... I got the golf 1.8T end of last year, then got the 172, then the Cooper S... So you can see my method of replacement. Just keapt them all.
Sounds like the same spec as mine Andy apart from the sat nav and it sounds like you have opted for the R-90 wheels.
A nice cheeky 2 grands worth of kit they are.
Have you or are you going to be upgrading to a "works" version? I have my name down and it should hopefully going in to get a dose of power in January.
Na, i only got it because i could have the first. Bit of a gimic really. I am on good terms with BMW, buying so many cars from them. The car never gets used. May sell it soon, and replace it with an M Coupe or somthing.
I fancy going for the M Coupe someday. Cant insure it at the moment.
Think the next car will be an M3 though in a couple of years or so as I should be on the way to settling down by then and I dont think a mini is the car!!!
"Thanks to its driving performance, this "Jean Ragnotti" special limited
edition of the Clio Renault Sport 2.0 16V will satisfy the most sporting of
motoring enthusiasts and offer a privileged starting point for amateur rally drivers in the Group N category, offering its particularly competitive
performance credentials at an equally competitive price."
This is from an official Renault France press release dated 1st August 2002 !!