Review: 2018 Renault Sport Clio 18 F1

A bold statement!

By Gordon Hall

“Mon Dieu! What was that? An automobile, I think. I definitely saw headlights, side windows and tail lamps. Apart from that it was small, seductively rounded and clothed all in black – although I imagine I caught one or two tiny flashes of yellow. There were no identifiable markings and as it flashed by there was no roar, scream or whoosh. It rasped. What can it be?”

There it was at the next fuel stop and restaurant, lightly covered in road dust and ticking gently as its 1600 cc, turbocharged engine cooled. The recently passed travellers recognised the mystery car as a Renault Clio.

No ordinary Clio

But no ordinary Clio. Apart from grey pennants proclaiming RS 18 on each side and a yellow double-diamond motif, followed by the letters “RS”, on its roof there were no other markings. Until they stood really close, that is. The Renault diamond is there, proudly centred in the grille, with RS lettering below it.

Walking around behind and looking really carefully, they could just discern Renault Sport on the left and RS to the right. The text is, appropriately, glossy Diamond Black on Diamond Black. No need to follow the Teutonic vanity of deleting identity markers, is there?

The overwhelming darkness is relieved slightly by a narrow Liquid Yellow stripe running across its front blade and around the fog lamps, with side flashes and wheel centres in the same colour. There is no colour range. This is it. Built in limited quantities to celebrate 50 years of Renault Sport, 25 of Clio RS and honouring the similarly attired 2018 Renault Formula One car, it makes a bold statement.

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Because it’s distinctive it demands a special engine; Renault’s 1618 cc M5M, all-aluminium turbocharged and intercooled motor with twin variable valve timing, mirror finishes on crankshaft – and camshaft journals and offset cylinder placement to help them slide more easily.

Also called Nissan MR16DDT and fitted to Juke Nismo, it was an in-house family effort. The bottom line is 162 kW (220 PS) at 6050 rpm and 260 Nm from 2000 rpm. Overboost, available only in fourth and fifth gears, ups this to 280 Nm. It’s capable of zero to 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds with a top whack of 235. Fuel economy (with performance like this, do you really give a rats’ ass?) is a claimed 5.9 l /100 km on the combined cycle.

Black leather trim grabs the attention in this stunning interior.
Pictures: Quickpic

The only transmission available is Renault’s six-speed EDC (efficient dual clutch) unit with manual override via stick or paddles. A special free-flow “muffler” by Akrapovic, the Slovenian performance exhaust systems manufacturer, supplies deep breathing and rasping sounds to share.

Reining it in

Reining it in are big disc brakes; ventilated 320 x 28 mm in front and solid, 260 x 8 mm, units at the rear. Suspension consists of double axis struts up front and a flexible axle with programmed deflection and coil springs at the other end. Electronic assistance consists of ABS brakes with EBA, EBD and ESC with anti-slip regulation.

Other safety kit includes four airbags, three sets of ISOFix baby chair anchors (it is a Clio, Renault’s top-selling family car after all), cruise control with speed limiter, hill start assist, parking distance control front and rear, and anti-submarining seats.

Keeping it sporty

Keeping it sporty is the Cup chassis with suspension lowered by 10mm, and RS Drive with three modes; Normal, Sport and Race. As expected, these change engine, gearshift and steering responses. Race mode shifting takes place only in manual – with paddles. Launch control? Obviously.

Then there’s the RS Monitor that allows your passenger to keep an eye on the car’s performance numbers while you attend to keeping it quickly on track. Functions include a lap timer with memory function; acceleration time read-out; transverse and longitudinal g-forces; data for main engine functions including oil temperature and real-time torque and power outputs. This information can be saved to a flash drive for later review on a computer or for sharing with your instructor. The literature suggests bragging to your mates online, but you wouldn’t be that crass, would you?

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Keeping it convenient are the usual must-haves of powered windows and mirrors, leather seats (warmed in front, naturally), automatic climate control, Renault hands-free access card, push-button starter, on-board computer and LED headlights.

Intelligent technologies include an R-Link® connected 7″ multimedia touchscreen with voice control, radio, TomTom® navigation with SA Maps, audio streaming and Bluetooth® hands-free telephone system, USB and jack ports and 3D Sound with a Renault Bass Reflex® optimised audio system.

Renault SA let us wring it out doing laps around Swartkops Raceway and negotiating a timed gymkhana course on the adjacent skidpan. It was glorious.

Warning: Clio RS 18 could be addictive!

An initial shipment of 60 vehicles will be available through dedicated RS dealers or on order through your local Renault outlet.

Information gathered at a press launch sponsored by the manufacturer
Price: R449 900
Warranty: 5 years/ 150 000 km
Service plan: 3 years / 30 000 km at 10 000 km intervals