Pocket rocket packs punch
HISTORY is littered with little inventions that have made a big difference to our lives.
Aspirin, perfected by German chemist Felix Hoffman in 1899 to ease the pain of his father's arthritis, has probably cured more minor ills than any other medicine. The toothbrush is another, credited to an unknown Chinese man, who at the turn of the 15th century was the first to mount bristles at right angles to a handle - sure, the spines were plucked from hogs and set in bamboo but you get the picture.
The light bulb, matches and the zip would be difficult to live without, while the past 50 years has brought the microchip, credit card and iPod.
People of a shorter stature have also left an indelible mark. Think Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa, Yuri Gagarin the Soviet cosmonaut who was the first person to travel in space and orbit the Earth or Charlie Chaplin who ruled the silver screen in the first half of the 20th century. Think Martin Luther King, Pablo Picasso or even Bob Marley.
Dynamite does come in small packages and the Renault Clio Sport RS 200 is a case in point.
Renault has upgraded the interior so the Clio now sports an overall classier feel with quality fittings and good choices in trim. Our Gordini Edition, named in honour of Amedee Gordini who was a cornerstone of the manufacturer's success for two decades, had leather Recaro seats, badged floor mats and white stripes along the bonnet. Seats are very comfortable especially at speed and adjustable for height. The Clio is pretty roomy for a supermini with the boot a surprising 288 litres as standard increasing to 1038 if you engage the 60/40 split. The back seat is still a squeeze and although it will carry an adult, is far better suited to children.
On the road
Unlike most of its competitors, Renault still maintains a strong Formula 1 racing presence and the benefits are there to see in the drive and handling of the RS 200.
The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine is nicely mated to a six-speed manual transmission with a short and precise throw and with 95% of torque available from as low as 3000rpm it is easy to get the best out of the Clio.
This hot hatch is exciting enough on the open road but really comes into its own on steep, windy terrain where there is call to move through the gears quickly, and the song of a throaty engine resonates magnificently. The RS 200 has excellent traction and grip and is great around corners, maintaining exceptional balance. The Brembo four-pot front callipers are certainly not just for show, ensuring an efficient and reassuring braking performance. This is an ideal weekend racing car and should be stretched on a race track.
What do you get?
Safety is out of the top drawer with eight airbags, traction control and ABS brakes with stability control. Creature comforts include climate control, Bluetooth connectivity with MP3 compatibility, hands-free keycard, folding heated door mirrors as well as automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
The RS 200 may prove a popular choice, adding to a competitive segment that features the Mini Cooper JCW ($49,400), Audi A1 TFSI Sport ($42,500), Volkswagen GTI ($38,990) and Peugeot 207 GTI ($32,990).
The RS 200 may be a bit tight for families and while it is doable, it is difficult to load and unload small children. Its pizzazz and great handling is a drawcard for the young and young at heart.
Renault claims 8.2 litres/100km which is okay when you take performance into consideration but less so if you don't.
All sports models come with a three-year/unlimited kms warranty and three-year 24 hours roadside assist.
There is little chance of the RS 200 fading into the background.
Aerodynamics were at the forefront of designers' minds with features like the larger extractor vents behind the front wheels being just one example.
They redirect the hot air from the engine and brakes down the side, reducing turbulence and enhancing performance at speed.
The Clio's squat stance, 17-inch alloys, a no-nonsense rear diffuser and deep front spoiler with aerodynamic blade and racing style splitter combine for one hot look.
There are some cars that are a joy to drive whether you are in snarly morning traffic, zipping along on the open road or negotiating hinterland hairpins.
The RS 200 is one of them. It is not cheap but you get what you pay for.
Take one out for a spin.
Model: Renault Clio Sport RS 200.
Details: Three-door front-wheel drive hot hatch.
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol generating maximum power of 147.5kW @ 7100rpm and peak torque of 215Nm @ 5400rpm.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.8 seconds.
Consumption: 8.2 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: From $38,990.