The Clio RS 200, Gordini with a kick


By Philip Hedderman

Call me a fashion dinosaur, but I’ve never been one for designer stuff.

All too pretentious for my liking, Dahling

So you’ll forgive me for not getting too excited about the rebirth of the Renault Gordini range.

Snazzy go faster stripes and swanky interior isn’t nearly enough to get this thrill seeker’s blood up

Now, to the masses they are more than little touches and include among other tweaks, Maltablue leather trim on the steering wheel complete with white stripes, 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.

Terrific, but other than look delicious is it just an ordinary model in a designer suit?

Yes, I’m afraid so.

You see, Gordini does not necessarily mean hot hatch any more – just mere styling.

It is offered as a package on several models across the range as an ‘upgrade’.

Now that’s fine for the fashionistas, but real performance fans could be left cold by this decision.

But don’t despair.

Thankfully, there is a happy medium  … and it’s called Renaultsport.

Now, throw those must-have accessories onto a Clio RS 200 and you’re suddenly the hottest totty in town – Big Style.

First, a little history lesson on the house of Gordini.

Named  after the famous French racing driver Amédée Gordini  who competed in Formula One from 1950-56 the styling, especially the distinctive blue paint and the silver twin stripes, has become synonymous with the French marque’s sport division ever since.

Nick-named The Sorcerer, he went on to work for Renault as an engine tuner and entered cars inLe Mans24 hours throughout the 60s.

Renault bought Gordini out in ’62 and went on to put theDauphine, Renault 8 and Renault 12 into production.

The last Gordini badge rolled off the line in 1980 and the legend went into storage until last year when it was awoken from its slumber in the guise of the Twingo RS.

Breaking with tradition, the iconic brand now came in Pearlescent Black or Malta Blue and a more affordable non Renaultsport 1.2 litre version was also on offer.

Some felt that the Gordini name had been diluted by offering the styling without the racing pedigree, but to many more it was an attractive proposition and now accounts for 27% of Clio Renaultsport sales.

In the interest of impartiality we have driven both the Clio RS 200 Gordini and the Wind Gordini-style.

First out of the blocks is the RS 200 which is a face-lifted and more powerful (3bhp) on the savagely superb Clio 197 Cup.

To be fair, the 200 is about a lot more than the three extra horses, with more torque (20% more) and shorter second and third gear ratios giving it the added grunt the Cup lacked.

In layman’s terms that is translated into 197bhp that will rocket you from 0-100kph in under 7 seconds and bottoming out at just under 240kph.

It’s leaner and meaner too – averaging 35mpg while emitting 195g/km, which sees annual road tax at €630.

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

And the RS 200 is extra special.

I favoured it over the DS3 Racing a couple of weeks ago and that was down to what I termed the controlled madness.

From the time the hammer drops the power, torque and sheer propulsion is choreographed to the millisecond as the little imp snarls up the gears – leaving everything standing.

The sound the 2.0 litre 4 pot makes is pure magic as it gathers momentum octave after octave hitting a growling crescendo at 7,500rpm – telling you it’s time to gear up.

The savagery and power seems endless and it’s akin to being in hysterics laughing only to have the guffaws ratcheted up an extra notch while you gasp for breath.

Handling is absolutely delightful with crisp, precise and engaged steering.

Never once did the little hot hatch not respond or hit the exact mark the driver intended and the braking power, thanks to the massive callipers which are almost the entire depth of the front disks is second to none.

Body roll and under steer are practically non existent since Renault engineers stiffened the chassis by 15% – giving it even more agility.

Subtle but remarkable improvements on what was already a king amongst hot hatches.

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 tiresome on long commutes.

Moving into the Gordini-styled Wind and the aforementioned little gripes are absent as is the power, grip, handling and thrill.

That’s down to the simple fact that despite the very fancy wrapping it is the same drive as its quirky little brother.

The 1.2 litre 100bhp petrol unit is not going to set the world on fire or break any land speed records.

Nope, this is a cruiser – designed to give the driver maximum exposure to envious eyes.

And what better way than in head-to-toe designer gear.