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by Jay Traugott
The latest edition of Renault's celebrated hot hatch debuts in Paris with a turbocharger and dual clutches.
It's too bad the Renault brand isn't sold in the US because enthusiasts here are deprived of some of the best hot hatches in the world. The new Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo, making its debut at the Paris Motor Show, is "an innovative response to the highly sophisticated expectation of the compact sports hatchback customer." European drivers are treated to a new direct-injection 1.6-liter turbo four with 200 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 177 pound-feet of torque coming in as low as 1,750 rpm. That's practically idling.
That's mighty impressive for a car with a turbocharger that would otherwise struggle with turbo lag. Overcoming that - and widening the torque band - was clearly a priority for Renaultsport as it implemented forced induction for the first time in a model that was traditionally naturally aspirated. As such, this new engine is more powerful and more fuel efficient than its predecessor, augmented by a brake energy recovery system (not unlike the KERS it developed for the Red Bull and Lotus F1 teams) and variable valve timing. Shifting is handled exclusively by a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox - another first in a car that used to be manual.
As with previous models, buyers will be able to choose between Sport and Cup chassis, the latter being better suited to track day enthusiasts. Renault claims the new Clio RS 200 Turbo delivers excellent road handling, powerful braking, a user-friendly cabin layout, and high quality throughout.
Throw in bucket seats, optional leather, touchscreen nav, Bluetooth, multimedia system and an extensive personalization program and you've got a hot hatch with premium features at an affordable price. Shame Americans can't have it.