When you first catch a glimpse of the 197 Cup, you’re not sure what to think. With its white metallic paint job, black alloys and rear spoiler the Clio looks like it belongs on the set of The Fast And The Furious: Dagenham Drift. Part of you feels embarrassed and too old to clamber inside.
But, given time, and a few glowing comments from passers-by, you’ll soon find yourself in a constant state of glee. If you’re a miserable swine who hates mornings, the 197 Cup will always give you a lift when you look in its direction.
Unfortunately, the grin soon subsides when you enter the cabin. Its stripped-out racer styling means there’s a serious lack of tech on display, although the optional Recaro sports seats at least deserve a round of applause. You’re robbed of air-con, electric windows and keyless entry, all features found on the vanilla Clio 197. You can’t even adjust the reach of the steering wheel.
The saving grace is the presence of a slot-loading CD player, but the controls are unintuitive and it doesn’t sound especially hot. So, it’s not exactly a gadgeteer’s paradise – but how does the Renaultsport 197 perform on the road?
Corner with confidence
The rollercoaster of emotions reaches another peak as you turn the key and the 2.0L engine springs into life. It whizzes, whirs and barks its presence, like a playful pup.
Around town, the Clio gives a good account of itself, winding through traffic and coping well with the pitfalls of manhole covers and pockmarked roads. Get yourself out on country roads and that’s where the Clio bares its teeth. The uprated Cup suspension is firm but fair, the chassis is firmly planted and you’re allowed to corner with immense confidence.
Give it a good thrash
You’ve got to keep the revs pretty high to get the very best out of the Clio’s engine, but who doesn’t like a good thrash now and then? Just one warning: the 197 doesn’t lend itself particularly well to long motorways since the constant high-revving soon becomes tiresome.