Long-term test (Introduction): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC
How could any young adult not be excited at the prospect of driving this little attitude-packed black-and-yellow hot hatch with its Akrapovič exhaust system for the next 12 months? We tested the Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy – the car on which this is based – in our July 2017 road test and gave it credit for its exceptional performance and handling but highlighted the EDC transmission as its Achilles’ heel. It was sluggish on downshifts, especially at everyday driving speeds.

Piloting the Clio RS 18 over the past few weeks has confirmed this characteristic but I’m already adapting to its quirks. Managing the transmission in manual mode via the aluminium column-mounted paddle shifters provides problem-free downshifts and makes my commute a little more entertaining. In traffic, it’s easier to keep it in auto but the dual-clutch does sometimes struggle to negate the effects of turbo lag from the 1,6-litre engine.

More likeable is the short gear ratios, offering rapid shifts. However, the engine spins at just above 3 000 r/min at 120 km/h which, combined with a 45-litre fuel tank, means the RS empties its tank quickly. Add its stiffly sprung Cup chassis and the RS 18 F1 does not make for an ideal long-distance tourer; instead I’ll have to embark on excursions in the Western Cape rather than undertaking any major trans-country road trips. The cushy bucket seats do make everyday driving comfortable.

What definitely is on the cards for the Clio RS is track days. With its honed chassis, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and RS Monitor track-infused infotainment system, it would be a crime not to stretch this hot hatch’s legs on some properly surfaced tarmac. With Renault’s permission, I’ll be attending one or two track days at Killarney Raceway. Obviously, Deon Joubert’s lap time of 01:30,90 during our test of the Clio RS 220 Trophy is way beyond my abilities but it’ll be fun to see what this little car can really do.

With just 65 units currently confirmed for SA at R449 900 a pop, the Clio RS 18 F1 is a niche product, with its only rivals being the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Mini Cooper S (tested on page 68) and, to a lesser extent, the Abarth 595 Competizione 1,4T. The Clio RS 200 Cup and 220 Trophy are no longer available in SA, so this is the only hot Clio you can currently get your hands on. With the small hot-hatch segment slowly dying in South Africa, hopefully our time with this Clio RS derivative can reignite a spark of interest.

After 1 month
Current mileage: 1 921 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,79 L/100 km
We like: bad-boy attitude, short gear ratios
We don’t like: slow downshifts

 

Long-term test (Update 1): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC
The Clio has been such a pleasure to drive, the biggest irk so far has been keeping that black paintwork clean. The Western Cape’s water restrictions have seen it caked in a layer of dust. That said, it’s proved a learning experience on how to be more hands-on with general car cleanliness and wiping off dirt spots as I notice them.
Despite all that, the striking black-and-yellow colour scheme has been a real head-turner, with current Clio owners being the most popular demographic to crane their necks, hoping for a second view as the RS races off.

After 2 months
Current mileage: 2 301 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,59 L/100 km

 

Long-term test (Update 2): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC
You’d think a 1,6-litre, four-cylinder engine would be frugal in a small hot hatch but, after having driven the Clio RS a little more than two months and failing to resist the punch offered by the rather sizeable turbocharger, the consumption has settled on 11,49 L/100 km, 4,1 litres more than our fuel-index figures of 7,1. Of course, that figure is also hampered by my commuting, which sees me stuck in urban traffic to and from the office. The odd adventure to a nearby mountain pass makes up for the fuel cost, however.

After 3 months
Current mileage: 2 995 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,49 L/100 km

 

Long-term test (Update 3): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC
As 2019 dawns, this generation Renault Clio enters the seventh year of its lifecycle, which is coincidentally also its last year of production. As per the knockout round on in our January Performance Shootout issue against the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Mini JCW, Honda Civic Type R and the Clio’s Mégane RS 280 Lux stablemate, it’s quite clear the RS is starting to feel its age despite remaining dynamically very capable. At least exclusivity is guaranteed compared to some of the others. In the four months I’ve driven this RS 18 F1, I haven’t seen another one (although that might also have something to do with Renault importing only 65 units).

After 4 months
Current mileage: 4 709 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,76 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 4): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC
Renault prides itself on its involvement in F1, which the French marque references with the nomenclature of this limited-edition model. To find out whether the Clio RS 18 F1 could do its name proud, I put the test unit through its paces during a track day at Killarney Raceway with the assistance of Raceweb’s Speedstar high-performance coaching.

When we were done, I had reduced my lap time to 1:36,30, or about six seconds slower than CAR's race ace, Deon Joubert. The track day obviously shattered the consumption; the Clio averaged 18,57 L/100 km. The Michelin tyres, on the other hand, showed minimal wear but the brake discs took a bit of a surprise beating.

After 5 months
Current mileage:
6 278 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,82 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 5): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC
Over a weeklong getaway during the festive season, the Clio RS was put to the test by acting as our chariot along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Knysna. Due to its stiff Cup chassis and anti-social Akropovic exhaust system, I was expecting the drive to be somewhat intolerable. However, Renault’s little hot hatch held its own on the open road, where it proved to be adept at comfortable cruising.

Considering we set off on Christmas Eve, the roads were remarkably quiet with almost no trucks in our way, negating regular overtaking. Most of my time was spent using the Clio’s cruise control but, on the odd chance I needed to pass a slower- moving vehicle, I had to place the transmission into manual as the EDC transmission can sometimes delay a downshift.

Despite keeping a constant speed for most of the trip, the Clio wasn’t as frugal as I had hoped, posting an average of 8,8 L/100 km (and completely emptying its 42-litre tank on the 480 km drive). This is partly due to top gear being short, with the 1,6-litre turbo- petrol engine spinning away at 3 000 r/min at an indicated 120 km/h. Thanks to an abundance of torque, it could certainly handle a loftier top gear.

On our journey back, the Clio embraced its sporty side throughout the intricate mountain passes along the R62 from Oudtshoorn. In fact, this was the first time I took the RS onto a mountain pass, which allowed me to get a great impression of how the hot hatch feels when it’s in its element.

At this point, all those sports- car attributes which had me worried about its long-distance capabilities came together to create a memorable experience. The engine and snappy dual- clutch transmission (when set to manual) gelled well with the stiff chassis and grippy Michelin tyres, making for a joyous, thrilling sprint.

After 6 months

Current mileage:
9 128 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,56 L/100 km
We like: more comfortable than expected
We don’t like:
not the most frugal chariot

 Long-term test (Update 6): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC

Whenever there’s a Renault or Kia in our long-term fleet, we normally take it to the nearby Imperial multifranchise dealership in Paarden Eiland for servicing, and inevitably we have something to write about... With the Clio RS 18, hoping for a more satisfying experience, I decided to try this dealer network’s alternative in Table View.

My call to book the service was met with efficiency as the dealer- ship was able to book in the Clio RS on short notice. However, this is where the smooth sailing met with a strong headwind. Upon arrival, there were fewer than 10 cars lined up. Despite this, the wait for a service agent to attend to me was an excruciating 30 minutes. I’ve been served faster at longer queues when visiting other dealerships.

Then the wait for a shuttle to transport me back to the CAR offices was an unbelievable three hours. I was forced to keep myself entertained with the morning paper, Twitter and coffee. Some of the other customers were extremely irate, with a few declaring that they would never support the dealership again.

Admittedly, the service did take place in the second week of the year so I suspect some of their staff members were still on leave. Yet, one of the customers had been told to come in on that day as the dealership assured her the service centre would be fully staffed.

Evidently, my time slot was pushed back because, when I called the dealership a bit later in the afternoon (instead of receiving an update, as is customary when taking in a vehicle for a service), I was advised the pro- cess would be completed only at 18h00. I elected to fetch the Clio the following morning.

Despite the inefficiencies, credit to the friendliness of the reception staff. Colleague Nicol Louw wasn’t quite so lucky with the Sorento at the Paarden Eiland branch; more on this next month.

After 7 months
Current mileage:
 9 998 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,58 L/100 km
We like: friendly service experience...
We don’t like:
... although the dealership is inefficient and disorganised

 

Long-term test (Update 7): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC

With the recent reveal of the new Renault Clio 5, I was glad to see the R-Link infotainment system will be replaced. Although the current one was innovative back in 2012, it has not aged particularly well and the mapping software looks a little dated. The new system appears set to address all the concerns. 

To counter some of the current setup’s drawbacks, I’m making more frequent use of Android Auto when driving the Clio. Unfortunately, there isn’t much oddments stowage space and my smartphone can be exposed when I stop at traffic lights. 

After 8 months
Current mileage:
 
10 793 km
Average fuel consumption: 
10,68 L/100 km

 

Long-term test (Update 8): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC

We’ve gone on about how the Clio RS needs a manual option because the EDC ‘box removes some of the interactivity so present in the chassis and engine. Yet, the French manufacturer has confirmed this hot hatch will remain an auto in its next generation. 

It’s a little perplexing because the Clio RS’ bigger brother, the Mégane RS, has always embraced the manual transmission. Having driven the Clio alongside a recent short-term test car, the manual Mégane RS Cup (which posted a time around Killarney; see the June 2019 issue), it only strengthens my opinion an analogue ‘box would be better suited to this car. 

Most of my time with the Clio RS has been spent in manual mode because it makes the transmission more responsive. The EDC can get caught out in day-to-day driving when left to its own devices and, when you’re piloting the hatch with a bit of vigour, the transmission’s occasional reluctance to downshift can irk. 

As I mentioned in a previous update, the new-generation Clio is set for global release in six months. We’ve found with the Mégane RS Lux that the EDC system can be a lot better, so perhaps the next Clio RS will exorcise the gremlins plaguing the current setup.

Much more appealing is this 18 F1 model’s standard-fit Akrapovic exhaust. Realistically, there isn’t a lot of sound you can generate from a production-spec turbocharged four-pot but this little hatch isn’t shy to let off a couple of pops and bangs. I think the fact this is included in the base price, versus spending R39 900 for a similar setup on the VW Golf R tested in the June 2019 issue, adds greatly to the Clio’s appeal. This is something Renault will hopefully carry over to the fifth-generation Clio. 

After 9 months
Current mileage:
 11 149 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,70 L/100 km
We like: Akrapovic exhaust; chassis balance
We don’t like:
 EDC 'box
 

Long-term test (Update 9): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC

To extract maximum grip from the tarmac, the Clio RS makes use of Michelin’s Pilot Super Sport compound as standard. This tyre slots in beneath the flagship Pilot Sport 4 and is comparatively a bit older. You’d never guess, though; the fronts on the RS have held up impressively and they still have lots of tread left. This despite me doing some long-distance travelling and an intense track day. With these tyres costing R2 800 a pop, I would expect nothing less. The downside is, the low profile does little to cushion the shocks of rough roads.

After 10 months
Current mileage:
 11 789 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,75 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 10): Renault Clio RS 18 F1 EDC

As the Clio RS enters its final month, I have finally experienced what I’d like to think of as this quirky hot hatch’s redemption arc. Over the past year, the Clio RS has been a bit out of its element while confined to the bustling urban roads of Cape Town. Recently, however, I embarked on a trip to Robertson where the RS was able to stretch its legs along the smooth and empty mountain passes. The firm Cup chassis, turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission truly shone in this environment and showed the Clio in a completely different light. 

After 11 months
Current mileage:
 12 512 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,77 L/100 km