Americans have never come close to matching Europeans' hysteria for hot hatches, and, as a result, very few three- and five-door rockets make their way onto American soil. Sure, we have the Volkswagen GTI and the Mini Cooper S, but if you really want to experience pint-sized performance, you need to check out what's cooking in the Old World. One of the best--and most-loved--examples of genre is the Renault Clio Renaultsport 2.0 16V 172/182, a high-performance version of their fine-driving B-segment model, the Clio. (The alphanumerics stand for two liters, sixteen valves, and 172 or 182 hp.) So it only makes sense that as the French company gears up for the release of the third-generation Clio--also debuting in Frankfurt--they already have the 172/182's replacement ready to go.
Well, almost. The trs-cool Clio Renaultsport Concept is, as the name implicitly suggests, only a concept. The car has already been already approved for production as the "worthy successor to the 2.0 16V," and will hit European boulevards and thoroughfares sometime in the first half of 2006. It features a bevy of Formula 1-inspired touches, including a flat-bottomed steering wheel, exhaust vents behind the front wheels, and, in what Renault claims is a first for the segment, an underbody air diffuser in the rear, a device used to mitigate lift through efficient airflow management. Gorgeous eighteen-inch wheels poised over red Brembo calipers; a delicately wrought chrome grille set into the lower front bumper; chrome foglamp surrounds; aluminum pedals; and four individual sport seats distinguish the Renaultsport. We expect the production version to hew closely to this concept and to include most, if not all of the sporty features. It's hard to forgive Renault for the late, unlamented LeCar, but bringing the next 2.0 16V to the United States would be a great place to start, no?