The Renault Sport Clio V6 is just like any other pint-size hatchback clogging the streets of Europe, except for a few details: A 3.0-liter V-6 engine sits where the back seat is supposed to be, making 251 horsepower and driving the rear wheels; the car rolls on frame-filling eighteen-inch wheels; air intakes have sprouted all over the body; and it wears more spoilers, skirts, and flippers than most racing cars.
This Clio V6 is the second generation of the odd beast. The first was equally outrageous, but its thrills were balanced by chilling lift-throttle oversteer, wilting brakes, and a nasty case of straight-line instability.
Instead, the new variation of the two-seat hatchback displays awesome grip from the latest Michelin Pilot Sport tires, plenty of stopping power from a mix of Brembo and Bosch brakes, and surprisingly neutral handling thanks to a completely reworked suspension. Although traction control, stability control, and a limited-slip differential are still conspicuous by their absence, it takes a tight corner and provocation to induce power oversteer. In wet conditions, however, the critical weight distribution is still liable to scare you witless with a random mix of latent understeer and instant oversteer. Unfortunately, steering is slow and indirect, combining delayed action with a trucklike turning circle. On the credit side, we note the wider track, revised rear subframe, recalibrated geometry, marginally longer wheelbase, and improved torsional stiffness. As a result, the chassis now feels more compliant, more communicative, and more forgiving.
Inside, we give full marks to the upgraded cockpit and the supportive leather buckets. Where the rear seats used to dwell sits the engine, installed within whispering distance of your eardrums. The 60-degree Renault Sport unit sounds uncommonly raucous, feels shaky at idle, and fills the cabin with waves of hot air when pushed. Mated to a close-ratio six-speed gearbox and redlined at 7150 rpm, the multivalve six will hurtle this scream machine from 0 to 62 mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 152 mph.
The Clio V6 is an extrovert crackerjack that blends strong track ability with a large measure of street cred. It's a legitimate successor to the Renault 5 Turbo that started the mid-engined hatchback craze back in 1980. It's a shame it won't be coming to the States.