The Good Oil: Was this the wildest hot hatch ever?
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Volkswagen invented the hot hatchback with the Golf GTI Mk1 (1976). Peugeot can convincingly claim to have created a benchmark for the genre with the original 205 GTi (1984).
But it’s arguably Renault that has produced the most entertaining and revered hot hatches in the most consistent fashion over the past four decades, with RS (that’s Renault Sport) models based on mainstream models like the 5, Clio and Megane.
But Renault also created one of the weirdest and wildest hot hatches of all time with the Clio V6 (2001). The universally agreed hot hatch template is of course front-engine, four-cylinder, front-drive. The Clio V6 had none of that.
Like the other Clio RS models for mere mortals, it was based on Renault’s popular family hatch of the time.
But its mid-engined, rear-drive layout and bonkers wide-body styling was of course a tip of the hat to the legendary 5 Turbo of 1980, a homologation car for top-level rallying.
The original Clio V6 “Phase 1” was designed by Renault Sport, but developed by TWR. So yes, it’s a distant relation of any HSV you care to name. Really, not much remained from the Clio donor car save some basic exterior components.
The finished car made 172kW/300Nm, drove through a six-speed manual gearbox and could hit 100km/h in 6.4 seconds.
It was an instant icon. It also had a reputation of being tricky to drive and unpredictable in extremis. And let’s face it… it wasn’t actually that fast.
For the Phase 2 model in 2003, Renault brought development in-house. Power went up to 190kW, while the gearing was made shorter, with closer spacing of the ratios. That got the 100km/h sprint down to 5.8sec, but the biggest improvement was the redesigned, stiffer suspension that made it more stable under load. Better for track-day drifting, in other words.
Two decades on, a Clio V6 Phase 2 would struggle to keep up with the off-the-shelf Megane RS300 Trophy we tested recently in any driving situation.
But with its supercar-like layout and looks, and very limited production (1631 and 1309 for the two Phases respectively), the Clio V6 remains one of the craziest and rarest hot hatches ever. One of only 354 right-hand drive Phase 2 models built sold for NZ$122,240 in the UK last year.