First drive: Renault Clio Gordini 200
This is the Gordini version of one of our favourite cars – the matchless Clio Renaultsport 200. The Gordini name might not mean much to you if you're under 30, but our more mature readers may remember that Renault's first ever front wheel drive hot hatch bore the legendary engineer's name when it was launched three decades ago.
The Renault 5 Gordini – along with its turbocharged sibling – quickly became an icon, and even though the name fell out of use over 20 years ago, the brand still had enough kudos to quicken the blood when Renault announced its return last year.
Being the automotive romantics that we are, we imagined the new Clio might be a further honing of Renaultsport's masterpiece in the style of the fondly recalled 182 Trophy, which emerged in lower, harder, limited-edition form in 2005.
Sadly, that wasn't to be. Rather than tinkering under the skin in a way that Amedee Gordini would have been proud, the Clio that bears his name is a standard Clio 200 with a customisable styling pack attached.
It's not all bad though – the Gordini Clio does at least look the part. The car features a Malta Blue metallic finish with optional white racing stripes over its entire length. Add the polished 17-inch model-specific alloy wheels, and it's clear that this is the Clio to get noticed in.
The theme continues on the inside, with the new range-topper getting a predictably high level of standard kit, including automatic climate control, six airbags, a stereo with USB connectivity, cruise control, heated door mirrors and tinted rear windows. Tom Tom sat nav, rear parking sensors and a panoramic sunroof are all on the options list, but it's the stylised Gordini interior that buyers will be paying extra for.
The car gets a bespoke blue and dark grey colour scheme to go with a more luxurious leather finish, and has Gordini badges sprinkled liberally around the cabin. Gloss black trim has also been added to the centre console and air vent surrounds, and each example will get an engraved plate to show the build number –the UK is getting just 500 cars.
The effect of all this Gordini tinsel is a slight raising of the Clio's overall interior quality, but considering the car is best known for the weight-conscious Cup edition, its additions will probably make more than one Renaultsport fan baulk at its embellishments.
Fortunately, the Gordini razzmatazz has done little to dilute the car's basic talent. The styling pack certainly doesn't benefit the Clio's power to weight ratio, but Renault's supermini remains a hot hatch from the top drawer.
There are many facets to its appeal, but chief amongst them is the sublime attitude of an entirely exploitable front end, and the fizzing 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine that lies beneath it.
While the Gordini lacks the dialled-in precision of the Cup version (the harder chassis is on the options list), the new model is still likely to satisfy a large proportion of its target audience not obsessed with driving on the edge.
However, with the Gordini commanding a £2,000 premium over the standard Clio 200 – the Cup is even cheaper – potential buyers will need to fall deeply in love with those racing stripes to make the car worthy of serious consideration.