Cult Cars Road Tests

Cult Car: Renault Clio V6

Time 11 years ago

cliov6_2RENAULT is not shy when it comes to doing mad things with hatchbacks.

Not so long ago, Car Dealer fell in love with the extreme Renaultsport Megane R26.R – roll cage, hardcore suspension, no stereo, two seats and all. It was every inch the road-going rally car, we reckoned. And we loved it.

It did, indeed, take us right back to another famed two-seat Renault hot hatch, the 5 Turbo. In rally guise, this won the Monte Carlo Rally first time out back in the 1980s, and the Turbo II is an absolute icon. Why only two seats? Ah, well that’s because where the passengers normally sat, Renault had repositioned the engine…


But both these monsters pale in comparison to perhaps THE maddest Renault ‘hot hatch’ of all: the Renault Clio V6. Mid-engine, 3.0-litre V6 powerplant plus widened, pumped, hardened styling that makes even a Pagani Zonda seem tame. Well, almost. 

The legend behind its creation is so delicious, we’d love to believe it’s true. Apparently, a Renault chief was at a motorshow, and heard a rumour that VW was to unveil a ‘3-litre’ car. This is industry parlance for super-economical models averaging three litres per 100km of fuel, or 94mpg. The eventual VW turned out to be the Lupo 3L. 

Somewhere, though, the message got muddled. Which led to Renault launching its own ‘3-litre car’: Yup, the Laguna-engined V6 Clio! Utter genius. Renault didn’t mess about either, recruiting TWR to carry out all the development and engineering work for the model that was to be launched in 2001. 

TWR, of course, also ran the OrangeArrows Formula 1 cars at the time, and used some techniques developed there to create the mad Clio. Only by doing this was it able to be so extreme; the exaggeration in this car was way beyond the normal parameters car makers work within. 

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Such exaggeration actually meant a lot of reengineering work. This is not just a wide-body Clio hatch, but in large part an all new car. Certainly the suspension needed lots of development, not least because the repositioned engine was driving the rear wheels rather than the front. TWR had its work cut out but it still, remarkably, made it all the way to production.


cliov6_1However, sticking a 230bhp V6 in the middle of a short car like the Clio, driving a different set of wheels – basically, taking it way beyond what it was designed for – brought with it physical limitations even TWR couldn’t fully overcome. Here is another reason why the Clip V6 is idolised.

Yup, its reputation for vicious handling goes before it… Many felt more comfortable going fast in the standard 172 hatch, a car that was almost as potent as the V6 anyway, because of the amount of speed-dulling extra weight that it was forced to carry.

This could actually have done for the car as nothing more than a weird curiosity, but Renault was still mad enough to have another go.

The result of this was shown in 2003, with the Clio II V6. It had the new Clio front end, extensively revised handling and even a more powerful 255bhp engine. Now built by Renault rather than TWR, it was still tricky even if you weren’t nearing the limit. At least this time, though, you had a clearer idea of what it might have been about to do.

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It eventually faded from the new car price lists, but hasn’t disappeared from our consciousness. Thriving and ultra-dedicated owner support means it’s fast becoming a true cult car, and certainly still turns heads wherever it goes.

Whether Renault will repeat such insanity remains to be seen: here’s hoping they do. Car Dealer Magazine, see, has started a rumour: VW is to show a 4-litre car in Paris this September… 

by RICHARD AUCOCK

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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