DRIVEN: Renault Clio 88 kW Turbo GT-Line

DRIVEN: Renault Clio 88 kW Turbo GT-Line

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Many a marketing department, monthly sales charts in hand, will disagree with me, but I genuinely believe there is still a place for a well-sorted manual transmission within most modern product portfolios; a perfect case in point, as confirmed after a recent extended launch drive, being the current Renault Clio range. As quirky as it is distinctive, the Clio 4 has, since its 2013 local introduction, continued to build on the solid sales platform its predecessors have managed to establish. Lightly facelifted in 2016 to introduce a fresh headlamp design, with updated grille and bumper treatments throughout, the local Clio range currently consists of a three 898 cc-powered derivatives , as well as a turbocharged 1,2-litre Expression model offered exclusively with Renault’s dual-clutch EDC transmission. Neatly packaged and generally well specced, it’s a range that caters to a broad audience of buyers looking for comfort and value, as well as something a little bit different to the norm. With an equally proud and notably distinguished reputation for building hugely capable performance derivatives – and, accordingly, ahead of the imminent introduction of a full-blown RS model – Renault South Africa has introduced a Clio GT-Line aimed at both adding some zeal to the current range and acting as a capable introduction to the vaunted Renault Sport family. And what an enticing package it is. Fitted with the same 88 kW/205 N.m turbocharged 1,2-litre engine as already available in Expression spec, the GT Line’s party trick, along with some neat cosmetic touches , is the inclusion of an impressively precise and pleasingly workable six-speed manual transmission. Protruding tall from within its leather-covered housing, it’s a gearlever that is not only positive in its workings, but is also great to touch thanks to its “old school” alloy handle. Combined with an aggressively bolstered RS-derived driver’s seat and a neatly finished, thick-rim steering wheel, the GT-Line has all the makings of a very accomplished Clio RS understudy. Even if the actual figures suggest otherwise , it’s nevertheless an ever-lively package that always feels eager to compete in a heavier weight division. Especially pleasing is the fact that 90% of available torque is available from as low as 1 500 r/min. This means, while things can get a little breathless nearing the top of the rev limit, there’s still welcome shove to be enjoyed at the biting point of especially third and …