Renault Clio II Sport 172/182 - Future Classic

By: Kian Heagney, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Alastair Brook

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Sporty French hatch is still an affordable way to serious fun

Ever since the Peugeot 205 GTI shot onto the already popular hot hatch scene in the 1980s, the big three from France – Peugoet, Citreon and especially Renault – have been churning out some of the best bang-for-buck fun you can have on four wheels.

One of the best examples of that is readily available here in Australia and found in the classifieds is the sporty versions of the early-to-mid-2000s Renault Clio II, specifically the Renault Sport 172 and 182.

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The 172 and 182 names denote from the power output from the 2.0-litre aspirated four-pot exclusive to the RS models, the 182 being the rarer and more sought after variant. All were backed up by five-speed manual gearboxes, and tipped the scales just nudging over 1000kg in their three-door hatch layout. That, combined with a dialed-in chassis package, disc brakes all around and a minimum of 172hp made these little baguettes a seriously fun piece of kit.

The first taste we Australians got of the Clio RS was the pre-facelift Phase I 172, with just 85 examples allocated to us in 2001. Thankfully, later that same year we were graced with an unlimited run of the much less ugly (in my view) Phase II 172, featuring an updated front end, interior, shorter final drive and a new intake.

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Both the normal Clio II and the sporty RS 172 stayed unchanged in dealers for several years, before the slightly beefed up 182 variants of the RS Clio hit Australia in 2004. The first was the 182, which featured minor stylistic changes and a new central twin-exit exhaust system with 4-2-1 headers and a highflow cat converter to bump the power up by 10hp over the previous 172.

The crème de la crème of the Renault Sport Clio II is the 182 Cup. It was lower than a normal 182 by 10mm, had a quicker steering ratio and wider front track, stiffer dampers to go with the lower springs and 16-inch eight-spoke wheels all painted grey.

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There was the even hotter Trophy version of the 182, but sadly we missed out on that here and low market value means barely any RS II Clio’s have been bought in through the grey market.

The RS II Clio seems to (at least for now) be immune to the recent jump in classic car prices, with values having stagnated while equivalent first-gen Honda Civic Type R’s shot through the roof. 172 variants are the most common and prices reflect that, starting at around $3000 for a semi-decent example, edging up to $6000 for real stunners.

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The rarer and up-spec’d 182 and 182 Cup command a minimum of $8000 buy-in for a worthy specimen, but you shouldn’t need more than $12,000 in the kitty for a decent one.

The key things to look out for a good service history and evidence of track work. These things were essentially a track day ready go-kart from the factory, with many owners taking full advantage of that on the circuit.

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Good maintenance is important with rarified euro gems like these, but many parts are still available from overseas if you get stuck. Also bear in mind the fact the simplified Clio II RS does away with the complexities of turbos AWD systems and electronically assisted driver aids, so reliability isn’t as bigger problem as you may suspect.

Find a good one and we guarantee it’ll be the best fun you can have for under $10k!

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FOR
• Cheap to purchase
• Three-door body
• Fun to drive

AGAINST
• Limited cabin space
• Parts and
servicing costs
• Insurance premiums

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Renault Sport Clio II 172 / 182 specs

Body: Steel and composite, integrated body/chassis three-door hatch
Engine: Four cylinder, 1998cc DOHC with fuel injection
Power & torque: 180hp @ 6500rpm, 200Nm @ 5250rpm (182)
Performance: 0-100km/h: 7.1sec, 0-400m 15.5sec (182)
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Suspension: Independent with coil springs and struts (f), solid-axle coil spring rear end
Brakes: Discs front and rear

 

From Unique Cars #455, July 2021

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