We Brits have fallen behind when it comes to being world leaders, but we rule with omnipotence in one category of life: we buy more fast Renaults than anyone else – even the French. Ergo the new Clio 200 is a very significant car.
Ever since we got our hands on a Sport 172 back in 1999, Renaultsport’s piping-hot front-drive Clio has been a firm favourite at Autocar. Prodigious speed, bags of grip and an adjustable chassis gave it a place in our hearts alongside the Peugeot 205 GTI. And we liked the stripped-out Cup version even more – enough to pick it over the more expensive Mini Cooper S.
Delve a little more deeply into tradition, and it's not difficult to find hot Clios of worthy mettle. The Clio Williams line included a succession of hot hatches leading back to a 1993 original that was blisteringly quick, handled sweetly and, with its gold alloy wheels and blue dials, looked superb.
If your insurance broker baulked at the prospect of a group 17 rating, there was also the Clio 16v – a more ordinarily styled hatch that could run the hotter Williams surprisingly close on performance.
Look below that, and you'd find a 1.8-litre Clio RSi that, for its slightly tamer pace, still proved a real live wire – we rated it more highly than better-known rivals such as the Ford Fiesta XR2i, Peugeot 106 XSi, Citroën AX GTI and Vauxhall Corsa GSi.