You know the world has changed when the French have caved in. The idea that a tricoleur hot hatch not being shod with a manual transmission may sound downright sacrilegious, but here it is. That it’s a Renault Clio RS that taken that walk is even more staggering, considering the lineage.
There’s no need to look as far as the insane Clio II V6 RS to go all evocative (or misty-eyed, if you’re a Renault fan). The 14 years and four output tunes (172/182/197/200 hp) of the previous Clio RS’ generations have always adhered to the same formula – three-doors, free-revving NA mills and cogs you had to row through by hand. The resultant drives were lively, a bit raw around the edges, but always engaging, everything you’d expect from a hot hatch.
But this is the present, and the present has no place for heritage or sentiment. The stick shift is gone, but it isn’t the only thing that has paid the price in the move for progress – the three-door theme has also been ditched in favour of offering better accessibility through five openings, and things are no longer normally-aspirated – the blown route is via a shared Japanese motor, no less.
Not revolutionary moves, by any measure, if it were anyone else, but here It all adds up to a massive paradigm shift, one meant to open the car up to a much wider audience. The question is, does the fourth-generation Clio RS 200 EDC retain the flavour of its predecessors even if the recipe has changed, and is that new tangent enough to attract more followers?