Renault 360° at the Yas Marina Circuit
On 24th February 2015, we made our way to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi to take part in what Renault referred to as the 360° experience. The rather vague invitation had us questioning if the day would entail flinging the popular Duster around the track (something that seemed like a possibility once we’d reached), but thankfully, there were more interesting things in store.
Although the entire line-up including the banal Symbol and commercial Dokker bedecked the path to the press conference area, we soon discovered that it was only the Twizy, Zoe, and Clio RS that we’ll be having a go in. Following a few words from the higher-ups at Renault, we headed out onto the circuit to have our first fling with something reigning from the realm of electric motoring: the electrifying Twizy.
Manufactured entirely in Spain, the Twizy is an entertaining battery-powered two-passenger Electric Vehicle that offers 17 horsepower, a top speed of 80 km/h, and a range of 100 kilometres from its 6.1 kWh lithium-ion battery. Composed entirely of plastic, its jaunty outer shell isn’t just a refreshing change to what’s currently offered on the market, but one that can be customized in a variety of hues as well.
Redefining notions, the exceedingly simple interior is home to a monochrome instrument cluster, a hand-brake lever located below the steering wheel, and precisely three buttons – all of which are pretty self-explanatory. With seating arranged as if it were on a motorcycle, there really isn’t much room to stretch or get comfortable, and with no A/C or windows, the Frenchie’s useability is restricted to only a few months of the year where the sting of the sun takes a back seat in the UAE.
When in the driver’s seat, there’s a constant whine under heavy acceleration – a whine that many will attribute to the likes of a golf cart, and that’s ironic, because they’re rather similar to drive as well. However, having completed a series of tire screeching slaloms and gravity-defying turns, the Twizy proved to be something most golf carts aren’t: stable.
Having finished our jaunt in the well-heeled man’s quadricycle, we headed towards the Zoe – the more practical of the two electrical transportation devices. Stylistically, the French hatchback doesn’t have a lot going for it and though blue garnishes in the headlamps and tail lamps add a dash of flair to the overall design, it isn’t enough to distract from the Zoe’s rather tubby physique.
Following the norm more strictly, the interior of the Zoe isn’t as quirky as the Twizy’s. As a matter of fact, with piano black trim, a traditional gear lever, and a plethora of hard plastics, the Zoe ranks so highly on the sensibility scale, that it nearly tips over into being drab. However, that does mean there’s seating for five and a 338 litre boot to accompany.
Powered by a 22 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Zoe is good for a top speed of 135 km/h and a range of up to 210 kilometres. When in a hurry, it also manages to hustle its weight to a 100 km/h in 13.5 seconds. Yet, charging from a domestic supply takes significantly longer – a whole nine hours. In putting the Zoe through its paces, it’s easy to see just how similar it is to drive compared to a regular supermini. A high seating position offers great visibility, while a light steering keeps it easy to drive. The only downside being, the overenthusiastic regenerative braking system that makes slowing down progressively nearly impossible.
Renault Clio RS
Finally, the time had come to hop over to the other end of the track and have a go in the good ole’ gasoline powered Clio RS: a hot hatch that has been roaming the streets since 1998. With oversized headlamps and squinting tail lamps, the latest iteration of the Clio RS isn’t exactly a stunner, but we’ll let that slide, as the RS has always directed its efforts to being a good performer, rather than a good looker.
The interior is home to a chunky steering wheel, a centre console that welcomes a generous splash of chrome and black trim, and coloured accents along the door panels. With large paddle shifters, a digital speedometer and aluminium pedals, it all feels rather sporty, but the brand’s dedication to keeping weight to a minimum with copious doses of hard plastic, simply cannot be ignored.
Putting the pedal to the metal, we discovered a number of quirky traits that the Clio RS possesses. Until and unless the RPM needle hovers near the 5,000 RPM mark, there’s no sense of urgency in the power delivery, which is strange, but not as weird as its preset settings. Only if Race mode is active (and traction control is switched off), will the transmission restrain from upshifting in manual mode; downshifts, however, tend to continue on their own.
Getting rid of the Recaro seats from the previous generation model and bidding farewell to the manual transmission, definitely signify the Clio RS has taken a big step from the model it replaces. However, having driven the latest iteration of the Clio RS on track, we’re left feeling it’s taken a big step in the wrong direction. With sound generators and a hopeless transmission, the Clio RS has ended up trading sportiness for a façade of sportiness and to the performance enthusiasts that this car is aimed at, that’s the biggest sin it could have committed.