The European market is blessed with a host of hot hatchbacks, and this latest addition ratchets the competition up a notch. Renault's new Clio Renault Sport is distinguished by "Formula 1-inspired" aerodynamics, notably front fender extractor vents and a first-in-class functional rear diffuser. The latter generates about 88 pounds of downforce at highway speeds, maxing out at more than 150 pounds at high speed.
Power comes from an uprated version of Renault's 2-liter, 16 valve engine, redlined at over 7,500 rpm. The normally-aspirated powerplant produces 197 hp and about 159 foot pounds of torque. A close-ratio 6-speed gearbox is new for this year's model, and in combination, the revamped drivetrain is good for the 0-100 km/h (62 mph) sprint in 6.9 seconds.
Broader fenders are stretched over 215/45 tires running on 17-inch alloys. Brembo brakes on cross-drilled discs provide the stopping power.
New chassis upgrades include a 2-inch wider track front and rear, and a new-design "double axis" front strut suspension, which Renault claims is immune to the torque steer that plagues many high-performance MacPherson strut-type FWD cars. The new RS also gets a stiffer rear torsion beam suspension.
Deliveries will start this summer, but order books are open now. More photos after the jump.