My French Love Affair

 

Photos by Mikey Snelgar, @mikeysnelgar on Instagram

The Clio V6 is one of the weirdest cars you’ll see on the road. It’s this tiny hatchback that’s been subjected to so much performance enhancement that it looks halfway between an LMP1 racer and a powerlifter with dwarfism. Contemporary road reviews, and even subsequent media, gave the impression that it had the attitude to match too – a tiny french monster waiting to spin you into the nearest hedgerow and rip you from your mortal coil. However, having lived with one as my only car for the better part of a year I can tell you that, at least in the case of the face-lifted Phase II, in reality, it’s far less rabid than the stories would have you believe.

Before we get to my experience living with a Clio V6, we should probably run through what the hell it actually is. Based on the Clio V6 Trophy, a single-make series competition car, the Clio V6 is a 2nd generation Renault Clio with the V6 from a Renault Laguna where the backseats should be and a body kit that would make a Lamborghini blush. Inside everything is perfectly normal and sane, and if you didn’t look in the rearview mirror, you wouldn’t really know that you were in anything other than a slightly sporty Clio. That’s because, while the majority of the mechanicals and bodywork are completely different, the interior is largely unchanged, which results in a double-edged sword of a car.

Let’s cover the positive aspects of daily driving a Clio V6 first. The biggest boon by far is the car’s ludicrous appearance, it’s something I never tired of staring back at after I got out of it. On top of that, it won many a thumbs up from car enthusiasts and regular humans alike. Those bulging arches, squat stance, and gorgeous side intakes give it a road presence unmatched by anything else this side of a Murcielago, partly because it’s as wide as one. Secondly, for such an outrageous little machine, it’s actually fairly easy to drive and the higher-than-ideal seating position and large windows provide great visibility. All the inputs are heavy, so you get a minor arm and leg workout every time you drive it, but aside from that it’s really a regular car with about a foot of extra bodywork either side of you. However, the sound and kick in the kidneys you get from that V6 truly is something special, even if the Renault Laguna it originates from isn’t.

Photos by Mikey Snelgar, @mikeysnelgar on Instagram

Before I got the car, I had been psyching myself up to become a MacGyver of squeezing my belongings into it, but really only a little creativity is required to extract what in truth is quite a lot of storage space from this pint-sized supercar. It performed dozens of trips to Ikea, hundreds of grocery runs, and once even transported a Christmas tree, along with my less than ecstatic girlfriend, who was sandwiched beneath it. One caveat to the storage in the V6 is your belongings will become rather toasty – either they’ll be gently scorched in the frunk by the brakes, or lightly charred on the storage shelf above the engine. Whichever way you slice it if you’re trying to transport a loaf of Hovis, by the time you arrive at your destination you’ll have french toast. The plus side to all this thermal radiation is that throughout the winter months you’ll only need to drive about a block before the unintentional V6 seat-warmer begins to work its magic. 

This brings me to one of the most important observations I made about living with a Clio V6, and the gently improved Phase II with it’s slightly lengthened wheelbase in particular. Despite covering the majority of my ownership miles during the frostier months here in the UK, my Clio V6 wasn’t constantly trying to amputate my legs at the nearest bend. In my opinion, the Clio V6’s reputation of being a steroidal square with wheels and an anger management problem is, for the most part, all hype. The wheelbase of the car is very short and wide, with the wheels pushed right out to the extremities of its footprint, giving the car an astonishing mechanical grip. I tried many times to do a burnout in mine, and the only thing that would smoke was the clutch, which in hindsight could probably have done with replacing. Jokes aside, pretty much no matter what the conditions, put your foot down in a Clio V6 and it will shunt you forward with the enthusiasm of Boris Johnson body-checking a 10-year-old rugby player. 

Now, I’m no Jethro Bovingdon, so I can’t comment about the car’s behaviour on the ragged edge (which would be far above the speed limit on any road), but I will say that even during a drive I made from Exeter to London in what can only be described as a blizzard, the car wasn’t wildly more difficult to drive than anything else I’ve been behind the wheel of. Yes, in icy conditions it would get a tad squirrelly, and yes, you do have to actually concentrate on what you’re doing while behind the wheel, but in my opinion, that’s what makes a car enjoyable to drive. So many modern cars are comfortable, cosseting, and refined to the point where you totally zone out and suddenly you arrive at your destination mildly concerned that you barely remember half the journey. In a Clio V6 however, you focus on every second of the journey and that’s what makes it so enjoyable to drive. 

My final minor observations on the car are as follows: several-hour motorway journeys are not this car’s forté, the lack of replacement body panels gave me literal nightmares, and you don’t want to drive down anything narrower than a B-road, and you definitely don’t want to go in a multi-story parking lot, ever. It’s fucking wide and has a turning circle more commonly associated with a planetary orbit. Other than that, the Clio V6 is an absolutely brilliant car, although maybe not a brilliant only car. At the end of the day, I bought it for £22K, drove the pants off it for almost a year and sold it for £23K, and if that’s not a bargain I don’t know what is. 

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