There will probably never be a better time to buy a 2000-2004 Renault Sport Clio
If you’re a petrolhead of any age and you’ve never owned a Renault Sport Clio 172 and 182, it’s time to think hard about rectifying that mistake.
When the 172 came out in 2000, it was about £16,000, and worth every penny. Now you can get a good runner with history for under £1000. Add £500 to that and you can be driving a 172 with a full MOT, full history and the essential cambelt and dephaser pulley replacements both done.
The schedule for the cambelt and tensioner change is every five years or 72,000 miles, and it’s best to have that work done by a specialist. The ancillary belt needs changing every three years or 36,000 miles, and the oil and filter every 6000 miles. Short-cutting any of these jobs will bite you. Keeping up on the maintenance will reward you with a sharp handling and reliable supermini.
That 172 Phase 1 had a great chassis perfected by Renault Sport. Weighing just 1035kg and powered by a 168bhp 2.0-litre variable valve timing engine, it did the 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. Half-leather/Alcantara sports seats, air-con, a bodykit and 15-inch OZ alloys marked it out as a special Clio.
A year later, the Phase 2 172 came out with new bumpers and sports seats, xenon headlights, 16-inch alloys and proper climate control. One year after that, in summer 2002, a pared-down version arrived – the 172 Cup. This trackday specialist weighed a scant 1021kg (partly thanks to the deletion of air-con and anti-lock brakes) and did the 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds. Visual differences included a lower road stance from the stiffer suspension plus a revamped front splitter and rear spoiler.
“The cars are getting on now, and have had multiple owners. Some have had track day smashes, been patched up and passed on to unsuspecting buyers.”
In 2004, the 178bhp 182 replaced the 172. Subjectively, the older car felt punchier, but in reality the 182’s additional squirt knocked two tenths off the 172’s 0-62mph time. It had twin exhaust tailpipes, which did away with the space for the spare wheel. The change also introduced a rattle over time as the pipe mounts failed.
Following up on the 172 precedent, a cheaper 182 Cup followed. This car lost a fair bit of desirable kit in its search for lightness, but at 1090kg it still ended up being heavier than the 172 Cup and as such doesn’t generate much love among fans. You were better off ticking the boxes for the Cup Style (front splitter/rear spoiler) or Cup Chassis (lowered, stiffened suspension) packs.
When looking for an Renault Sport Clio now, the year and model type aren’t as important as condition and service history. There’s one exception to that general rule: the 182 Trophy, built almost exclusively for UK fans to reward their support for the hot Clio genre. Of the 550 made, the UK market received 500, with the other 50 going to Switzerland. These cars replaced the standard coil/spring suspension with a very effective and exclusive Sachs remote-reservoir arrangement. These are great little cars, but the demand for them has hoisted up prices. At the time of going to press, we saw one in the classifieds at £5600.
What to watch for
We asked Carl Smith from Renault Sport specialists Repair & Restore Bodyshop to spell out the main ‘buyer beware’ points on these sporty Clios.
“The cars are getting on now, and have had multiple owners. Some have had track day smashes, been patched up and passed on to unsuspecting buyers. Others have just been repaired on the cheap after a trip into a hedge. We can spot them a mile off.
“Rust is another thing, around the rear wheel arches, the rear subframe, behind the bodykit and the boot floor. We know where to look and can get to it before it takes hold.
“On the engine, check that it doesn’t rock on its mounts. Listen for noisy dephaser pulley accompanied by power loss. The heavy exhaust back box on 172s can detach.
“Gearboxes can get noisy from 60,000 miles with worn synchros and bearings and a crunchy third gear. They like fresh oil at 72,000 miles. The gearbox mounts can fail: the symptom for that is knocking during changes.
“On the chassis side, front coil springs fail. Change them in pairs at around £120 each plus labour. Front Sachs shocks on the 182 Trophy can go too, as will the suspension bushes. There was a fault on the front suspension arm that was the subject of a recall in 2003.
“You can get 30,000-40,000 miles from the brake discs and pads, but the brake lines on the rear axle can rust. Fixing them will cost about £72 a side. Another recall in 2002 was for an air pressure sensor fault causing loss of servo assistance. Replacing worn steering rack bushes will restore steering sharpness.
“The xenon headlights in both 172 and 182 can have problems with the ballast packs. Used ones are about £40 on eBay. Misty headlights can be restored cheaply.
“Inside, the Alcantara bobbles up over time and the steering wheel’s rubber thumb grips can ‘melt’. An aftermarket wheel is the only fix.
“If the SERV fault light comes on, plug a reader into the diagnostic port under the ashtray and interrogate the system for a fault code. Problems that generate fault codes include poor running and starting issues.”
What might a Renault Sport cost?
£800-£1200: Some Clio 172 Phase 1s, but mainly Phase 2s with histories, plenty of owners and 80,000-100,000 miles.
£1250-£2495: Late/clean average-mile 172s, early 182s, some 182 Cups, should be plenty of history available, including evidence of new cambelt and dephaser.
£2500-£2995: More 182 Cups, 2005-reg 182s and hopefully-priced 172s.
£3000-£3995: Late (2005) 182 Cups, cleanest ‘regular’ 172s and 182s.
£5000-plus: where you start for a good Clio 182 Trophy.