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Renault’s newest hot hatch gives German rivals something to worry about

Paris-based Renault is celebrating its return to Formula 1 as a team by unleashing a concept that previews a more extreme version of the Clio R.S.

Called Clio R.S. 16, the concept was developed jointly by RenaultSport — the carmaker’s go-fast division — and Renault’s official racing arm in just five months. The end result is the most powerful Clio to date, a hot hatch that stands out thanks to a new front end characterized by a specific bumper and a blacked-out Renault emblem, sizable fender flares that accommodate wider alloy wheels, side skirts, and a large wing out back.

As expected, the Clio ditches its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and adopts a 2.0-liter turbo four borrowed from the bigger Megane. The mill makes 275 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, a generous increase of 55 horses over the stock Clio R.S., and 272 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, a unit that’s not available on the standard RS.

While performance specifications aren’t available yet, we know that the RS 16 — which is about the same size as a Ford Fiesta hatchback — will hit 60 mph from a stop in less than 6.5 seconds. RenaultSport has improved handling by adding bigger brakes on both axles, a more direct steering rack, and a revised suspension system built using components borrowed from other Renault models like the Kangoo, the Espace, and the aforementioned Megane.

Read more: Renault is eager to expand its lineup of performance cars

RenaultSport stresses that the Clio RS 16 is merely a concept at this point, and it hasn’t been given the green light for production. However, the French carmaker admits it’s going to continue fine-tuning the hatchback both on the road and on the track, and we wouldn’t be exceptionally surprised to see it arrive as a limited-edition model at this fall’s Paris Auto Show.