The Renault Clio Gordini and the Suzuki Swift Sport are both tiny tots that offer driving thrills and back-road pleasure on a limited budget. But which one makes the most sense as a used purchase?
*** Note : £1 = $1.32 (correct at time of post)
Renault Clio Gordini Engine & Trim
List price when new £14,000
Price today £5995*
Available from 2010-2012
Renault has built some of the most legendary hot hatchbacks over the years, but does this little Clio Gordini, in its milder tune, live up to them?
Suzuki Swift Sport Engine & Trim
List price when new £13,495
Price today £6200*
The Swift Sport is a fast, fun and lightweight pocket rocket in the best hot hatch traditions
Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
For sheer driving pleasure, there’s little to match the smaller hot hatches. They’re cute, nippy, practical and fun, and you can extract real driving pleasure from them at the sort of speeds that won’t land you in trouble with the law. These two embody all of those good qualities. The Renault Clio Gordini is at heart a cheaper and insurance-friendly version of the storming Renaultsport 200 Cup, with a milder 128bhp 1.6-litre engine. The Suzuki Swift Sport packs a zingy 134bhp 1.6-litre engine and sharp responses into its compact package. Back in the day, the Swift Sport was the newcomer, chasing the established Clio Gordini for its crown. It did so well that we not only gave it the garlands, it also went on to become incredibly popular and sell extremely well, while this lower-powered sporting Clio petered out. But how do they stack up now as used propositions? Read on and we’ll reveal all.
What are they like to drive?
These cars prove that you don’t need lots of power to have fun. The Swift’s 134bhp isn’t much in our modern hot hatch world that is now dominated by 200bhp-plus monsters, while the Clio musters only 128bhp. Neither gives its best until nearly 7000rpm either, but wringing the necks of these cars is half the fun. That’s particularly true in the Swift, because its engine loves to be thrashed. The close-ratio six-speed gearbox makes it easy to keep the engine on song, and the Swift’s low weight makes up for its so-so 134bhp. No wonder, then, that it felt much friskier in our tests, hitting 60mph in less than eight seconds.
The Clio is 100kg heavier so is a lot slower, although it’s still nippy enough to keep you entertained. It’s a shame that the engine sounds so plain when revved; the Swift’s plays a much sportier tune.
Outright pace is only half the story, though, because hot hatches need to be fun through the corners. Thankfully, the Swift is a riot, with an agile chassis, plenty of grip and sharp, accurate steering. The best bit is that it gets you involved at legal speeds.
The Clio grips just as hard and actually leans slightly less, but it doesn’t engage you in the same way because there’s less feedback through the steering. The fact that the Clio is significantly slower also means you need a long run at any corner to even get close to the limits of grip.
Despite their sporty pretentions, both cars have surprisingly supple suspension set-ups that soak up bumps and potholes well. That keeps the tyres in contact with the road when you’re pushing hard on less-than-perfect roads and makes the cars easier to live with when you’re done having fun.
What are they like inside?
The Clio’s cabin shares plenty with cheaper versions in the range, but Renault has made a bit of an effort. The famous Gordini blue is splashed over the steering wheel, the gearknob and the sides of the seats, while the white instrument dials also add to the sporty ambience. However, some of the buttons on the dash are small and poorly labelled, and the stereo isn’t at all user-friendly.
Apart from chunky alloys and twin exhausts, the Swift doesn’t exactly scream ‘hot hatch’ from afar, and it’s a similar story when you get inside. There’s some red stitching on the seats and the steering wheel, but little else marks the Sport version out from the more humdrum models. At least that means everything is solid and the controls are logically laid out.
Both cars have figure-hugging front seats, but the Clio’s sit lower, giving it the sportier driving position. The Swift presents you with a great view of the road ahead, though, and there’s lots of adjustment to the steering wheel to help you get comfortable.
The Clio is the bigger car. You won’t notice that from the driver’s seat, because the Swift has more front head room, but you will when you open the boot; the Clio’s loadbay is much longer, whether the seats are up or down.
Both cars will comfortably accommodate a couple of mates in the back, with similar rear head and leg room. The Clio can seat five in emergencies, though, because it has a third rear seatbelt.
What will they cost?
By a very small margin, the Swift was the cheaper car new and it went on to sell far more than this lower-powered version of the Clio. Now, the Swift will still cost you a fraction more than the Clio for a like-for-like car, at around the £6000 mark, although the Clio is such a rare car that, in truth, there aren’t that many around to gauge a fair idea of price. That comparative rarity might even work to the Clio’s advantage when it comes to selling the car on in a few years’ time.
The Swift will likely cost you less to own. It’s slightly cheaper to fuel and tax, with a claimed average fuel consumption figure of 44.1mpg against the Clio’s 42.2, although its insurance premiums might be fractionally higher.
The Clio has service intervals of 12 months or 12,000 miles, and it’s vital to make sure this has been stuck to. Renault dealers will be able to service the mildly tuned Gordini version, as most of the parts are shared with other models in the range; on top of this, there are a number of specialist independent dealers that will service one at a reduced rate. The Swift should be serviced every 12,500 miles or every year and, likewise, there are a number of independent garages that will look at it at prices that may well be cheaper than that charged by Suzuki dealers.
Both cars have a good record for reliability, with the Swift just pipping the Clio. Suzuki as a brand consistently performs well in customer satisfaction and reliability surveys, finishing fourth in our most recent reliability survey, way ahead of Renault in 20th position out of 32 manufacturers.
The Swift also came with heaps more standard equipment, including Bluetooth, xenon headlights and even metallic paint. Both cars got alloy wheels, climate and cruise controls, and electric windows and mirrors.
Now, and at these cheaper prices, these cars will be bought mainly by young drivers, so it’s worth checking if your Clio has the optional extra stability control fitted – a crucial safety system that helps prevent you from skidding off the road. Suzuki fitted the system as standard on the Swift and also trumped the Clio with a driver’s knee airbag.
There’s a lot to like about the Clio. It might not have the out-and-out oomph of its Renaultsport Clio 200 sibling, and it’s certainly not as sharp to drive as that car, but it’s fun, likeable and even pretty practical, thanks to a spacious interior and a handily sized boot. Its stripes and low driving position help to give it the air of a small performance car, even if ultimately it’s not that quick. It’s also comparatively rare in this lower-powered and insurance-busting 128bhp 1.6-litre Gordini guise.
However, it was the Swift that got our vote when these two cars were new – and it does now, too. It’s more fun, for starters, feeling much quicker and more agile than the Clio; its precise handling makes it a joy on a winding country road. It’s better-equipped and seems to make as much financial sense at this age as it did when the car was new – we thought it a hot hatch bargain then and that seems to hold true for a used version now.
1st – Suzuki Swift Sport
For Quick; great fun; loads of kit
Against Small boot; lofty driving position
Verdict For this sort of money, no other hot hatch comes close
Specifications: Suzuki Swift Sport
- Engine size 1.6-litre petrol
- List price when new £13,495
- Price today £6,250*
- Power 134bhp
- Torque 118lb ft
- 0-60mph 7.9sec
- Top speed 118mph
- Fuel economy 44.1mpg (official average)
- CO2 emissions 147g/km
2nd – Renault Clio Gordini
For Plenty of grip; practical; cheaper insurance
Against Missing safety kit; not very quick; poor steering
Verdict A good buy, but doesn’t excite as much as the Swift Sport
Specifications: Renault Clio Gordini
- Engine size 1.6-litre petrol
- List price when new £14,000
- Price today £5995*
- Power 128bhp
- Torque 114lb ft
- 0-60mph 9.2sec
- Top speed 120mph
- Fuel economy 42.2mpg (official average)
- CO2 emissions 155g/km