Clio 197 buyers guide.

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At its launch in 2006 the Clio 197 was met with almost universal praise from the British motoring press as here was a quick little hatch that felt much more mature than its 1*2 predecessors and rather than the typical stiff suspension associate with cars of its class, the 197 was equipped with the kind of well setup long travel suspension that really make the most of British A- and B- roads.

While the 197 is not perfect, it is a brilliant little car that perhaps surprisingly seems to wear its miles and age rather well, indeed most of the changes that make a 200 are relatively minor, so there is an argument that the 197 remains current.

At launch the car was available in a single specification, with a reasonable options list, two solid (Ultra Red, Racing Blue) and three metallic colours (Albi Blue, Deep Black and Nimbus (silver)).

Standard specification was generous, and included four piston Brembo front brake calipers with 312mm vented discs, 300mm rear disc brakes, functional rear diffuser, engine bay air extractors, air conditioning, comfort access (Renault key card keyless entry and go), 12 spoke 7½Jx17 ET68 alloy wheels with Clio specific Continental SportContact 3 215/45R17 87W tyres.

In 2007, to celebrate their 2006 Drivers and Constructors championship victories, and as something of a sequel to the Megane 230 R26, the F1 Team R27 special edition was introduced. While this was much closer in spec to the standard 197 than the R26 was to the 225, it was nonetheless a popular model, introducing the Liquid Yellow to the 197 range, Cup chassis (first appearance on 197) and including Recaro seats, special graphics to the front, rear, sides and roof, and a numbered plaque by the handbrake all as standard. Most options were available except Cabasse (for some reason never offered with Recaro seats), sunroof and Speedline wheels. While the graphics can divide opinion, an R27 without the graphics is arguably no more special than a regular 197 with the same specification.

After the R27 a cup chassis option was introduced on the 197, along with a lower cost Cup version. Visual clues to the cup chassis are anthracite 12 spoke wheels along with red brake calipers front and rear. Given that the anthracite wheels are a popular choice for aftermarket refurbishment there are many cars out there that might at first appear to have the Cup chassis, but are in reality just standard cars with anthracite wheels and repainted brakes. To be sure you can check the colour coding on the springs –orange & blue front and rear on the cup, blue & green front and orange & orange on the rear on the standard chassis car.

Leather upholstery was available, however this was typically a retro-fit from a Renault approved supplier.

The lower cost Cup variant has the following;
Low series Clio dash, without steering wheel adjustment (tougher plastic with visible passenger airbag cover), no air conditioning, no marker on steering wheel, no cruise control, regular remote key, rather than Renault key card comfort access system, plain Clio pedals, black bodyside mouldings, black door handles, manual mirrors with black housings, no rear footwell vents, no rear speakers (though wiring is usually there), no tool kit. Limited range of options including manual air conditioning, Recaro seats, Speedline wheels.

At the same time as introducing the Cup, Renault also introduced the Glacier White colour option on both the Cup and the standard 197.

Cars built to around 8/08 had the TL4003 transmission, whereas later cars have the TL4024, which has a slightly different gear ratios including a longer 6th to improve motorway cruising, along with the remaining gears being adjusted accordingly.

All 197’s have the F4R-830 engine, the 200 is fitted with the F4R-832, this engine is very similar but there are minor changes to the head casting and to the ECU map.

Over the final few months of production Renault offered a “Lux” model, this took the standard 197 and added a machined finish to the standard 12 spoke wheels, auto-lights & wipers, climate control, leather upholstery, RenaultSport branded carpet mats.

The 197/200 has many of the same positives and negatives as any Clio, other than generally improved build quality due to being built on a specific production line at the RenaultSport factory in Dieppe, rather than being built on the standard Clio line. One possible downside is the lack of a spare wheel; the boot floor on the 197 only leaves room for the tool kit, and if you want to carry a spare you will find that it takes up a sizeable proportion of the boot. On the plus side, with the shelf removed but the backrests in place you can fit in a set of four wheels, ideal for taking your sticky tyres to the track!

Typical specification in 197’s seems to vary a bit with some non-Cup cars lacking mirror lights or rear interior lights, rear speakers and front tweeters.

Options on the regular 197 included an upgraded “Cabasse” branded stereo with dash mounted CD autochanger and the main part of the stereo under the drivers seat, automatic headlights + automatic windscreen wipers, projector headlamps with dedicated fixed cornering lights + black headlamp surrounds, power folding door mirrors, electric panoramic sunroof with anti-pinch function + integrated sunblind, rear privacy glass, xenon headlamps including headlight washers + dedicated fixed cornering lights, climate control (ilo air conditioning), front Recaro sports seats, leather upholstery, cup chassis + 17 Anthracite alloy wheels + red brake callipers, 17" Raider part polished finish alloy wheels, 17" satin black Speedline alloy wheels, 17" white Speedline alloy wheels.

Particularly desirable options are; Recaro seats, Speedline wheels, projector or xenon headlamps, climate control.

Production of the 197 ended in 2009 when it was superseded by the Clio RenaultSport 200. The RS 200 is very similar to the 197, the main differences being;
Revised front bumper & headlights
Revised rear bumper diffuser
Xenon headlamps no longer available
5 split spoke alloy wheels
Revised tailpipes to suit new diffuser
Different dash treatments
Standard automatic climate control (not on 200 Cup)
Optional RenaultSport Monitor
Optional integrated TomTom sat nav
Cabasse audio option no longer available
Standard fit aux-input sockets at the bottom of the dash
Delete rear middle seatbelt
F4R-832 engine
Altered spring and damper settings
Shorter ratio steering rack on Cup and Cup-pack variants

Options on the Clio RenaultSport 200 included:
Roof panel in deep black
Stereo with Bluetooth
TomTom integrated sat nav
HID headlamps with cornering lamps standard on 200
Electrically folding door mirrors
Panoramic power sunroof
Extra tinted rear quarter and tailgate windows
Rear spoiler
Recaro front seats
Leather upholstery
Anthracite exterior pack (front bumper centre section and rear diffuser)
Carbon interior trim
RenaultSport monitor
Yellow facia interior pack
Cup chassis settings (springs, dampers, steering rack, red brake calipers, anthracite wheels)
17” Raider alloy wheels
17” Speedline black alloy wheels
17” Speedline white alloy wheels

Paint colours included;
Albi Blue, Mercury (grey), Nimbus (silver), Alien Green, Glacier White, Liquid Yellow, Pearl White, Storm Grey, Racing Blue, Ultra Red.

The 200 was offered as both Cup and standard from launch. The revised engine map and updated chassis settings enhance an already good car.

Three special editions in the UK market; Gordini, Silverstone, Raider.

Unique blue paint, with white Gordini stripes and white trim
Machined finish 12 spoke wheels with blue or grey painted inserts
Blue/white interior upholstery, steering wheel & tachometer
Cup pack optional

Silver, with black roof
Recaro front seats
Cup pack
Speedline Wheels

Matt grey or red
18” Megane R26R alloy wheels
Leather Recaro front seats
Red marker band to steering wheel
Special gear lever knob
While highlight to tachometer
Silver painted interior trim
RenaultSport carpet mats

Buying Advice

Like any car you should look for the usual signs that something is wrong; interior trim wear that doesn’t fit the mileage, non-matching VIN numbers, uneven panel gaps, cars registered on VCar, etc.

Work out how important the spec is to you - things like climate and xenons can't be retrofitted. Projector lights can be retrofitted but the cornering lamps won't work. Recaros can be retrofitted but are typically expensive even when buying used, and can require additional resistors to prevent issues with the SRS airbag system and warning lamp. There are regularly posts from new owners on the forums saying that they bought a car without Recaros, expecting to pick up a used set and retrofit – these owners typically get a nasty surprise when they see just how in demand and expensive the Recaros are, even when used. On the plus side, the standard seats while not as attractive to look at, are still both comfortable and very supportive.
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Maintenance schedule as follows, taken from the service guide of a 2006 197

Every 12k miles / 12 months – oil & filter, cabin filter
Every 24k miles / 24 months – air filter
Every 36k miles (no time criteria) – spark plugs
Every 72k miles / 48 months – brake fluid, coolant
Every 72k miles / 60 months – timing belt & pulleys, aux drive belt
Every 144k miles – fuel filter

Servicing on these cars is relatively inexpensive, however be aware that the cambelt is very important, should be undertaken on time, and is an expensive job, reckon on at least £500. Also 12k miles servicing is fine for cars used only on the road, but should be more frequent for cars that see track action.

In addition to the scheduled maintenance it is also sensible to strip down and service all four brake calipers at least every twelve months. The rear calipers especially can seize if the slides are not kept adequately greased. It is very easy to remove the pads from the 4 piston front Brembos so long as the retaining pins haven’t seized; guides for front and back caliper servicing are available in the How To section of the forum. Cleaning the calipers, slides and pads annually provides a great opportunity to check the pads aren’t sticking, that the pad material isn’t showing signs of cracking, and to put some copper slip on the retaining pins and to grease the slides to prevent them from seizing in the calipers. New pins are available from your local Renault dealer but are around £30 for a pair and one anti-rattle clip.

Common faults and things to look for:

The standard cloth upholstery is very prone to wear on outer seat bolsters. While this is a known issue with the Recaros, the standard seats are also prone to wear, both of the cloth on the bolsters and to the foam inside the bolsters.

The leather trim on the steering wheels also can wear badly, with the top layer peeling off. For seat repairs try local car upholstery places and expect to pay from £50 up. Steering wheels can be retrimmed with something special like alcantara, or replaced. New replacement wheels are available from the Renault accessories catalogue from around £160, retrimming would typically cost a similar amount.

Ball joints/lower hub swivel bearings are becoming a weak point on older cars. Symptoms of a worn joint will be a creaking noise when turning the wheels full lock, usually when stationery. The replacement of these is relatively inexpensive, however some garages will replace the full assembly - it is possible to get the ball joint as a separate part, however the correct fitting of this can only be done at certain RS specialists.

The wiper mechanisms can be problematic, especially on older cars. Check that the wipers operate freely and through the full sweep. Also check that they will operate on the higher speed – the greater drag of a sticking mechanism will stop the wipers from operating quickly.

Make sure both key cards work, they are quite expensive to replace, (£170+) also check the lock buttons and unlock sensors on both front doors, these can be replaced by a competent DIY’er but the parts are typically around £85-£100 each (four in total, 2 x lock, 2 x unlock). It may be that the batteries in the card itself need replacing, which are very cheap to buy (CR2025 button/disc-style)

While blown bulbs are a minor issue, changing headlamp bulbs is very awkward and can require the removal of the bumper. A full guide to replacing all bulbs is available in the 'How To' section of the forum. Where fitted, make sure that the cornering lamps work – if they don’t then the car may have had them retrofitted.

Look out for holes on the tailgate where a spoiler has been fitted, and on the front bumper where a RenaultSport front chin spoiler has been fitted, but removed by a previous owner.

Steering link rods seem prone to wear, which I understand is relatively common on many modern Renaults, relatively inexpensive to resolve.

A clunking noise from the steering can indicate a failing rack, the noise initially sounds like a dry universal joint however the cause is likely to be an issue with the rack itself; which will necessitate replacement. Complete racks are not prohibitively expensive from Renault @ £400-450. This comes complete with new track rods and track rod ends, and represents an opportunity to upgrade any 197 or non-Cup 200 to the slightly quicker Cup rack. Fitting isn’t fun, and requires at least partial lowering of the front subframe, so an ideal job to undertake at the same time as gearbox or clutch work. Before changing the rack do ensure that this is the issue, there have also been suggestions of failed power steering motors, these are part of the upper steering column and are closer to £1,000.

The standard, mild steel exhausts systems can rot over time. A brand new standard replacement from Renault is very expensive. There are usually many second hand standard systems available for sale by members on the forum, or on an auction site near you - these tend to be very cheap as there is no great demand for them. Alternatively, an aftermarket system is also a good option - see Performance Modification section below for more information.

On a related matter, the flexi-pipe sections of the exhaust manifold can wear over time, leading to them needing replacing. Listen for a blow from that section of the exhaust. Replacement manifolds can be bought relatively cheaply (aftermarket and second-hand). Alternatively, the flexis can be replaced into the existing manifold for a lower parts cost. However whichever option is chosen, the large cost in this case is the removal and re-fitment of the manifold, as it involves dropping the subframe and as such is very labour-intensive. Fitment of Powerflex polybush engine mount inserts are known to reduce engine movement and as such prolong the life of flexis.

Rattles from the rear are typically either the boot catch or the rear seat back catches.

Split/perished rubber weather seals in the leading edge of the rear side windows. Widely available for ~£10 each, however care must be taken when fitting to ensure they bond correctly.

Glovebox doors can warp out of shape.

Some early cars had problems with the A/C system.

Gearboxes are known to be awkward when cold, but all changes should be smooth, especially when warm. More seriously both versions of the gearbox can be prone to premature syncro failure, this is generally most noticeable when changing down into 3rd gear, especially if you skip a gear, though other owners have first noticed issues with 4th.

Some examples have been known to suffer poor door alignment, though this should be relatively easy to resolve.

It is advisable to avoid cars with patchy history or missed services - these cars are designed and built to be used quite hard, but a degree of mechanical sympathy is still required. Preventative maintenance should not be ignored and this includes regular oil changes, 12k is fine for a motorway car, but if using on track then oil changes should be made every 6k.

Something that seems to have appeared relatively recently on older cars is a clunk from the steering when turning from lock to lock; while I don't believe this is really a safety issue, as far as I know the cause has not been fully diagnosed; if it is the PAS motor then I think that requires a complete upper steering column which is very expensive.

Higher mileage cars and those which have been used on track are not necessarily to be avoided. Renault built these cars with track use in mind and they do seem to hold up very well, just be more vigilant for any mechanical issues with cars that have perhaps had a harder life. As with any car there are good and bad examples out there, but find the right car and you will have a permanent grin when driving it.

Ownership Advice

One thing to be aware of is the fuel consumption, it isn't great. Not only do they like a drink, but they prefer the expensive stuff. The Clio has a knock sensor, so it can make the most of higher octane fuel. The benefits are most noticeable when the car is cold – on a standard ECU map, and running 95RON fuel these cars tend to be very lumpy when cold, often kangarooing embarrassingly until warmed up, using 97RON didn’t make much difference to me, but using 99RON the symptoms seem to be reduced – this seems to be the sentiment of a number of owners. Expect 30-33 mpg in very gentle day-to-day driving, trying to make more rapid progress will result in consumption in the high 20’s, lots of town use will bring this down to the mid 20’s. On track you will see this consumption increase to around 12 mpg. Despite the engine being similar to that used in the 1*2, and the 197/200 having an extra gear, do not expect similar fuel economy; the 197/200 is noticeably worse.

Check for blocked scuttle panel drain holes – this more of a maintenance issue, these are difficult to see without removing the scuttle trim but if blocked can immerse the wiper motor in rainwater.

Rear brake discs – OE discs come ready fitted with bearings and ABS tone wheels, cheaper aftermarket discs often don’t, and can work out more expensive.

Occasionally the auto wipers can have a mind of their own, typically rectified by a restart, and sometimes the dash lights won’t come on with the headlights, usually rectified by turning them off and back on again.
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Performance Modifications

In terms of power increases, there isn’t an easy way to get significant gains. The F4R variant used in the 197 is already quite highly strung (though few make the quoted 197PS / 194BHP).

Exhaust and inlet

Panel filters are a popular upgrade, though any power increase is unlikely to be noticed. Avoid messing with the secondary inlet trumpet, it opens above a certain rpm and its removal typically causes a fault light to illuminate.

The exhaust system starts with a nicely designed 4-2-1 manifold, with collector cat where the 2 pipes become 1. It is then followed by a secondary cat, which leads on to the rest of the system, with a small silencer under the middle of the car and a large single silencer behind the rear diffuser. The standard manifold and primary cat design is pretty good, though gains can be made through the removal of this first cat and just relying upon the second for emissions testing. Be aware though that any reduction in back pressure typically exaggerates a midrange flat spot necessitating a remap to improve things.

There are several companies that offer aftermarket exhaust systems for the 197/200 and all are highly regarded, some more than others. Preference varies from member to another. Fitting one is unlikely to see any significant power gains (if any at all), however the improvement in sound is the chief benefit to this modification. Please note that having an aftermarket exhaust on the car can result in an exaggeration of a flat spot in the lower end of the rev range. Although not prohibitive, a remap will iron this out and improve overall driveability.

Like the 1*2 the inlet manifold on the 197 responds well to port matching, with power gains in places across the rev range of upto 10BHP being reported by some companies.

Much beyond this your options are limited, performance cams are available, but these can require head work to provide enough clearance for more aggressive lobes, and if the cams are too aggressive then aftermarket management may be required, possibly with forged engine internals. The costs quickly spiral and you are still unlikely to achieve much more than 230BHP. Some tuning companies are developing supercharger kits though little appears to be known about their results or reliability.


The car loves to be used on the track, but the standard braking combination can quickly fade. There are many upgrades available, with different people swearing by their setup. The main issue with standard is that you can easily overheat the standard pads with a plain disc. This gives two choices, grooved discs to reduce the temperature of the pads, or hotter pads. Hotter pads are the cheaper option, however they can often be a bit wooden when cold, and their higher operating temperature could contribute to warping the discs. Grooved discs can be an expensive option, especially if you go for a bell and rotor setup, but you may be able to retain the relatively inexpensive standard pads and still get terrific braking.

Wheels / Spacers

Renault chose an unusual offset for the wheels at ET68. From some angles the wheels can appear too far hidden in the arches, many owners seem to try spacers for the cosmetic effect of filling the arches, but these same owners often seem to be selling the spacers quite soon afterwards, suggesting that altering the offset (with the spacers) has a detrimental impact upon handling.


Lowering springs and coilover suspension are popular with some owners, if this is going to suit you really depends on what you are going to use the car for. Also remember that coilovers need careful setting up to be an improvement in anything more than cosmetics, or even to match the standard setup.

The community members on this forum are incredibly helpful and always willing to answer questions, therefore if there are any points not covered in this guide that you would like to ask about, please do not hesitate to put your question to the members.
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