Evo, one of our favorite print mags at MotoringFile, compares the 2007 MCS to the new Renault Clio 197. Great article and a fascinating comparison. Here’s an excerpt:
>The goalposts may have shifted, but the F1-style diffuser (on the Renault Clio 197) has to count for something. Which makes it something of a surprise when, on our first twisty mountain ascent, the Cooper S (25bhp down, remember) steadily pulls away from the throughly wrung-out Clio 197. Going down the other side, the pair are evenly matches but, when the tarmac becomes steeper and more tortuous again, the MINI wrests back a decisive advantage.
>We stop to try to unravel what’s happening and conclude that it has nothing to do with cornering speed (though, interestingly, the Cooper S certainly feels grippier) and everything to do with torque. The Renault’s inadequacy in this department – easy enough to compensate for if you’re in the right frame of mind and not in a blinding hurry – is ruthlessly exposed by the MINI’s quite remarkable mid-range punch and the way it hurls itself out of bends and down the next straight, the Renault left revving its nuts off to little obvious effect in its wake. On these roads, it’s such a crippling body-blow to the Clio that we wonder if it can recover. Of the quality of the engine in the new Cooper S, BMW was adamant: it’s terrific. It is.
>It even makes all the right noises – burbly exhaust at tickover, throaty growl thereafter – and connects with beautifully judged ratios swapped by a slick, short-throw ‘box. It’s clearly a MINI, with that almost preternatural agility and directness, and boy, does it go. And yet, judged against the te,plate of the previous Cooper S, the driving experience, while obviously familiar, doesn’t gel quite as satisfyingly. It’s down to steering. True, it doesn’t whine annoyingly anymore, but neither does it feel as naturally detailed or fluent as it should. Super-sharp initial turn-in is followed by a disconcerting numbness and inconsistency of weighting that feeds through only patchy messages as to how the car is reacting. The front end doesn’t always feel completely nailed, either, reacting oddly over certain combinations of bumps where the old car would have felt utterly tied down.
>The good news is that, with just a little acclimatisation, you can drive through these oddities and really lean on the Cooper S to a degree you’d maybe think twice about the Clio Renault Sport. The extra kinematic scope of the revised rear suspension makes it, if anything, more adjustable.
You can read the entire article in October’s Evo.