Renault's all-new Clio RS 200 is still nearly a year from making its Australian sales debut, but Aussie F1 driver Mark Webber has already got his hands one of the little hotboxes.
Piloting a left-hand-drive version of the new Clio RS at Melbourne's Sandown Raceway, Webber spoke of his history with the Renault brand.
“My first test in Formula 1 was with a Renault engine. I’ve achieved all my wins, all my podiums and all my pole positions with Renault engines," Webber said.
"The Clio RS is nimble, light and powerful. It’s nice to see how much grip the car has got and how awesome it is on the brakes.”
Revealed at last year's Paris Motor Show, the new Clio RS went on sale in Europe last month, but an Australian launch is not scheduled to occur until early in 2014.
Power in the new model is provided by a 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine - replacing the 2.0 litre NA mill of the current Australian-delivered model.
Output is around the same, at 147kW, but torque grows with the new engine from 215 to 240Nm.
Both numbers appear sooner, too, with maximum power developed at 6000rpm - down from 7200rpm - and top twist is now available between 1750rpm and 5600rpm.
Power is sent to the front wheels through Renault's EDC dual-clutch transmission.
Renault says the new RS 200 will hit 100km/h in 6.7 seconds, shaving a couple of hairs off the 6.9 second time of its predecessor.
Features on the new model include a new diffuser and spoiler that add 80 and 20 percent more downforce respectively. There's also larger 320mm front disc brakes, 8mm bigger than in the current model.
The familiar Sport and Cup chassis tunes will be offered with the new model, the latter packing a 5mm-lower suspension setup and 15 percent stiffer springs.
Compared to the regular 2013 Clio, the RS 200 gets unique bumpers at both ends, dual exhaust tips and 17-inch alloy wheels with 18-inch options.
Watch for details on Australian timing in the coming months.