The called Amedee Gordini ‘The Sorcerer’, and as someone who has once too often come off second-best to a Gordini which was older, smaller and less powerful than the car I was racing at the time, I can see why. Many of us will also have fond memories of the many Gordini road cars that have appeared over the years, the Renault 8 Gordini being one of the most distinctive saloons of all time, and the Renault 5 Gordini arguably beating the Golf GTI to the title of world’s ﬁrst hot hatch.
And the good news is the name is back, on the Twingo Gordini and the Clio Gordini pictured here. So what sorcery has Renault been up to this time? Is there more power, less weight or more grip for this Clio? Er, no, no, and no. Different wheels aside, mechanical enhancements can be described in their entirety as – non-existent. Instead you get this rather natty paint job complete with Gordini’s famous stripes, leather seats and sundry other hide-based enhancements to the steering wheel, gear lever and gaiter, plus the satisfaction of knowing only you and another 499 people in the UK will ever own one.
It is a fabulous car to drive, offering strong acceleration thanks to its 200bhp, 2-litre engine and a front-wheel-drive chassis of exceptional composure, lucidity and feel. And if it were not for the nagging knowledge that the same ability was available not only for the £19,650 Renault charges for the Gordini but also the £16,710 asked for the basic Renaultsport Clio 200, I’d have loved every moment in it.
I think car manufacturers play fast and loose with these names at their peril. They may help you sell a few hundred Clios today, but so too is a once great name diluted.
Still, it could be worse. I once had to review the Rover 200 BRM for this magazine. It was as bad as it sounded: a Rover 200 with an orange nose, quilted red leather seats, no more power, and modest chassis enhancements that made the car only slightly less uninteresting to drive. Raymond Mays would have spun faster than a V16 BRM at full chat. At least the car bearing the Gordini name remains the most fun hot hatch on the road.
ENGINE: 1998cc, four cylinder
TOP SPEED: 141mph
POWER: 200bhp at 7100rpm
FUEL/CO2: 34.3mpg, 195g/km