Vintage French cars are undeniably cool and quirky. Saying that French designers thought outside of the box is to ignore that they often just rejected the existence of said box. Just look at a Citroën DS—a futuristic piece of sculpture that looks like nothing else on the road.
French automakers also excelled at their rallying efforts in the 1980s. The Peugeot 205 T16 is one of the most successful rally cars of the Group B era, and the little Renault R5 Turbo punched way above its weight class.
If those cars excited you back then, but they’re outside of your budget, then the Renault Sport Clio V6 is a great alternative. We even found one for sale! Here’s the catch: this 19,500-mile 2001 model is located in Quebec, Canada—these hot hatches were never imported to North America. Because of differencing import laws, Canada allows import of gray-market cars at 15 years, which is painfully cruel to those of us in the United States where we have to wait 25 years.
What’s the big deal with the Clio V6?
The Clio V6 is essentially the bonkers spiritual successor to the R5 Turbo. Just like the R5, the Clio is a total wolf in sheep’s clothing. These are Clios by name and outward looks alone. The Phase 1 cars, like this one, are essentially road-going race cars assembled by Tom Walkinshaw Racing, of Jaguar and Holden racing fame.
What Walkinshaw did was take the basic shape of a Clio, move the engine to the back, and stretch the body out. The engine he shoehorned inside is a 2.9-liter V-6 making 230 horsepower. These cars were able to pull out a 6.2-second 0–60 time when new—not blistering by today’s standards, but still a full second quicker than a comparable VR6-powered 2001 Volkswagen GTI and only marginally slower than the current GTI.
Speed, however, isn’t necessarily the only element of a great hot hatch. Handling is just as important, and given the driveline layout and overall width, the Clio is set up to deliver. Reviews of these cars rave about the predictable handling and sheer enjoyment of hucking the little French rocket through corners.
Not without drawbacks
Now the Clio V6 wouldn’t be a French car without dash of weirdness. The engine placement, of course, comes with some trade-offs. Any ideas of using this car as the family grocery getter should be quickly put to rest. With the V6 positioned directly behind the driver, there is no room for additional passengers, so forget about cargo.
Using this car for anything other than sheer driving pleasure is missing the point. Approach it like you would a Corvette, S2000, or Miata, albeit with even less practicality. The Clio V6 also has a notoriously wide turning radius.
Bottom line—for a bizarre European hatchback with a personality unlike any other, the Renault Sport Clio V6 needs to be on your radar. If you’re a Canadian resident and have the cash, do not wait; scoop this guy up right now. Yes, $59,995 CAD (about $45,000 USD) is steep given other options out there, but opportunities to own something like this don’t pop up often in North America. Meanwhile, those of us in the U.S. will look on in envy. Enjoy your free healthcare, delicious poutine, and oddball mid-engine V6 French hatchbacks—we’re totally over it and not counting down until 2026.