U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 39 mins

Here's a Useful Comparison of Two Weird French Cars You Can't Buy

Brendan McAleer
Photo credit: Brendan McAleer

From Road & Track

Here at Road & Track, we are committed to useful consumer advice that both informs and assists our readership. That's why our top editors are currently hard at work sifting through reams of data, both subjective and objective, collected in order to accurately assess which of a cutthroat field of 11 amazing machines will be our Performance Car Of The Year. Anyway, while they're all distracted, here's a comparison test between two wacky French cars you can't actually buy.

Let's. Get. Mid-engined. Hatchback. In. Here.

First, meet the Renault Clio V6, an extremely ludicrous idea in a lovely shade of blue. Instead of a rear seat, it has a 2.9L V6. This eliminates any hatchback usefulness, reduces the available passenger count to two, necessitates a hand-built widebody chassis, drops the maximum range below 300 miles, and results in a turning circle reminiscent of an ocean liner. Why? Because it's French! There is no room here for your silly American preconceptions of practicality.

If asked about French cars, most Americans would probably turn to Citroën, currently celebrating its hundredth anniversary. Citroëns are lovely machines, enjoyable and comfortable and largely possessing the driving dynamics of your average accordion. It you've ever punted a 2CV through a turn, you may think cornering on your doorhandles is key to the French motoring experience.

Ce n'est pas comme ça. Citroëns may be fun and quirky, but the tricolore of French valor is carried by Renault, whose sporting vehicles have a lengthy pedigree. Renaults have won in Formula One, at Le Mans, and at the World Rally Championship.

It is this last that spurred development of the Clio V6. Built partially as an homage to the equally mad-cap R5 Turbo, which won the Rallye Monte-Carlo in 1981, the first Clio V6s were racing machines in a single-make series that followed up the Renaultsport Spider Trophy. This particular one, a more powerful Phase 2 model, was brought in by Blitzkrieg Motorcars in Vancouver, a specialist dealership that's handled a few hot Renaults in its day.

The headline is the mid-mounted V6, which produces roughly 250 hp, but what really defines the Clio V6 is how much wider it is than the standard car. The doorhandles are tucked in huge gaps just ahead of the massive rear wheel arches. Up front, the Clio wears 205 series tires on 17” wheels, with fat 235mm tires out back. In profile, it looks like the Hunchback of Notre Audi R8.

Stepping over wide sills puts you in a bolt upright seating position. Forward visibility is excellent, which is good as the Clio V6 expects you to sit up and pay attention. This is a notoriously tricky car to drive at the limit on a track, with a tendency to swap end. On the street, however, it's just a flimsy French economy hatchback with a V6 sitting inside the cabin with you. And that, mes amis, is a recipe for meth soufflé.

Wring the V6 out to its 7500 rpm redline, and the wide-assed Clio scoots forward like an MR2 Turbo with a beret and a boost upgrade. Nothing makes sense: not the pace, not the fizzy V6 rear soundtrack matched with hatchback views, and certainly not the crappy interior. The upright shifter is a bit notchy, and feels like you're trying to tear the antenna off of Bender from Futurama.

It's all just one of the most entertaining, most ridiculously audacious vehicles anyone has thought to sell to the public. And what did we get stuck with? The Renault Alliance? C'est merde.


Pitched up against this mid-2000s excellence, I have for you the Twizzy, an amuse-bouche of a tandem-two-seater EV. It has no side windows. It has Lambo doors. Said doors are optional. This example, borrowed from startup EV maker Electrameccanica, has had the maximum speed limiter reset. Sounds unsafe!

Unfortunately, the Twizzy still only has a maximum of 17 hp available from its 6.1 kWh lithium-ion battery. The 0-60 time is Nope, Won't Do It. However, the 0-30mph time is a claimed 4.4 seconds, which is plenty sprightly.

Driving it is like being transported back to elementary school and borrowing your best friend's Power Wheels Jeep. Except now you're out on the street surrounded by actual Jeeps, any of whom could crush you like a insect. Speaking of which, the turn signals make cricket-chirping noises.

For such a narrow, tall car, the Twizzy corners like an electric skateboard, its exposed suspension bits working away. It does feel partially like a golf cart, but a golf cart that's being used to do donuts on the greens of some stuffy clubhouse. Everything works best when you weld your right foot to the floorboard and don't brake for corners, in the best French motoring tradition.

As with the Clio V6, the Twizzy is endless fun, yet also makes only the slightest concessions to personal safety. Both cars are, in essence, breathtakingly stupid.

But, in a rising tide of stultifyingly pragmatic crossovers, we could really use a lot more of this sort of thing. Without a dash of French nincompoopery, the automotive world descends into performance figures, and Germanic press releases about dynamic sporty emotion, and obsessing over Nürburgring lap times.

Sheer performance has never been more accessible, but there's still something missing from many cars. Joy. Joie de vivre, in fact. Judging by the way the Renault Alpine has outsold the Porsche 718 Cayman in Europe by almost 1000 cars so far this year, that essential French delight in driving is something drivers have been aching for.

Would that we could add a 12th vehicle to our test fleet, next time, something with a little French derangement sprinkled in. It might be just theje ne sais quois we need. Until then, au revoir.

(Editor's Note: Hang on a second. You didn't even pick a winner.)

I didn't? *shrug* *lights Gauloise*

Désolé.

~fin~

You Might Also Like