Well, thats me owned this car for a year now so i think i can give an acurate review. This is the best car i have ever owned. Sold a mondeo st for this, and before that i had a golf GT. Reliability i know renault arent the best but this car has never gone wrong once. Done 18,000 miles in a year and just changed the front tyres now.
The interior is perfect and comfortable on long jorneys and the air con is freezing!
Only complaint is the doors are massive, heavy and can be tough to get out of in tight spaces! apart from that, easily recommend this car, it is perfect!
I bought the car in September 2006 on a 0% HP agreement to replace my Mazda RX8 due to running costs and impending marriage, mortgage etc. In the past few months I've fallen out with it due to numerous niggly faults that occur with cars that are badly assembled and have zero build quality. It blows rear side lights at a rate of more than 1 a year. When i replace a rear bulb, the radio stops working - twice thats happened, a spring has gone on the clutch and now it screeches every time I change gear, the dachboard sometimes doesnt light up, the door ajar buzzer sometimes goes off for no reason, theres a flat spot sometimes when joining busy roundabouts when it seems like the clutch doesnt disengage and there is no drive. The list is endless. I'm just over half way through paying for the car - have spent over £7000 and still have over £4000 to pay and its falling to bits already. I wish i hadnt bought it and gone for a second hand Mazda 3, or a Focus or Astra. I cant imagine what a state it will be in when the HP expires.
Dont buy Renaults. They might look good in the showroom but they fall to pieces and the service department dont want to know. The service costs are excessive and on one occassion I turned up for a service (pre-booked with confirmation text message from Renault) and they werent expecting me - to their credit they did the service and it cost over £250, and it needed new front tyres which had worn out in 2 years, despite generally driving carefully.
The 197 looks subtle, purposeful and it's clearly not a normal Clio. It sits very squat with its flared front / rear arches and wide bumpers - Renault have gone a lot of effort.
For a smallish car, the interior is relatively high quality and better than previous incarnations. It's also quite practical with rear seats folded. There is the odd rattle, but the effect is a lot better than Renault's reputation would have you belive.
I had the gearbox replaced under warranty (my only issue so far) and it now has the taller 5th/6th ratios as fitted to post-October '07 cars. Fuel economy can be very good if you're gentle (40mpg), but around town, you're looking at 27mpg. My first service cost £175 and I've averaged about 30mpg overall, which I think is very fair - it is a near-200bhp car after all.
The engine in mine really started to come alive at 6k miles and now pulls really well. It's very torquey for a non-turbo engine and has a nice peak from about 2,500rpm. The standard exhaust soundproofing degrades slightly over time and sounds excellent with 12k on the clock.
The handling and braking are excellent - I cannot describe how much confidence this car imparts on all varieties of surface, but especially over typical A/B-roads.
Overall, I'm very pleased with my 197. I could afford a more expensive hot hatch or small coupe, but there really aren't many cars between this and an Audi S3 (nearly twice the price) that I'd consider.
I've owned the car since September and am delighted with it. I've had a sunroof/xenon headlights/cruise control etc as extras - no regrets. I know there are comments about sunroofs not being great in Renaults, but speaking from experience - it's great. The xenons are also well worthwhile, especially with the cornering lights. The parcel shelf is a bit flimsy and I only get 49mpg (diesel), but apart from that - I would definitely recommend the car and in the past I've owned Audis and BMWs!
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