Motoring: Plenty of fun to drive but not hot enough to steal: Roger Bell finds a good GTi compromise in the Renault 19 RSI
Saturday 10 July 1993
Under a 20-tier insurance rating system (Fiat Panda 1, Ferrari Mondial 20), most serious performance hatchbacks - Citroen ZX 16V, Ford Escort XR3i, Honda Civic VTI, Nissan Sunny GTi, Renault 19 16V, Vauxhall 2.0GSi - are penalised by an expensive 15 rating, though the Peugeot 205 1.9GTi and Golf GTi (two of the best) are favoured with a 14.
For many people, to save on insurance costs - perhaps to get a quote at all - means dropping down to group 12 or below. It is in the 10-12 range that you will find most of the so- called 'warm' hatchbacks, the junior GTis that lack the fizz (and perhaps the excesses) of their senior role models but are more fun than cheaper runarounds. Renault's group 12-rated 19 RSI is one of the warmer contenders.
I rather like the Escort-sized 19, priced from pounds 8,150 to pounds 15,900. It belies its sober looks with oodles of charm, civility and comfort, if not great spaciousness - rear-seat leg-room is far from generous. The big-booted RSI, saloon or hatchback, projects a discreetly sporting image with its incongruous rear wing, mock-alloy wheels and plastic addenda.
Power comes from a 1.8-litre engine that is as flexible and sweet as it is technically unsophisticated. No matter. The acceleration is brisk enough for the most impatient driver and the handling stays firm at high revs - not always the case with the fastest GTis. With the engine at full throttle there are no nasty side-effects, such as steering 'tug' or wayward weaving.
Although no sports car, the 19 RSI is not short of driver appeal. It goes well, handles niftily - the adjustable steering wheel is power-assisted - and corners with precision and composure. Tyres and suspension have not been uprated to a pseudo-sports specification, so the ride remains supple. The heavily bolstered seats, lifted from the faster 16V, have the snug fit of a sports saloon's. Standard equipment includes an engine immobiliser and remote radio controls within fingertip reach of the wheel. The gearchange is fast and precise, instruments and switchgear well deployed, brakes firm and progressive. Dynamically, there is little wrong with the RSI. It is a pleasant, spirited car.
If the Renault's group 12 rating is still too high, consider instead the group 10 RSI turbo-diesel costing pounds 255 less than the petrol version. On top speed and all-out acceleration, the 1.9-litre diesel is slower. At low revs, however, it pips the 1.8's pick-up - and always beats it on economy. Anyone unconvinced about the idea of a sprightly diesel should take a test drive in the 1.9 RSI or (even better) its Citroen ZX Volcane rival. Fortunately, diesels are a turn-off to light- fingered yobs. They have yet to discover there is dexterity in derv.
Citroen ZX Volcane turbo-diesel pounds 12,995. Strong acceleration mid- range, where it's most needed, belies group 10 insurance rating. Fine handling, a cracking driver's car. Diesel engine clattery when idling. Excellent economy.
Fiat Tipo 2.0ie SLX, pounds 11,950. Crisp- handling five-door hatch powered by gutsy 2.0-litre engine that bridges gap between 1.6 and 2.0 16V. Performance similar to Renault's, insurance (group 13) more expensive.
Nissan Sunny SR, pounds 11,230. Bland three-door squareback poseur that looks like a full-blown GTi but isn't. Twin-cam 16-valve engine has right credentials, but modest capacity and oomph.
Renault Clio RSI, pounds 10,695. Smaller than its 19 RSI sibling, but cheaper to buy and insure. Chic group 11 Clio is also quicker and more entertaining. Strong contender for warm-hatch crown.
Renault 19 RSI, pounds 11,650 (four-door saloon pounds 11,835). Engine: 1,794cc, four cylinders, eight valves, 113bhp at 5,500rpm. Transmission: five- speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive. Performance: 0-60mph in 9.6 seconds, top speed 120mph. Economy: 33-38mpg unleaded.
Life & Style blogs
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary
McDonald’s launches clothing line using Big Mac prints
Facebook to test 747-sized drones that will beam broadband to the entire world
The distress of some Zayn Malik fans is real, and they need support, say experts
Chair-bound workers 'should move around every hour to reduce physical and mental health risks'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...