CAR REVIEW: New Renault Clio
I followed a Renault Clio for a little while on my way home the other night; a mark II I think it was. It’s something that normally I wouldn’t have given a second thought to, the Clio has after all been around for ages; there are plenty of them around here, around everywhere in fact. They were, still are for that matter, one of Renault’s best sellers.
The truth is, when it comes to super-minis, I’ve always considered the Clio as a little bit of an also-ran. Chic styling aside, to me at least, the Clio has always lacked a certain cache – unless of course it happened to be blue and came complete with a Williams logo on its side, or more recently perhaps a Renaultsport badge. It somehow lacked the handling finesse of the Ford Fiesta and it never felt anywhere near as well constructed as the virtually bomb-proof Volkswagen Polo. Although I’ll grant you, it was always a far more attractive proposition than a Vauxhall Corsa.
So why then, the sudden interest in the Clio? Simple really, I was driving the new one.
What struck me first was how the Clio has grown. Today’s Clio mark IV is wider, longer and surprisingly lower than it once was. It’s lighter too; nearly 100kg lighter. So it goes without saying that fuel efficiency has gone up while CO2 emissions are down. It comes only as a five-door these days, but if you’re conscious of the added practicality cramping your style fret not, the handles for the rear doors are hidden Alfa-Romeo-style in the C pillars. As a result, from the side, to the uninitiated at least, the Clio still looks like a 3-door – perhaps the more steeply raked windscreen helps with that a little. Heavily sculpted panels and a new nose complete with what can only be described as a massive central badge complete it’s new and altogether bolder look. I like it; in fact I’d go as far as saying as it the best looking Clio to date.
The body might be bigger but in the case of our test car the engine size is down. You can buy your Clio with a 1.2l 16V four-pot petrol or indeed a 1.5 litre dCi diesel but as I got to try the turbocharged, wait for it… 900cc three cylinder motor that’s the one we’ll concentrate on.
I know 900cc doesn’t sound like a lot but this little motor delivers surprising performance once up and running. You’d never really know it was a turbo unit as it pulls cleanly through the rev-range and feels capable of providing a punch way beyond its weight. It’s smooth and quiet too, and lacks a much of the vibration usually attributed to a triple. And if you’re still not convinced how does the promise of 65.7 mpg on the combined cycle sound?
It’s just a shame that Renault decided to couple their frisky little engine to a slightly knuckley feeling gearbox and fit the Clio with stodgy, numb feeling steering and brakes that require a worryingly long push before providing any signs of retardation. A little more attention to detail here would have made all the difference. It is comfy though. The Clio may roll a little during cornering but the trade off is a refined ride that remains that way, even if you decide to take it out for longer than you might consider reasonable in something that ultimately still has it’s heart set on being in the city. I just wish they’d made feel more involving that’s all.
Inside the Clio’s had a makeover too. Gone are the swathes of grey plastic that blighted Renaults of old. Instead, in their place, you’ll find some very attractive sculpted and chrome rimmed dials complete with large, centrally mounted, digital speedo, and lots of rather sophisticated looking piano-black trim. The seats are a little flat but there’s the usual array of goodies we now expect as standard on a super-mini and even the option of a touch screen sat-nav. As Renault interiors go, in terms of quality and finish, there’s a quantum leap forward here. Although whoever decided to mount the engine’s start button way over the left and place the cruise control button between the seats still obviously hasn’t yet forgotten all of the ergonomic peculiarities associated with automobiles of Gallic persuasion.
All in all it’s hard not to like Renault’s latest Clio. Would I buy one over a Fiesta or Polo? In truth probably not, it’s not as engaging to drive as the former and there’s still too much clang rather than clunk upon shutting the doors to say it’s as well built as the latter. However, Renault has raised its game and the gap between the new Clio and its traditional rivals is closing. Today, the new Clio is definitely worth more than just a second look.
Renault Clio Dynamique MediaNav TCe 90 S&S ECO
Engine: 898cc 3Cyl 12V petrol turbo
Transmission: 5 speed Manual, Front wheel drive.
Power: 90bhp @ 5000pm
Torque: 100 lbft @ 2500rpm
0-62MPH: 11.8 Sec
Max Speed: 115 mph
MPG: 65.7 combined