Renault Clio review
Renault's fourth generation Clio helped bring the French firm back into contention in the supermini segment. Now having received a refresh, the Clio once again looks to compete at the highest level in a fiercely competitive sector. With improved styling and equipment joining a very efficient powertrain line-up, there is every chance the compact Renault could top the class.
Review by Chris Lilly
The 1.5 litre dCi diesel unit in the Clio tested isn't going to win many races with its 90hp and 220 Nm of torque. The 0-62mph run is completed in 11.9 seconds, before topping out at 112mph. However, that's clearly not the point of this powertrain, and the focus on efficiency has returned excellent results. More on that later though. Sticking with performance, although the figures don't sound particularly good, the torque available to be put through a five-speed manual gearbox is quite handy, and means shorter sprints are easily dispatched without fuss. Pulling away from lights, out of junctions, or accelerating up a hill doesn't see the Clio struggle, it's just that the engine is set-up for performance of an economical nature, rather than a sporting one. The powertrain is a good one, never feels underpowered, and the engine-transmission combination is well matched, so you won't be grabbing for a sixth gear that simply doesn't exist.
The Clio is very nicely set-up in terms of driving dynamics. Tailored for a comfortable ride - the sporty stuff is left to the RenaultSport guys - the Clio lacks the precision of a Ford Fiesta for example, but not by much. Instead it has a softer ride that is more suited to the demands of urban driving, and the speed-bump and pot-holed surfaces faced by many. The Clio's engineers have done a good job though in not making it too soft, and the Clio copes remarkably well at motorway speeds, settling down over fast surfaces rather than rolling about. The steering is light but precise, even if it doesn't provide a lot of feedback. On the open road, you might crave a little more weight, but as soon as you get into town those thoughts soon disappear. The ability to twirl the Clio about tight streets or up car park ramps means that it is ideally suited to urban driving.
The Clio isn't to everyone's tastes, but I like the bold Gallic styling. The revisions have made it a little more grown up too, bringing in elements of the Megane's design, and making the Clio more mature, perhaps in a bid to provide some competition to VW's Polo. Renault only offers the Clio as a five-door hatch, even if all look as though they are three-door models thanks to the hidden rear door handles. This helps both with the stylish hatchback theme and practicality. All in all, it stands out from the crowd and in a good way. Looking at practicality, a decent sized boot is on offer, though visibility rearwards is not the greatest because of the sharp rise in the lower window line at the C-pillar. The bootlid is fairly large, but a drop to the boot floor from the hatch, and a pinched in waist at the window line mean it isn't as easy to access as some less stylish rivals. It's only really a problem with large loads though, and day to day luggage needs aren't affected.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin feels fairly upmarket considering this is a compact French supermini, with careful attention obviously having been paid to a number of elements. Renault has improved the quality of materials used about the interior as part of the upgrade, with the door panels, seats, air vents, steering wheel, and gear knob changed. The interior can still feel quite dark though, with only the gloss panel on the centre console offering any change from the large dashboard. With a touchscreen system in that centre console, the rest of the cabin is nice and tidy in regards to switch gear, with everything not controlled through that unit - the air conditioning basically - grouped in a neat little cluster below. The indicators and door handles aren't the most robust feeling ones around, but neither do they feel flimsy either, and there are plenty of soft-touch buttons around to improve the interior ambience too. The interior isn't the best in its class, but it's far from the worst either.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
With a good driving experience on offer and reasonably practical interior, Renault plays its trump card in terms of efficiency. A quoted 85.6 MPG and 85 g/km CO2 put the Clio on a par with some hybrids - only minus the electrification element. I averaged a far less outstanding 55.5 MPG on test, though this did include plenty of trips that didn't suit the Clio, and a mix of driving styles. I reckon 62 MPG would easily be achievable without much consideration for economical driving. The 85 g/km CO2 figure puts it into VED Band A, meaning the Clio will cost nothing to tax each year.
Renault has added an Eco button as standard to some specifications, which when activated will reduce engine torque a little and reduces the responsiveness of the throttle to compensate for heavy footedness. Other systems include a gear shift indicator, a driving style indicator will change colour from green to red depending on how economy, and the Clio comes with engine stop/start as standard. An eco driving section of the infotainment system will give tips as to how to improve driving efficiency, along with a driving score, and other statistics. I for example, was awarded 78 out of 100 over the course of more than 500 miles, and travelled almost 90 of those miles without consuming any fuel. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 29.
The Clio range starts very reasonably, but quickly rises in cost from around £11,000 for the entry level specification, to £20,000 for a fully kitted model (ignoring the RenaultSport Clio). You get a decent amount of equipment for your money though, with DAB radio, smartphone compatibility, cruise control, and keyless entry and start included on entry level Expression trim. Dynamique S Nav tested adds 17-inch black alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED front and rear lights, automatic climate control, leather steering wheel, electric windows all-round, automatic headlights and wipers, a 7-inch touchscreen navigation and infotainment system, Eco mode, and front fog lights.
The Clio was a good supermini before the upgrade, and now it's even better. Renault has worked on the areas where the Clio lacked a little compared to its rivals, and has polished them nicely. An improved interior, better value for money, and slightly more refined styling all add to a frugal Renault, and one that's nice to drive. Cheap to run, and characterful, the Clio is a car that I would say is worth considering for anyone looking at a compact hatchback.
Model tested: Renault Clio Dynamique S Nav dCi 90
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre 90hp turbo diesel / 85 g/km
Trim grades: Expression, Play, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav, Signature Nav
On-road price: From £14,800. Price as tested £20,985
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars