The Clio is our current supermini class favourite. Since its launch, it has won every group test it’s taken part in, and was crowned Best Supermini at the Auto Express New Car Honours 2006 (Issue 915). A major factor in its success is its styling – the Renault is a great-looking car.
That’s some achievement on the part of the firm’s designers, as the Clio has the longest wheelbase on test – only the Yaris is taller and only the 207 longer. So it hides its size very well, managing to avoid the MPV appearance of some class rivals and giving it the most visual appeal here.
These dimensions certainly help interior space, as the Clio provides rear passenger room on a par with the Corsa’s. And thanks to the front seats’ clever sliding and tilting movement, access to the back chairs couldn’t be easier. What’s more, the 288-litre boot is the biggest here, the rear seats split 60/40 and the bench tumbles to give a flat load area, so practicality can’t be faulted.
Up front, the driving position is good, with a wide range of movement on the steering wheel and seat. However, there isn’t as much knee room as in the 207 or Corsa, so taller people will find their legs rubbing on the dashboard. Renault also charges £275 for steering wheel reach adjustment, which strangely comes as an option with the hands-free entry keycard.
We really like the soft-touch material used to trim the dash; you have to opt for the Dynamique spec or above to get it, but it gives the Clio an upmarket, clean and modern ambience. In fact, the whole cabin layout is more stylish than the Vauxhall’s, with attractive touches such as the roller ball controls for the air vents and the clear dials. Ergonomically it’s very well executed, visibility is good, and the Renault is comfortable on long trips.
The ride is one of the reasons for this; the Clio glides over bumps which would unsettle rivals, and it remains composed at all times. It’s also more nimble through corners than the Corsa, offering greater involvement and agility. The brakes are strong, too, stopping the car from 60mph in 36.8 metres, and have plenty of feel.
It’s a shame, then, that the steering is so artificial. Although turn-in is sharp and more responsive than on the Corsa, the power assistance makes the wheel light, and either side of the straight ahead there’s a sudden increase in weighting.
But this isn’t enough to stop you enjoying the superb chassis on a twisty road. Motorway refinement is also better than any rival’s, and to complete the package the light controls mean relaxing progress in town. The gearbox feels slack, but the 98bhp 1.4-litre engine is the most powerful here. It’s the quickest to rev and keenest to perform – and this showed at the test track. Despite being 56kg heavier than the Corsa, the Clio was quickest from 0-60mph and had the fastest in-gear response. Add refinement on a par with the Vauxhall, and this engine is the pick of the bunch.
As you’d expect from a Renault, safety kit is impressive; you get eight airbags as standard, and stability control is a £300 option. But the car sits one insurance group higher than the Corsa, while the standard alloy wheels measure 15 inches compared to the Vauxhall’s 16-inch rims.So the Clio remains a very strong all-rounder. The question is whether it’s still good enough to hold off the challenge of the new Vauxhall.
Model tested: Renault Clio 1.4 Dynamique
Chart position: 1
WHY: Our current class favourite, the Clio comes in Extreme, Expression, Dynamique and Dynamique S trims in three-door guise. There’s a choice of six engines, plus the top-of-the-range Renaultsport 192 hot hatch. Here we try the 1.4 Dynamique A/C, which is priced at £10,935 – that’s £160 less than the Corsa.
Renault’S Clio was even more frugal –averaging 36.6mpg. It has the biggest tank, too, and at a decent 443 miles, the longest range of the five.
The Clio has an estimated 39.1 per cent retained value; almost identical to the Fiesta. That’s disappointing for a car which is still relatively new.
Not only is the Yaris the cheapest to service, its dealers came fourth in Driver Power. Yet 10,000-mile gaps mean more regular trips to the garage.
Clio’s suspension set-up combines stable handling and a lively chassis with a very composed ride. Refinement is also a major strong point – indeed, only the Vauxhall can match Renault for comfort.