Renault Clio review
The Renault Clio takes on the Peugeot 208 and Ford Fiesta, with efficient engines and stylish looks
The latest Renault Clio is one of the most distinctive and stylish superminis available. Unlike the third-generation model it replaced, this all-new Clio is only available as a five-door hatchback, but it does come with hidden rear door handles. These give it a sporty three-door profile, which helps it to stand out from rivals like the facelifted Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo. The interior is equally stylish, too, with a striking new centre console that features an integrated tablet-like screen, while a vast array of colour and personalisation options are available. The entry-level 1.2 engine offers 51.4mpg and returns of 127 g/km of CO2, but does feel a little breathless at top speeds. There are two new engines – an 89bhp three-cylinder 0.9 TCe petrol engine and a 1.5 dCi diesel with CO2 emissions of just 83g/km. The new RenaultSport model joined the line-up in spring 2013 and is powered by a 197bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine for a 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds. It’s also available with a more focused Cup chassis for an extra £450, but even the standard Clio Renaultsport is expensive – it starts at £2,000 more than the Fiesta ST. Currently at the top of the range is the Dynamique S MediaNav, which comes with 17-inch alloy wheels. The Renault Clio GT-Line is a more affordable option instead of the Renault Clio Renaultsport 200. It has the same striking body kit and sport technology as with the Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 and also gets plenty of extra accessories, such as a TomTom Live sat-nav, an R-Link touchscreen infotainment system and an upgraded sound system as standard. The new car will sit between the dCI 90 Dynamique S and the hot hatch version in the range, but it'll debut with the new 1.2 TCe turbo petrol engine from Renault. Despite it's sporty intent, the new Renault Clio GT-Line will returns tax-friendly emissions of just 120g/km, and returns 54.3mpg. Plus, it sits in insurance group 14. An estate version of the Renault Clio will go on sale in Europe shortly, but is unlikely to make it to the UK. This is because Renault hopes buyers wanting a bit more space will opt for its new Renault Captur crossover.
Our choice: Clio 0.9 TCe 90
The new Renault Clio takes its inspiration from the DeZir supercar concept, which was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show back in 2010. There’s the same oversized ‘lozenge’ badge and slender gloss black grille, as well as slick chrome details and even the £535 optional Flame red paint. It’s a look that has transferred from concept to production well, creating a supermini with more kerb appeal than almost all of its rivals. This Clio will only be sold as a five-door in the UK (European buyers can get an estate), but rear door handles hidden in the C-pillars give it a much sleeker side profile. There’s a wide range of personalisation option to choose from, too, including decals for the bodywork and matching colour schemes for the paintwork, wheels and interior. Inside, there’s a brand-new seven-inch tablet-style screen integrated into the dash, which on higher-spec cars is finished in attractive gloss black trim. Gadgets like Bluetooth and keyless entry and start are also fitted standard, so it’s a shame that the level of quality isn’t higher. The plastics on the door panels and dash are scratchy and hard to the touch, while the manual air-con dials and small vents feel particularly flimsy. There are four specs to choose from, but you'll need to opt for Expression + and above if you want alloy wheels. The previous top-spec model is the Dynamique S MediaNav. This comes with 17-inch alloys wheels with a selection of four different colour inserts, chrome side window surrounds, climate control, electric folding door mirrors, all-round electric windows and rear parking sensors. The Clio Renaultsport - which, combined with the GT-Line, is one of the new top-spec models - will be available in a selection of trims, too, with the range-topping Cup model benefitting from a lowered ride height, stiffer suspension, a quicker steering ratio, red brake callipers and gloss black 18-inch alloys. The new addition to the range, the Renault Clio GT-Line sport model, has a more extreme look, with beefier styling including 17-inch grey GT-Line alloy wheels, a subtle rear spoiler, side sills and the option of the striking Malta Blue i.d. paint.
The new Renault Clio uses a modified version of the previous car’s platform, rather than an all-new chassis, but it still feels noticeably sharper. This is thanks to the fact its kerbweight has dropped by as much as 100kg, while the quick and accurate steering is also a big plus point. The bouncy ride is disappointing, though, as it causes some body roll in corners. The Renault Clio is still reasonably comfortable and quiet on the move, but it’s not as engaging to drive as a Ford Fiesta ST. The new three-cylinder 0.9 TCe unit feels really slow in higher gears and struggles to make progress on steep slopes, but is fun around town. We much prefer the punch of Ford's three-cylinder 1.0 EcoBoost, though. The 1.5 dCi engine is smooth, pulls strongly and feels particularly at home on the motorway. There’s also a 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol. The standard-fit five-speed manual gearbox is notchy, though, so it’s a shame that the Clio isn’t available with an automatic gearbox even as an option. The same EDC dual-clutch gearbox that you get with the Renaultsport Clio 200 is also available with the Renault GT-Line - it produces 118bhp and 190Nm of torque. Plus, it promises a 0-62mph time of just 9.9 seconds, and a top speed of 121mph. But, other than the GT-Line and Renaultsport versions, the dual-clutch gearbox is only available as an option. The new 1.2-litre Renault Clio GT-Line gets stiffer dampers, which means better body control when cornering. It also has the same switchable Renaultsport Drive system as the fastest model, but it has two settings only: Normal and Sport.
Renault hasn’t had the best reputation for reliability of late, and the brand finished 27th out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. This was still one place ahead of Peugeot, but its cars picked up the worst score of any manufacturer in the build quality and reliability, technology and ease of driving categories. The third-generation Clio came a disappointing 89th in the Top 100, having dropped from 67th place in just 12 months. Owners say that the biggest problems are that its cabin is uncomfortable, the driving position is awkward and it lacks the latest technology. And in Auto Express' 2013 Driver Power survey, the Renault Clio disappointed again ranking 108th. But, the latest Clio should answer these complaints – although there are some concerns about the durability of the complex new electrics like the colour touchscreen in the centre console. However, the big maintenance costs should be much lower than before, especially since the Clio’s timing chain (one of the most common faults previously) is now guaranteed for the life of the car. As for safety, the new Clio has a full five-star Euro NCAP rating, with 89 per cent for adult occupant protection and an impressive 99 per cent score in the safety assist category. All versions come fitted with ESP, ABS and Emergency Brake Assist as standard, as well as a full complement of airbags. Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are also available as options.
The latest Clio's dimensions haven't changed dramatically from the previous-generation car, but it does sit 45mm lower and has a slightly longer wheelbase and a wider track, which creates more space inside. This means the boot has grown by 12 litres to 300 litres - more than both the Fiesta and 208, which have 276 and 285 litres respectively – and it expands to 1,146 litres with the rear seats folded flat. Plus, a 60:40 split in the rear seats is standard, meaning awkward items like skis or a snowboard will easily fit in. However, while its wheelbase is 100mm longer than the Fiesta’s, the Renault actually offers less space for rear passengers. This is because of the low roofline, small side windows and high-mounted rear bench, which makes it feel cramped and narrow for taller passengers. However, as the Clio is now only available as a five-door, getting into the back seats is easy. There’s plenty of storage space dotted around the cabin, too, although the glovebox is tiny on UK cars, with barely enough room for the slim owner’s manual. The Clio does boast an easy-to-use dashboard, however, which has clear and simple lines leading towards an easily accessible centre console. There's plenty of space in front of the gear lever, as well as cup holders and storage in the centre armrest and door panels.
This is a strong point of the Renault Clio. The new three-cylinder 0.9 TCe petrol engine is fitted with stop-start as standard. This allows it to return a claimed 62.8mpg and emit only 104/km of CO2. If you order the £250 ECO pack - which adds longer gear ratios, low rolling resistance tyres and a lighter plastic tailgate - those figures improve to 65.7mpg and 99g/km, making it free from road tax and the London Congestion Charge. The 1.5 dCi Dynamique is cleaner still, though, with a promised fuel consumption figure of 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of only 93g/km of CO2, or 88.3mpg and 83g/km with the ECO pack. The most economical Expression version is the 900cc TCe, with CO2 emissions of just 104g/km, and returns of 62.8mpg. That means the Clio is one of the cheapest cars on the market to run and cleaner than the equivalent Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208. Renault offers a range of great-value servicing deals and a four-year warranty, which should help to keep costs to a minimum. However, the Clio does have weaker residual values than those rivals, so don't expect it to be worth much when the time comes to sell. The Renault Clio Renaultsport is introduced to the market with a £18,995 starting price, that's more expensive than both the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi. Meanwhile, the all-new Renault Clio GT-Line returns 54.3mpg, and has tax-friendly emissions figures of just 120g/km. That's great value, plus, it's in insurance group 14.