Renault Clio review
Renault's chic supermini has always been a popular contender in the supermini class. But can the latest model take on the class best?
The Clio has always been a hugely important model for Renault, cementing their status as a prominent maker of stylish and fun small cars. But in the face of stiff competition from the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and the latest Vauxhall Corsa, does the French supermini still stack up?
On the outside it certainly stands out, with a distinctive front end and bulbous headlamps. From the side, the Clio's hidden rear door handles give it the impression of a sportier three-door, but this is the first Clio ever to be five-door only.
The cabin looks modern even in the face of newer rivals. A tablet-style control screen on all but the most basic models dominates the dash, and makes the facia clear and button-free. It's just a shame that some of the materials don't match up to the best in the class, and it's not the most spacious around.
The range consists of basic Expression and Expression +, plusher Dynamique, Dynamique S (both available with MediaNav sat-nav), the sporty GT-Line spec and hot hatch Renaultsport versions.
The Clio's engine range is as wide as the class leaders. The adequate for town 75bhp 1.2 litre petrol kicks things off. The latest model also embraces the trend for downsizing and turbocharging - starting with the three-cylinder 0.9-litre TCe petrol which puts out 90bhp and offers nearly 63mpg, with a new 1.5-litre dCi diesel offering similar output is even more frugal.
Finally, a more powerful 1.2-litre petrol TCe unit powers the GT-Line model, which acts as a mid-point in the range between the Dynamique S and hot Clio Renaultsport. This variant features the same aggressive styling as the Renaultsport, but has more standard kit over the Dynamique S, with TomTom Live sat-nav, R-Link touchscreen infotainment system and an upgraded stereo.
Topping the range is the 1.6-litre turbocharged, 197bhp Clio Renaultsport that will satisfy those looking for a Clio with a bit more punch - this car will reach 62mph in 6.7 seconds.
The Clio is a freshly styled alternative to its supermini rivals, offering plenty of kit and efficient engines. There's a comprehensive set of engines and trim levels to choose from, but the drive still trails the Fiesta and the interior quality can't quite match the best in class.
Our choice: Clio 0.9 TCe 90
The latest Renault Clio is a much more attractive and unique-looking supermini when compared with its conservative predecessor. Taking cues from the 2010 Renault DeZir concept car, the Clio has a sleek profile with disguised rear door handles hidden in the C-pillars.
Renault has jumped on the personalisation bandwagon, too, with options such as bodywork decals and matching colour schemes for the paint, wheels and interior all available. Some models feature distinctive LED daytime running lights, too.
Renault carries the Clio's stylish looks over to the interior, and the car receives a brand-new seven-inch tablet-style screen integrated into the dash, which on higher-spec cars is finished in an attractive gloss black trim. Despite a comprehensive standard kit list, many of the interior plastics feel scratchy and cheap - the manual air-conditioning dials and air vents feel particularly flimsy.
Renault offers its latest Clio in four specifications, but only the Expression+ and higher models come with alloy wheels as standard.
The top-spec Dynamique S MediaNav model comes with 17-inch alloys, 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 as standard kit.
Similarly, the sportier Renaultsport Clios are also available in a selection of trims. The RS benefits from a lowered ride height, stiffer suspension, quicker steering ratio, red brake callipers and gloss black 18-inch alloys.
The Clio sits on the same platform as the previous generation car, but has reduced its kerb-weight by 100kg, which has had a positive effect on performance. The Clio is quick and accurate to drive, but the ride can be bouncy and body roll is noticeable. It's a quiet and comfortable cruiser, but the Clio doesn't provide an engaging drive like the Ford Fiesta does.
The 0.9-litre TCe engine feels slow in higher gears and struggles to make good progress on steep slopes compared to a Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost. The Clio is a still a fun car to drive around town, though. The 1.5 dCi diesel engine is smooth, pulls strongly and feels much more at home on the motorway than the 0.9-litre petrol.
The Clio Renaultsport and GT get the EDC dual-clutch gearbox as standard over the clunky five-speed box found on non-sporty models, but the dual-clutch system is offered throughout the range as an option. Powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, the Renaultsport version has a 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds and will go on to reach a top speed of 143mph.
Despite using the switchable Renaultsport Drive system on the Clio RS, the GT-Line car's figures are slightly less - 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds, and a top-speed of 121mph. The GT Line's Renaultsport Drive system is also only available in two modes; sport and normal.
Renault has taken a hit in recent years, earning a reputation for making unreliable cars - shown in our previous Driver Power surveys. However, for 2014, Renault has made its way back up the manufacturer rankings, placing in 15th place out of 33.
The Clio also ranks at a respectable 38th position out of 150 cars, compared with a disappointing 108th position in 2013. There are still some concerns about the durability of the complex new technology such as the colour touchscreen, though.
In terms of safety, the new Clio continues Renault's impressive record, and 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.
Renault has fitted ESP, ABS and Emergency Brake Assist as standard to all of its Clios, as well as a full complement of airbags. Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are also available as options.
Interior space has been maximised for the fourth generation Clio, despite striking looks and dimensions similar to those of the previous model. Renault has tweaked the suspension to make the car 45mm lower, as well as a slightly longer wheelbase and wider track.
Boot space is larger than that of key rivals - at 300 litres, it beats the Fiesta and Peugeot 208 which offer 276 and 285 litres respectively. When the rear-seats are folded flat, boot-space expands to 1,146 litres and a 60:40 split enables larger loads to be carried with ease.
The Renault has less space for rear passengers than the Ford Fiesta due to it's low roofline, small side windows and high-mounted rear bench, which can make it feel cramped and narrow for taller passengers. However, given the Clio is only offered as a five-door, getting in and out of the back seats is easy.
Renault has provided the Clio with plenty of storage space around the cabin, but the tiny glovebox barely fits the owner's manual in it. There are cubby-holes in front of the gear lever, centre armrest and door panels. The interior is easy to use, with all functions within easy reach of the driver.
As well as good looks and being packed with modern technology, another of the Clio's strong points is its low running costs.
Renault's three-cylinder 0.9 TCe petrol engine is fitted to the Clio with stop-start technology as standard and allows it to return a combined economy figure of 62.8mpg and emits only 104g/km of CO2.
The tiny engine's impressive economy figures can be further improved by adding a £250 ECO pack that adds longer gear ratios, low rolling resistance tyres and a lighter plastic tailgate. These further reduce figures to a combined cycle of 65.7mpg and 99g/km of CO2.
The 1.5 dCi Dynamique's figures show the diesel engine to be cleaner still, with a combined economy of 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of only 90g/km of CO2, or 88.3mpg and 83g/km when the ECO pack is added. Even the Clio GT-Line has an impressive combined economy of 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 120g/km - and sits in insurance group 14.
The Clio's impressive economy figures make it one of the most frugal and environmentally-friendly superminis currently on sale. Renault is trying to add further value to the range by offering its 4+ scheme - covering servicing costs and warranty for four years and 100,000 miles.
The downside to the Clio is its weak residual values compared to its key rivals, so don't expect it to be worth much when it comes to selling it on. The hot Renaultsport model is also expensive compared to key rivals, the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi, starting at £18,995.