Renault Clio dCi 90

8 Oct, 2012 6:00pm Jack Rix

We put the new three-cylinder diesel Clio through its paces


With sales figures in Europe not looking too rosy, the pressure was on for Renault to deliver with the Clio, and it has. The thoughtful design combines practicality and flair, inside and out, while the huge range of personalisation should be a useful money-spinner. Although pricier than the petrol options, the diesel engine is incredibly efficient and refined, giving the car a grown-up feel. Our main criticism is that it could be more exciting to drive, but then there’s still the Renaultsport version to come…

We’ve already driven the new Clio with Renault’s headline-grabbing 89bhp 0.9 TCe three-cylinder petrol engine, but there’s an efficient new diesel engine, too.

The 89bhp 1.5 dCi unit returns 83.1mpg and 90g/km of CO2 as driven here, but for an extra £250 Renault will add low resistance tyres, longer gear ratios and a lighter plastic boot surround, which cuts consumption to a scarcely believable 88.3mpg and 83g/km.

With figures like that you might expect lacklustre performance and compromised refinement, but that couldn’t be further form the truth. The engine pulls smoothly right from the off, and while performance isn’t exactly punchy, there’s enough torque to slot it in a high gear and waft along serenely, or overtake slower traffic with ease.

Push it hard and the 1.5 dCi doesn’t have the fizz and exuberance of the 0.9 TCe, but it compensates with superb refinement. Even at motorway speeds, a faint hum from under the bonnet and a distant rustle of the wind around the wing mirrors is all you can hear. And let’s not forget, although is costs around £1,100 more, it returns over 20mpg more than the 0.9 TCe, which will make a significant dent in your fuel bills.

We’ll have to wait until next summer, when the Renaultsport 200 Turbo goes on sale, to find out what this new Clio is really capable of on the road, but the signs so far are encouraging. A quicker steering ratio (2.71 turns lock to lock) and an average weight loss of 100kg across the range compared to its predecessor has improved the Clio’s agility slightly, while a 34mm wider track at the front and back, plus a 14mm extended wheelbase mean it feels planted, rather than playful, around corners.

The suspension has been set up with comfort in mind, so the car glides over expansion joints in the road and floats over crests. It also means there’s a fair amount of body roll in the corners. The soft setup could be a smart move from Renault, because it gives the car a grown-up feel overall, and with more and more families downsizing and demanding more from their smaller cars, that could be a crucial part of its appeal.

If that doesn’t seduce customers, there’s a good chance the styling will. OK, so the jumbo-sized lozenge badge on the nose is a little over the top, but overall it’s a taught, cohesive design with just the right amount of flair. The LED lights integrated into the front grille, for example, are totally unique, while the decision to offer the Clio only as a five door, but hide the rear handle for a sportier look, appears to have paid off, too.

On the inside, a greater range of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, make the perfect position easy to find, while the boot has grown by 12-litre to 300-litres – or 1,146-litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded flat.

There’s a new eye-catching new design for the dash too, with a simplified centre stack based around a seven-inch touchscreen (standard on Dynamique and Dynamique S models). Our Dynamique S test car featured swathes of gloss black trim, and a red dashboard to match the bright red paint job – just one of whole host of personalisation packs available, which include painted wheels, multi-coloured trim and decals for the bodywork.

Pay an extra £450 and you can equip the seven-inch display with R-Link software (not fitted to our test car), which as well as the usual sat-nav, stereo and telephone functions, can download apps from Renault’s very own app store. One of these apps even allows you to pump four sporty engine sounds through the car’s speakers in sync with the throttle. It sounds like a gimmick but it’s a great idea, and could add that extra dash of excitement this car needs.

Disqus - noscript

If they put the 1.6 DCI 130PS engine in this, I may consider it for my next car.

Over 80mpg, hard to believe. Lets face it, with hills/traffic/over-taking you will get the high 50's. Is that enough of an incentive to put up with a hair-dryer under the bonnet and a car which will have "certain" maintenance issues after 3-4 years (dual mass flywheel, DPF, clutch, turbo). It may be economical on paper people, dont believe the hype, your still better off buying a larger engine, petrol if in town with the least gizmos on offer as possible. Disregard all of this if its a company/fleet car - instead question why your sitting in a small flimsy french car when you could be sitting in a golf or audi, maybe your director does not like you?

Driver Power 2012 -
Renault Clio Mk3 - #89
Ford Fiesta Mk6 - #64.
Mk4 any better? I doubt it. The Renaultsport and new ST will be a good duel but to buy these cars is to own them for a while, keep costs down and for good fuel economy. I just can't see a Renault do this. Ford is not so hot at #64 but 25 places above the Clio is justifiable.

More "received opinion" I am afraid. It could almost persuade me to like the look of this new Clio but alas it can't!

Goodness me. So many outdated perceptions of Renault here. The latest generation of Renaults (incidentally the models that received more conservative styling) are so much more reliable and Germanic in the attention to detail.

Not surprising given that Renault invested a huge amount into improving quality a few years back.

I think this little (though actually quite big) Clio will really help turn around the French firms' reputation over the next few years.

Not only that, but I'm sure most (of whom don't have an instantly negative perception of French cars) would agree that the new car's styling and design is coherent and stunning (though I agree the badge is a little over the top for such small car).

I perhaps wish Renaultsport had more involvement in chassis development to really challenge the Fiesta and Mazda 2 (if you believe the hype) but then again that could have negatively impacted ride quality, efficiency and everyday useability of the car. I suppose that's exactly what the Renaultsport version is for (though I'm convinced the new model is doomed thanks to the new flappy paddle gearbox which is of course going to detract from the raw capability and involvement that the outgoing model effortlessly provides).

But I hope this car is as good as it looks - I really want one.

Be a good rival to the Mini Cooper SD and the hot Ibiza diesel. Probably a damm sight better on fuel and emissions than those two, too.

The word totally is redundant. Unique means that there is only one. So many people misuse the word and feel that unique needs qualifying. It does not

The piano black finish is impractical as it will soon look scruffy covered in finger prints

So nice!!
Totally different than the outdated German/VAG designs and also top on fuel efficiency, not to mention that Renault scores high on safety and handling.
Seriously considered as my next car!

Hi CarGeek - A few years back I had a couple of painful French cars and swore I would never buy another. If Renault really has improved quality and reliability they should show their new found confidence with a 5 or 7 year warranty, like the Koreans do.

Until then, those of us who have suffered at the hands of French car makers in the past will stay well away.

Its a shame because this is a pretty car and could do well. However, for the reasons above I predict that it won't.

It's all about how you drive it. 80 MPG is certainly believable I've got a '02 Clio II Dci 80 and the book MPG according to Parkers is 67 MPG, which I can certainly match (if not exceed) on the motorway @ 65 MPH. Obviously if you drive it like a loon that'll drop.

Wow first time I see the Clio being praised in so many reviews around the web!

It looks like a sports car and good control, well balanced on the corners, 0.9 tce is also enough like a 1.4-1.6 petrol engine, surprisingly well done Renault !

Can auto express please proof read before going to print..........

We put the new three-cylinder diesel Clio through its paces. NO ITS 4 CYLINDERS!!!!

right it 4!!!!!! cylinder diesel ! FOUR !!

Key specs

  • Price: £16,095
  • Engine: 1.5-litre, 4cyl, turbodiesel
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 89bhp/220Nm
  • 0-62mph: 11.9secs
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • Economy: 83.1mpg
  • CO2: 90g/km
  • Equipment: Stop-start, TomTom sat-nav, USB port, Bluetooth, keyless start, hill start assist
  • On sale: November 1