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 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 VW Polo. The interior has been overhauled, 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 for the outside and the inside of the car. 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 - are brand new additions to the range. 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 RS is expensive – it starts at £2,000 more than the Fiesta ST. An estate version 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 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 top-spec model for now - until the new GT Line and Renaultsport versions arrive in the summer of 2013 - 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 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 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 Clio is still reasonably comfortable and quiet on the move, but it’s not as engaging to drive as a Fiesta. 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. Renault is promising an EDC dual-clutch gearbox, which is already standard om the high performance Renaultsport models and is expected to be an option on lower spec versions towards the end of 2013.
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. This latest Clio should answer these complaints – although here 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. 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.
This is one of the Clio’s strong points. 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 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. 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.