Renault Clio review
Renault's Clio remains one of the top choices in the supermini segment but can it eclipse the Ford Fiesta?
Introduced at the end of 2012, the fourth generation Renault Clio is one of the most interesting and best-looking superminis on sale today.
A far-cry from the original Clio that arrived in 1990, the latest Clio is only offered as a five-door hatchback, but the hidden rear door handles give it a striking and stylish three-door appearance compared to its immediate rivals, the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo.
The Clio's interior mirrors Renault's fresh, innovative approach with the engines and trim-levels it offers, and all Clio models from the entry-level Expression to the top-spec Dynamique S MediaNav model come with an integrated tablet-like colour screen on the dash.
In addition to the existing 1.2, 75bhp petrol engine, Renault took account the need to adapt to environmental demands, and introduced three new engines in the Clio range - a petrol 89bhp three-cylinder 0.9 TCe petrol engine which puts out 90bhp, a 90 bhp1.5 dCi unit and a 1.2 litre petrol TCe unit which powers the Clio GT-Line model.
Renault has introduced the GT-Line spec Clio, as a mid-point between the RS and the range-topping Dynamique S. It has the same aggressive styling as the sportier RS hot hatch, but more standard kit such as a TomTom Live sat-nave, R-Link touchscreen infotainment system and upgraded sound system.
For the more performance orientated driver, Renault has kept the Clio Renaultsport which is priced at around £19,000 and powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine that gives out 197bhp and will reach 0-62mph in just 6.7 seconds.
Our choice: Clio 0.9 TCe 90
Taking styling cues from the 2010 Renault DeZir concept car, the latest generation Clio represents a significant shift in design from its conservative looking predecessor.
Carrying over the the DeZir's oversized 'lozenge' badge, and skinny gloss black grille, the latest Clio is an attractive, unique looking five-door supermini which is given an increasingly sleek side profile thanks to its rear door handles which are hidden in the C-Pillars.
The Clio's styling also stands out over its rivals thanks to the wide range of personalisation options that Renault offers. These can vary between the Flame Red paint found on the DeZir at an additional cost of £535, decals for the bodywork, and matching colour schemes for the paintwork, wheels and interior.
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.
The Clio also carries a lot of other technology as standard, so gadgets like Bluetooth and keyless entry and start come at no extra cost, but overall, it feels the interior's quality is not as high as it could be.
Unfortunately, many of the plastics on the Clio's dash feel scratchy and hard to the touch, and the manual air-conditioning dials and air-vents are 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, despite the RS benefiting from a lowered ride height, stiffer suspension, quicker steering ratio, red brake callipers and gloss black 18-inch alloys.
The Clio GT looks more extreme than its performance orientated RS sibling thanks to beefier styling which includes 17-inch grey GT-Line alloy wheels, a subtle rear spoiler, side sills and the option of the striking Malta Blue i.d. paint.
Renault has improved the Clio's handling, by keeping the previous car's platform, but putting it on a diet which has seen its kerb-weight reduced by 100kg. The results are a quick and accurate drive, but the bouncy ride and subsequent body-roll is disappointing and whilst it's reasonably quiet and comfortable, the Clio is still not as engaging as a Fiesta.
The Ford is also better in the engine department. The Clio's 0.9 TCe engine feels slow in higher gears and struggles to make progress on steep slopes when compared to Ford's 1.0 EcoBoost unit. However, the Renault is still fun to drive around town.
In addition to its new 75 1.2 litre petrol engine, the newly introduced 1.5 dCi engine is smooth, pulls strongly, and is more than at home on the motorway.
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.
The RS model Clio is powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine, will do 0-62mph in 6.7 second and has 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.
In recent years, Renault's reputation for making reliable cars has taken a hit and in our 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction power survey, it ranked 27th out of 30 manufacturers.
Despite placing one position ahead of Peugeot, Renault's cars picked up the worst score of any manufacturer in terms of build quality, reliability, technology and ease of driving categories with owners citing the previous Clio's biggest problems as its uncomfortable cabin, awkward driving position and lack of up-to-date technology; in Auto Express' 2013 Driver Power survey, it ranked a disappointing 108th.
Renault has appeared to take these complaints on board, and the current Clio should answer these complaints, despite concerns lingering around the durability of the complex new technology such as the colour touch-screen on the centre console.
Maintenance costs should be much lower than those of its predecessor, since the new Clio’s timing chain (one of the most common faults on the previous car) is now guaranteed for the life of the car.
In terms of safety, the new Clio continues Renault's impressive safety 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.
Despite its striking looks, the fourth gen Clio's dimensions have not changed much over its predecessor, which was in production from 2005 to 2012.
However, Renault has tweaked the suspension to make the Clio 45mm lower and given it a slightly longer wheelbase and wider track, which in turn has created more interior space.
The boot has grown from 280 to 300 litres, which is more than both the Fiesta and 208 offer at 276 and 285 litres respectively.
When the rear-seats are folded flat, boot-space expands to 1,146 litres and a 60:40 split between them means items like skis or a snowboard easily fit in.
Again, the Fiesta trumps the Clio by offering more interior space, despite being 100mm shorter. The Renault has less space for rear passengers than the Ford 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.
Storage space in the Clio's cockpit is also aplenty and Renault has dotted plenty of it around the cabin - the only complaint would be a tiny glovebox with barely enough room for the slim owner's manual.
The amount of thought Renault has put into the Clio's cabin is also reflected in the dashboard. It is attractive, easy to use and has clear and simple lines that lead towards an easily accessible centre console.
Renault's good use of space in the Clio is also found in front of the gear lever, as well as in cup holders and storage in the centre armrest and door panels.
In addition to its good looks and being packed with modern technology, another of the Renault Clio's strong points is its 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 62.8mpg and it 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 93g/km of CO2, or 88.3mpg and 83g/km when the ECO pack is added.
The Clio's impressive fuel economy make it one of the most frugal and environmentally conscious superminis currently on sale, and Renault is trying to give further value to buyers by offering a range of great-value servicing deals and a four-year warranty in order to help keep costs to a minimum.
Despite its impressive economy figures, the Clio has significantly weaker residual values than its immediate rivals, so do not expect it to be worth much when it comes to selling.
The Renaultsport Clio also comes across as expensive, due to a starting price of around £19,000; a significantly higher sum than the Fiesta ST and the 208 GTi.
Surprisingly, the GT-line Clio his in insurance group 14, has an impressive combined economy of 54.3 mpg, and tax-friendly emissions of just 120g of CO2 per km.