Renault has the budget end of the supermini class covered with its sub-brand Dacia Sandero, so the new Clio is more fashion-led than before, aiming to woo buyers of the MINI and Citroen DS3. We’ve managed to get hold of a left-hand-drive model for an early UK drive to find out if it’s likely to succeed.
It definitely gets plenty of attention on the road, with its cartoonish front end just one element of a design peppered with interesting details. The concave curve in the door panels, the chrome strip on the bootlid and the subtle Clio lettering under the diamond badge in the grille all lend the car a real premium feel.
The playful red interior showcases the personalisation that Renault offers on the new Clio but, more importantly, it all looks expensive. Pretty much everything you look at or touch is soft plastic, chrome or stylish gloss-black trim.
Our Dynamique MediaNav model comes with sat-nav as standard, but can also be upgraded to Renault’s R-Link infotainment system for £450. This not only provides sat-nav and Bluetooth music streaming, but can also display E-mails and download apps like R-Sound Effect, which can play different engine notes through the speakers if you’re fed-up with the three-cylinder thrum from the 900cc TCe engine in our car.
Not that you’re likely to, as it has a quiet, refined hum at low revs and a satisfying zing when accelerating hard.
It’s not particularly punchy, though – you can find yourself flooring the throttle to squeeze into a gap in traffic only for nothing to happen. You really need to change down a gear or two before this 89bhp engine even begins to feel quick.
On the plus side, it’s efficient, with our test car claiming fuel economy of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 105g/km. Go for the Eco2 version and you’ll get 65.7mpg and 99g/km. Most efficient is a new 89bhp 1.5-litre dCi, which promises 88.3mpg.
With a quicker steering ratio than the car it replaces, this new Clio feels a lot more eager to turn in to corners, plus it feels more planted. It’s more fun than the old car, but there are bound to be comparisons with the Ford Fiesta when it comes to handling, and the Renault still can’t quite match the blue oval for driving fun.
It ends up feeling more grown-up than it does playful, with suspension that’s perfectly set up for comfortable town driving. There’s plenty of space inside for families, thanks to rear seats with lots of knee room and a 300-litre boot. Fold the back seats and the space increases to 1,146 litres.
The Clio’s good value, too: our model featured Bluetooth, sat-nav and air-con as standard for its £13,995 price. A 1.0-litre five-door Fiesta Titanium will set you back £14,845 – and even then you have to add sat-nav.