Renault Clio 1.2 TCE Dynamique S A/C

French offering is a front-runner for quality

  • Stylish and unfussy cabin layout, well damped controls, refined performance around town
  • Engine noisy at high revs, no standard reach adjustment on wheel

It’s such a common sight on our roads that it’s easy to overlook how neatly styled the Clio is. A huge step forward over its predecessor, both inside and out, it could be argued that it’s not particularly striking, but the well proportioned shape and smooth lines mean it’s easy on the eye.

The interior is the Renault’s strongest point. It has a premium feel that belies its budget price, and helps the driver get instantly comfortable behind the wheel. The driving position is a little high and the stereo seems low-rent compared to the rest of the controls, but that doesn’t detract from the overall quality ambience that it exudes.

Initially that same positive impression extends to the new 1.2-litre TCE (Turbo Control Efficiency) engine. It’s basically a replacement for the old 1.4-litre naturally aspirated unit, but has more torque available lower down the rev range than its bigger predecessor. However, it barely feels like it’s turbocharged at all. It’s rather sluggish in this company, and that means it has to be worked harder, which raises fuel consumption.

It also lacks refinement at motorway speeds. The engine is adequate around town, but thanks to the Clio’s kerbweight of 1,090kg – 130kg more than the Mazda – it was the slowest at the test track, despite producing more torque lower in the rev range. There’s better news in terms of handling, as the steering is responsive, if a little over sensitive. The Clio has good body control, grip and a smooth ride, too, although it lacks the Mazda’s nimble behaviour.

The Renault is the cheapest model here at £11,715, but equipment isn’t particularly generous, and it’s the only car that doesn’t have electronic stability control as standard.

Details

Price: £11,715Chart position: 3WHY: The TCE aims to provide the torque of a 1.6, yet is more frugal.

Economy

With the smallest engine and the best claimed economy figh hopes for the Clio. But a figure of 35.9mpg is well short of the expected 48.7mpg, although a large 55-litre tank gives the Renault easily the best range.

Residuals

It has an upmarket feel, but the Clio doesn’t perform as strongly as either rival on the second-hand market, and the new engine fails to boost its appeal. Over three years, the Renault retains 39.0 per cent of its list price.

Servicing

At £675 for the first three services, the Clio is the costliest to maintain. This was reflected in our annual Driver Power survey – Renault finished 30th out of 32, just one place above Fiat, with poor value as a major complaint.

Tax

Lower-band owners will pay an annual bill of £387 if they opt for the Clio. Although it’s slightly cleaner than the Mazda, it sits in the same tax band, so there’s little difference between the two for company drivers.

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