Long-term tests

Renault Clio Iconic: long-term test review

First report: on reflection, our Renault Clio supermini is proving to be a fine choice

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5


The Renault Clio has already proved why it’s at the sharp end of its class. It’s practical, refined and comfortable, but while it’s stylish, a few design quirks take the shine off the package when it comes to living with the car.

  • Mileage: 3,713
  • Economy: 47.3mpg

Our Renault Clio is hot property on the Auto Express fleet, and it’s not just its sleek lines, smart 16-inch alloys or vivid orange paint job that have been the attraction. While the supermini arrived back in June, within a week it was whisked away on a job.

No sooner had the distinctive white key card been handed back to me than, a day or so later, it was loaned out again, and then again, as a number of my south London-based colleagues borrowed the Clio to get away after months of being shut up indoors.

Regular readers will have already seen a few updates on the Renault, but this is the first chance I’ve had to do a full report, so I’ve had plenty of time to plan it.

This is a good thing, because I might have been less positive if I’d written it in June. I was a bit worried about downsizing from a Toyota Corolla that I was already finding small for my tall family. There were also a number of things about the Clio’s design that irked me, such as the unconventional rear door handles, the key card and why the boot release wasn’t on the bootlid.

Well, the beauty of a long-term test is that it sorts out the important from the incidental. Three months later, I love the key card, which sits flat in my pocket and automatically opens the door as I walk to the car. I’ve got used to the door handles, too. They aren’t that practical, but they keep the car’s lines smooth, and the Clio’s exterior design is a major plus point.

I’m still getting to grips with the volume control stalk that sits behind the steering wheel – for such a design-led car it feels a bit like an afterthought – and the bootlid design is irritating; making two movements (one to press the release, then one to lift the boot) is something I just can’t get used to.

On balance, there are other Clio design features that I love. The patterned metal surround on the gearlever, indicator stalks, air-con dials and the handbrake means they’re all lovely and really stand out from the stylish but dark interior. I’m grateful for the traditional handbrake, too; maybe it’s the reassuring clicking ratchet sound when you park up on a hill. Job done.

There’s plenty of space up front, with a comfortable driving position, but things become a little tight when my tall teenage son is sitting behind me and I have to nudge forward to accommodate his long legs. The result is that my leg squashes against the window control panel on the door, rather than slipping beneath it. I’ve also carried five adults in the car, but that was for just half an hour, which was long enough.

The Clio is fun to drive, with sharp and precise steering. Our Renault was always going to find the Corolla a hard act to follow, but it’s clearly up there with class leaders, underlined when it topped our supermini road test last year.

It’s not just on the road where the Clio impresses. For a small car, its 391-litre boot is a decent size (bigger than a VW Golf’s, in fact). Colleagues who have borrowed the car were able to carry two bikes with the seats folded, and the deep boot can easily take a week’s worth of shopping. That’s with a tool kit and optional spare wheel under the floor, too.

Should you want a vehicle that starts conversations at petrol pumps, then a bright-orange Clio is your car. The colour gets people talking, but it quickly turns to admiration. Not that these conversations happen often. With lockdown mileage and 47.3mpg, fill-ups are few and far between.

Model:Renault Clio TCe 100 Iconic
On fleet since:June 2020
Price new:£16,995
Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl, turbo petrol, 99bhp
Options:Orange Valencia i.d. metallic paint (£660), spare wheel (£200), Comfort Pack (£350), Convenience Pack (£300), Parking Pack (£400) 
Insurance*:Group: 10 Quote: £355
Any problems?None so far

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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