Long-term tests

Renault Clio Iconic: long-term test review

Final report: the virus limited our time in the French ’mini, but its qualities still shone through

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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From day one I’ve loved the Clio’s head-turning styling. Its practicality has been a surprise bonus, and the interior design and simplicity make it incredibly easy to live with. 

  • Mileage: 5,029
  • Economy: 50.3mpg

Like just about everyone else, I had been looking forward to the Christmas holiday to visit family and get out for some long walks after a year being cooped up.

But since my last report, I’ve had just one decent trip out – to Eastbourne for a breath of sea air pre-Christmas – and only added 400 miles in total to our Clio.

Unfortunately, my time in the car has been slashed with all the travel restrictions. Technically, I can work from home and don’t really need to go out other than to shop or exercise, so I was really looking forward to squeezing in a few runs out before the Clio’s return to Renault in January.

Lockdown 3.0 put paid to that idea, while a Christmas case of Covid meant there was no chance to drive anywhere else. One of my final trips out  was a 10-mile round trip to a South London Covid test centre to be swabbed before isolating for Christmas.

On the bright side, the Clio’s sat-nav directed me clearly to where I was going with just a simple postcode entry; that was quite handy as I was feeling below average. The downside was the lack of heated seats, which require a step up to R.S. Line trim and the £800 Luxury Pack. Quite a bit more outlay, but I must confess they were missed.

After all that I was really lucky and felt much better in a matter of days. I was also thankful for that earlier drive down to the coast, when my wife and I ventured out for a change of scene. The drive reminded me why the Clio was crowned our Supermini of the Year. It was great fun to drive through the twisting roads of Ashdown Forest, offering a great blend of comfort and ease of use. I also love that it’s a manual; small cars just suit changing gear yourself and it reminded me of the joy and freedom I found from learning to drive in a basic supermini more than 30 years ago. Not that our Clio isn’t refined. The 1.0-litre engine has enough power to make things enjoyable, even if it’s not rapid.

Much of the Clio’s charm lies in its sheer simplicity. Most of the tech has one-touch buttons, including lane departure to the side, and cruise controls on the steering wheel, while the climate controls are adjusted with simple, stylish rotary knobs. 

Overall, the car’s been great, delivering a decent 50.3mpg. It has done all that I’ve asked of it. But for Covid, I would have been able to ask just a little bit more. 

Renault Clio Iconic: second report

Three generations of Wilson have now given the Clio their approval. In 30 years the Clio has come a long way – to the top of the class, in fact – and it’s not hard to see why given the great blend of attributes it offers.

  • Mileage: 4,634
  • Economy: 42.8mpg

You know Renault is doing something right when you turn up at the Auto Express New Car Awards photoshoot and there are three of its cars to snap. The Captur was Small SUV of the Year, while the brand’s brilliant EV, the Zoe, secured the Affordable Electric Car title for 2020. And it comes as no surprise to me that the Clio picked up the prized Supermini of the Year crown.

I’ve been running this car since June and we’ve got on just fine. I like the interior, which is stylish but straightforward. The seats are comfortable with nice stitching, the chrome-effect surrounds on the knobs look great and they are super-easy to use when I’m adjusting the temperature. Plus I’ve now accepted the few design issues I’d initially had, getting used to the unusual positioning of the rear door handles and boot lid release.

Lockdown had limited my time in the Clio, but the journey to our photoshoot gave me a couple of 200-mile round trips, taking in city, motorway and rural roads. Sadly, the first was a washout as I crawled through terrible weather. I was thankful for the Clio’s clear and simple sat-nav instructions, with visibility so poor. The journey home that evening took an hour less and was much more fun after a break in the weather.

The refined suspension and comfortable ride impressed me. On both A-roads and motorways the Clio was smooth and quiet at the national speed limit, but with only 99bhp from its 1.0-litre engine, it doesn’t really feel like it has the power to go too much faster, especially uphill. But that suits my driving and there is certainly enough power to get past slower-moving trucks.

On the second day of the photoshoot I brought my eldest son, George, along to assist with driving duties at our location. The usual insurance restrictions that mean George can’t get behind the wheel of test cars didn’t apply at Auto Express’s private venue, so George was able to get his first taste of the Clio (amongst other cars), gain some valuable experience as a young driver and give me his opinion on our family car.

He liked the Renault’s smooth gearbox and acceleration, and was surprised to find the car had a smaller engine than his own 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa SRi. As expected, he found the car’s tech simple enough to use, instantly pairing his phone with Apple CarPlay, but we both agreed the Clio would benefit from a USB chargepoint in the back.

Watching George adapt to the car also highlighted how different age groups deal with technology. It was quite natural for him to swipe the screen and adjust the volume using screen prompts, but my wife and I both miss an old-fashioned volume knob.

Back at home we did the all-new Wilson family practicality test, which involves getting George’s new baby son Zack into the back, complete with car seat. We checked access, space and if the driving position was compromised by the seat. All was okay, so that box was ticked and, with a 391-litre boot, practicality is great for a supermini.

The Clio easily swallowed a chunky buggy, pram and bags. George was impressed and disappointed that the Clio was out of bounds again, but in terms of box-ticking the Clio covered the lot. Unsurprisingly, given that it’s the Auto Express Supermini of the year.

Renault Clio Iconic: first report

On reflection, our Renault Clio supermini is proving to be a fine choice

  • 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:£17,595
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.

Creative director

As Creative director, Darren predominantly looks after the Auto Express magazine; whilst consulting for LRM, Evo and Enzo. He manages everything from photography briefs to layout and logo design. Darren has worked in the motoring industry for over 25 years and loves it.  e-mail: darren_wilson@dennis.co.uk

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