Renault's Clio has always been one of Britain's favourite small French cars. In latest form, it deserves its sales success, thinks June Neary
Will It Suit Me?
If ever a car was aimed at women, it has to be the Renault Clio. The advertising of course has been legendary. Unless you've been living in a cave for the last couple of decades, you can't have avoided Nicole & Co, the 'Size Matters' campaign, billboard ads suggesting that we've all "lost our 'va va voom'" and, a few years back, the 'Britain vs France' ads. I won't air my personal views on whether size matters, but I have to agree that this little car has had a massive impact on the shape of the supermini market - past and present.
The most recent facelifted fourth generation Clio I'm looking at here certainly has a 'big car' feel - courtesy, say Renault, of a long wheelbase, which has released generous interior room. It's also got sharper looks and improved refinement. First impressions then, were good.
This improved Clio is a stylistic step forward from its predecessor, but it's still recognisable as a Clio. This facelifted version gets a smarter nose, with an eye-catching full-LED lighting signature, including C-shaped daytime running lights in the case of certain versions. At the front, the grille which houses the Renault diamond has been redesigned, as has the lower part of the grille which is wider to add a more modern feel to the front end. The sporty silhouette is achieved by integrated rear door handles concealed close to the rear quarter lights and cleverly disguised shutlines. With a lower ride height, wider tracks, wheels pushed out wide within the arches, and a reduction in the gap between the wheels and wheel arches, the Clio looks hunkered down and purposeful. What would Nicole and Papa have made of all this?
I found the interior to be an even bigger step onwards from the old iteration three of the Clio that I well remember. That car ushered in a bigger, more spacious cabin and the fourth generation model has built on that with massively improved perceived quality. The dashboard is sculpted in the shape of an aircraft wing, with a multimedia system on the centre console, a wide range of colour options, a digital speedometer, striking seats and chrome and gloss-black trim highlights.
Behind the Wheel
This Renault's still got a bit of 'Va va voom' to it. Such were my impressions of the Energy TCe 90 petrol variant which will probably be the big seller. The first three-cylinder powerplant ever produced by Renault, this three-cylinder, turbocharged 899cc unit comes with Stop&Start and is designed to deliver the performance of a normally-aspirated 1.4-litre unit. An ultra low-inertia turbo whistles into action from low engine speeds, developing 90PS and decent pulling power at low revs.
There's also an Energy TCe 120 TCe unit which can be mated to six-speed EDC transmission (Efficient Dual Clutch). This four-cylinder 1.2-litre engine gets direct fuel injection and turbocharging, contributing to a peak power of 120PS and a healthy 190Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. Diesel buyers get an Energy dCi 90 1.5-litre engine with a bit more pulling power than it had in the previous generation model. There's also a 110bhp dCi variant.
Value For Money
Pricing is par for the course in the supermini segment against rivals like Ford's Fiesta, Peugeot's 208 and Vauxhall's Corsa. Expect to pay somewhere in the £12,000 to £16,000 bracket for most models.
Whatever your choice from this Clio line-up, you'll find that you have some very interesting personalisation choices with this fourth generation design. Buyers will be able to personalise the outside of their car with a selection of colour touches to the front grille, rear and side door inserts. To personalise the interior, the menu covers the dashboard, door panels, steering wheel, grab handles, gear lever and air vent surrounds, upholstery materials and optional floor mats.
Renault has made a firm commitment to driving down the cost of motoring and the Clio demonstrates some impressive economy and emissions figures. Take the dCi 90 variant many will want. It manages 85.6mpg on the combined cycle and 85g/km of CO2. Go for the 1.2 TCe 90 variant and those figures fall to 61.4mpg and 104g/km, though that's still pretty good for a three cylinder petrol model. Even the automatic Renaultsport Clio 200 hot hatch doesn't do too badly, returning 47.9mpg and 133g/km.
A driving style monitor (green, yellow or orange) and a Gear Change Indicator (GCI) on the dashboard help drivers improve their driving style to reduce their fuel consumption. The Driving eco?? app available through Renault R-Link provides drivers with information, helping them to analyse their driving style and take corrective measures in order to reduce their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Being a new model, residual values are bound to stack up better than the Clio III, further driving down the overall cost of ownership.
Could I Live With One?
Why not? Maybe the va va vroom thing works after all..