The fastest mainstream petrol version of Renault's improved Clio is the TCe 120, a variant now available with both manual and automatic transmission. The experts at Car & Driving check it out.
Ten Second Review
The Renault Clio's TCe 120 petrol engine was previously a minority-interest choice, but offering buyers a manual gearbox as well as the EDC auto transmission option should widen its customer reach.
Compromise needn't always be a dirty word. When you pause to consider it, very little in our lives is governed by absolutes. Most decisions we make, products we buy and actions we take are governed by compromise; that essential balancing of often wildly divergent demands. It's what drives the car markets too. Take the car we're looking at here, the Renault Clio TCe 120, a model that manages compromise extremely well. Prior to considering it, you might ideally have wanted something like the Renaultsport Clio RS hot hatch model, but high insurance costs and a general lack of running cost efficiency might well have put you off that idea. Here in contrast, is a decent alternative, a sprightly supermini with all the modern touchy-feely economy and emissions ability, coupled with a delightfully eager attitude to styling and handling. In short, it's a very savvy way in which to enjoy your motoring.
Like the Clio Renaultsport 200 model, this TCe 120 variant can be had with the French maker's dual clutch EDC auto gearbox. The difference in this revised Clio range though, is that the TCe 120 derivative now also can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission option too. If you happen to be one of those disappointed by Renault's decision to offer its top RS shopping rocket without a stick shift option, then this could well be of interest to you. Order the TCe 120 in its plushest 'Dynamique S Nav' spec and it even looks a little hot hatch-like too.
Performance is brisk-ish rather than concussive. This powertrain offers a top speed of 113 mph. Against the stopwatch, the sprint to 62 mph is achieved in a respectable 12.2 seconds. Benefitting from direct injection, turbocharging and Stop & Start technology, this engine delivers 205Nm of torque at 2,000rpm. That means you don't have to row the car along with the gearlever - which helps in town work. Urban users will also appreciate the well-weighted steering that facilitates a tight 10.6m turning circle.
Design and Build
'Simple, sensuous and warm' were the three design keywords used to create the original version of this MK4 model and that concept has been carried forward into its updated replacement. 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. At the rear, the skirt has been redesigned too. Inside, 'New Clio' benefits from the use of finishing materials previously reserved for Renault's higher-end models. All the upholsteries used certainly feel more up-market and special attention has been paid to the tactile and visual quality of the plastics' grain-effect finish.
Otherwise, things are much as before. Since there's still no three-door model, it's just as well that the five-door does a good impression of one, coupe-like styling emphasised by hidden rear door handles. So visually and practically, you get the best of both worlds. Out back, there's a decent sized 300-litre boot while at the wheel, we've yet another dash that's been sculpted in the shape of an aircraft wing on which is mounted an overtly confident chrome-surrounded instrument cluster dominated by the kind of digital speedo that not everyone will like. Equally eye-catching is the consumer electronic-fest that dominates the gloss black-trimmed centre console of all but base models in the form of a tablet-like display that is the 7-inch R-Link colour touchscreen.
Market & Model Range (200 words)
Market and Model
You'll need a budget starting at around £15,500 for this car, money that gets you the decently-equipped 'Dynamique Nav' version, fitted as the name suggests with standard satellite navigation. Alternatively, there's a plusher 'Dynamique S Nav' derivative, but that'll cost you around £1,100 more. Going for the EDC auto gearbox demands a £1,300 premium.
To provide customers with a range of options, this 'New Clio' comes with three different connected multimedia systems, namely Media Nav Evolution, Renault R-Link Evolution and the new, smart R&GO system which is available on entry trim levels.This is also the first B-segment Renault to be available with a BOSE audio system. In addition to its reverse parking sensor, and depending on the version, this Clio offers a front parking sensor and a reverse parking camera. Available for higher-end versions, Handsfree Parking allows the driver to fully delegate the completion of parking manoeuvres. Four new body colours have been added and there's a more extensive personalisation programme.
Cost of Ownership (200 words)
Cost of Ownership
Renault has made a firm commitment to driving down the cost of motoring and even this more sportily-oriented Clio comes up with some impressive economy and emissions figures. Fuel economy for the manual model is rated at 53.3 mpg on the combined cycle and carbon dioxide emissions are only 118g/km. One of the big advantages of this car is that its insurance rating is also a manageable 9E, fifteen groups lower than the fully-fledged Renaultsport Clio 200 model. It's also more affordable to insure than equivalent DS3 and MINI models if you're interested.
Go for the auto EDC model and the returns are hardly any different - 52.3mpg and 120g/km. The Clio features a number of efficiency measures including an ECO mode which allows drivers to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent by modifying the car's performance parameters at the push of a button. A driving style monitor (green, yellow or orange) and a Gear Change Indicator (GCI) on the dashboard allow owners to improve their driving style to cut 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.
You probably won't have started off your search for a petrol-powered supermini with a bit of zip thinking about a Clio TCe 120, but this improved French contender is actually, it turns out, well worth a few moments of consideration. It looks good, produces all the right numbers in terms of economy and emissions, yet is relatively easy to insure.
Does it have the fun 'chuckability' that used to exemplify small Renaults? Yes, you also get that, balanced with the comfort that's also a Gallic trademark. Let's leave the final words to Renault boss Carlos Ghosn: 'there's nothing wrong with any car company that good cars won't fix'. He's absolutely right. And so is this Clio.