Renault's Clio is a strong proposition in this improved fourth generation form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the dCi 90 diesel version.
Ten Second Review
The improved fourth generation Renault Clio features a bolder styling direction and extra infotainment options. The focus is clearly on efficiency, quality and driving down the cost of ownership, especially in the dCi 90 variant we're looking at here.
By whatever measure you choose, the Renault Clio has been a massive success story. Cast your mind back to the start of the Nineties when Renault replaced the creaky 5 with a new model. The original Clio was small, cute and promoted with a clever, if somewhat twee, piece of advertising. In 2012, Renault launched the fourth version of the Clio, a model that's been tasked with turning Renault's small car fortunes around and has been significantly improved in the form we look at here.
It's got a heck of a task on its hands. In the last few years, Clio sales in Britain haven't begun to approach those of Ford's Fiesta. That might be forgiveable if the French maker's supermini contender wasn't also being soundly beaten by the Vauxhall Corsa, the Volkswagen Polo, the MINI and Peugeot's 208. Can this revised MK4 Clio turn things around? It certainly should stand out more in the showroom, this updated model gaining a smarter LED-lit front end that brings its look into line with the brand's latest Megane family hatch. Let's check out the volume dCi 90 diesel version.
The dCi 90 diesel is actually the most refined of all this Clio's engines and, despite being even more efficient than before, still manages to be almost identically as fast as the TCe 90 petrol alternative. An extra 62kgs of weight in the nose means it doesn't feel quite as agile as the base TCe, but with nearly 70% more pulling power, it's possibly a better choice if your supermini motoring must include plenty of out-of-town work. It's certainly a little better at higher speeds - say if you're on a motorway and you hit a steep incline.
The dynamic recipe on offer here hasn't much changed. This MK4 model proved that you didn't necessarily have to stretch to a Renaultsport Clio to get a version of this car that might be good to drive. As ever, it isn't quite as taut as a rival Fiesta, but that's OK: if you're like us, you instinctively expect French cars to roll a little more - almost want them to for the payoff of silken low speed ride. Which is delivered here in a way that no rival can better. Just one of the many reasons you'd like to drive this Clio around town. The others? Well-weighted steering that facilitates a tight 10.6m turning circle. And torquey engine response, so you don't have to row the car around with the gear lever.
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 and Model
Expect Clio diesel pricing starts from around the £15,000 mark. There's a premium of just over £1,000 to get into a dCi 90 over a 0.9-litre TCe petrol variant that would give you similar performance. In the trim hierarchy, there's a choice of 'Play', 'Dynamique Nav' and 'Dynamique S Nav' options. As for equipment, virtually all Clios get alloy wheels, air conditioning and front foglights. And absolutely all of them get daytime running lights, cruise control with a speed limiter, a trip computer, a height-adjustable driver's seat, power front windows and mirrors, Bluetooth 'phone compatibility, a decent quality USB-compatible CD stereo with punchy Renault 'Bass Reflex' speakers and fingertip control, plus Hill Start Assist to stop you from drifting backwards on uphill junctions.
To provide customers with a range of options, the '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
To get the best economy from your diesel Clio, you need the £250 option of an ECO package, which adds low rolling resistance tyres, a weight-saving thermo plastic tailgate and tweaks to torque and throttle performance. Overall, though it ought to be standard, it's probably worth having for the 5% difference it makes to fuel and CO2 figures. With the ECO tweaks, you can expect to achieve 88.3mpg on the combined cycle and put out just 82g/km of CO2 - better than most hybrids can manage.
In fact, you could probably do even better than that if you got yourself a dCi model fitted with the R-Link touchscreen infotainment system and its efficiency mode, rather confusingly also called 'Eco'. Clicking into it reduces engine torque and modifies throttle response to massage those running cost figures still further. As a visual reminder, there's a driving style indicator on the screen display which moves through green, yellow and orange zones.
The Clio IV has marked a promising return for Renault to a position amongst the class leaders in the supermini segment. It's now better looking, more efficient and features some very interesting equipment choices. Built in two plants, one at Flins in France and the other at Bursa in Turkey, this Clio is the beneficiary of new quality measures aimed at driving it to the top of customer satisfaction indices.
Renault hasn't always identified and prioritised the things that really matter to small car buyers, which is one reason why in recent years the Clio has slipped down the sales charts. This improved fourth generation version looks to have been developed with a far clearer focus on efficiency, practicality and safety from the outset, especially in dCi 90 diesel form. As a result, this Clio's going to be back on the shortlists of many who would never have previously considered it. Renault looks to be back on the up at last.