Renault's Clio continues as a strong proposition in this current fourth generation form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the dCi 90 diesel version.
Ten Second Review
The current fourth generation Renault Clio continues to look current and competitive in the supermini segment. The focus is clearly on efficiency, quality and driving down the cost of ownership, especially in the dCi 90 diesel variant we're looking at here.
By whatever measure you choose, the Renault Clio model line has been quite a success story. Cast your mind back to the start of the Nineties when Renault replaced the creaky 5 with a new design. That original Clio was small, cute and promoted with a clever, if somewhat twee, piece of advertising. In 2012, Renault launched the current fourth version of the Clio, a model that's been tasked with turning Renault's small car fortunes around and has been significantly improved over its production run.
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. Recently though, Renault has tweaked the range to try and turn things around. 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 impressively efficient, 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
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. Design-wise, this current version gets a smart nose, with an eye-catching full-LED lighting signature, including C-shaped daytime running lights in the case of certain versions. Inside, this Clio benefits from the use of finishing materials previously reserved for Renault's higher-end models. 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
The 1.5 dCi 90 diesel engine is offered with 'Play', 'Iconic' and 'GT Line' trim levels. Prices start at around £15,000, which represents a premium of around £1,500 over the equivalent TCe 90 petrol unit and undercuts several key rivals, despite the Clio being a larger car than many. A further £1,200 gets you the EDC twin-clutch auto gearbox.
As for equipment, virtually all Clio trim levels 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
This figures look promising - 85.6mpg on the combined cycle and 85g/km of CO2. To replicate that though, you'd probably have to get yourself a dCi model fitted with the R-Link touchscreen infotainment system and its Eco efficiency mode. 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.
What else? Depreciation levels will be very similar to those of other mainstream-brand superminis in this segment and service intervals are every year or every 12,500 miles, whichever comes first. And you can plan ahead for costs in this regard by opting at point of purchase for a pre-paid servicing plan covering you for either three years and 30,000 miles, or four years and 40,000 miles. The four year '4+' warranty deal looks good too, given that most rivals restrict you to three year cover. This package also includes roadside assistance for the duration, though bear in mind that the final two years of the policy will be invalidated in the unlikely event that your Clio covers more than 100,000 miles.
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 current 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 remains well worth considering if the dealk you're offered is right, even in the face of more modern rivals. With 85.6mpg on the combined cycle and 85g/km on offer, the stats tell their own story.