“The new Clio is Renault at its best. Practical, stylish and fun to drive, it's a huge improvement over its predecessor.”
The Renault Clio is now into its fourth generation, and this latest version is more stylish than ever. Unlike the previous model, it's only available as a five-door, but hidden rear handles give it a sporty three-door profile – the best of both worlds. The interior has also been overhauled, with a striking new centre console that features a seven-inch, tablet-like screen, but material quality on the doors and dashbaord is passable at best. To make the Clio your own, a vast array of colours and personalisation options are available, both inside and out. Two engines – an enthusiastic 89bhp three-cylinder 900cc TCe petrol engine and a 1.5-litre dCi diesel with CO2 emissions of only 83g/km – are brand new additions to the range.
By shedding up to 100kg of weight compared to its predecessor, the Clio feels lighter and more nimble when going around corners; it's particularly noticeable in the 900cc TCe model, which weighs around 60kg less than a 1.5-litre dCi. Light steering, and an easy pedal action mean it's simple to drive around town, too. The 1.5-litre diesel is quiet, giving the car a more grown-up feel, while the 900cc petrol has a distinctive three-cylinder exhaust sound. It does feel slow without the mid-range acceleration of the diesel, however, and while it's fine for around town it feels underpowered once you’re on the motorway. The five-speed manual gearbox also feels clunky and loose, which makes accurate gear changes more difficult.
Being relatively small and fuel-efficient doesn’t mean the Clio is compromised on long journeys. Both the 900cc TCe petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel models are quiet and smooth around town, but with enough power to keep up with traffic on the motorway. At high speeds, the diesel model feels more relaxed, however – a hum from under the bonnet and a slight rustle from the wind passing around the wing mirrors is all you can hear. Plus, a greater range of adjustment for the driver's seat and steering wheel make it easy to find the perfect driving position. Still, the suspension can get rather bouncy over bigger bumps if you opt for the larger alloy wheels on Dynamique models.
Maintenance should be affordable and hassle free – especially since the engine's timing chain is now guaranteed for the life of the car, eliminating a potentially pricey repair bill that you needn’t worry about. The Clio has achieved a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating based on the latest set of safety criteria, which takes into account adult, child and pedestrian protection, plus driver aids, coming top of its class in four out of five of those categories. All versions include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and emergency brake assist as standard, while rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are optional.
With five-door superminis accounting for the overwhelming majority of sales in Europe, the Clio is now offered only as a five-door model. However, by hiding the rear door handle, it has the looks of a three door but with none of the drawbacks. A longer wheelbase and a wider body than its predecessor has improved interior space slightly, while the boot has grown by 12 litres to 300 – which expands to 1,146 litres when the rear seats are folded down. Mid-spec versions and above come with a card for keyless entry and push-button engine start, plus there's plenty of storage space and cubby holes placed around the interior. However, the rear seats are high and firm, while the low roof line blocks the view out for rear passengers.
Value for money
Prices are roughly on a par with the Ford Fiesta but cheaper than the Vauxhall Corsa. Entry-level Expression models include equipment like a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth and cruise control, but no air-con or wheel alloys. The top-spec Dynamique S MediaNav models get luxuries such as 16-inch alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, and climate control. You can upgrade to the R-Link touchscreen for £350, which allows live traffic updates and app downloads, including an app that plays different engine noises through the speakers. However, a host of personalisation options – including stickers for the bodywork and striking colour schemes, inside and out, not to mention a vast array of premium options, such as a panoramic roof and metallic paint, mean the price can spiral upwards dramatically if you’re not careful.
No matter which model you go for, the new Clio is efficient and cheap to run. The new three-cylinder 900cc TCe petrol engine, for example, is fitted with stop-start as standard and returns 62.8mpg, while emitting only 105g/km of CO2. If you order the £250 ECO pack, however, which adds longer gear ratios, low-rolling resistance tyres and a lighter plastic tailgate, those figures improve to 65.7mpg and 99g/km (thus removing road tax as a cost). The 1.5-litre dCi returns 83.1mpg and emits 93g/km of CO2, or 88.3mpg and 83g/km with the ECO pack. The less powerful 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine is less efficient, returning 51.4mpg and 127g/km, but it's also £1,000 cheaper than the 900cc TCe. It's worth considering if you’re not going to be doing many miles as it may work out cheaper in the long run.