“The new Renault Clio is practical, stylish and fun to drive. It's a huge improvement over its predecessor.”
The fourth generation of the Renault Clio is the most stylish yet. It's now only available as a five-door model, but has tucked away its rear door handles in the rear pillar to make it look more like a sleek three-door coupe – a case of having your Clio cake and eating it. The inside also now sports a spiffy new centre console with a seven-inch, tablet-like touchscreen, but the quality of materials used on the doors and dashboard is still a bit sub-par. It also has an array of personalisation options and colours that you can use to make it your own, both inside and out. There are two entirely new engines introduced to the range – a responsive 89bhp three-cylinder 900cc TCe petrol engine and a 1.5-litre dCi diesel with CO2 emissions of only 83g/km. Renault also offers a Clio GT-Line 120 model that gives sportier looks and handling but without having to shell out the extra cost for the performance-focused Renaultsport Clio 200.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
All models of the Clio are cheap and efficient to run. The new three-cylinder 900cc TCe petrol engine, for example, is fitted with stop-start technology as standard, returning 62.8mpg in combined fuel economy, while emitting only 105g/km of CO2 – just missing out on road tax exemption. If you go for the ECO pack, then you get longer gear ratios, low-rolling resistance tyres and a lighter plastic tailgate, all of which make the economy an improved 65.7mpg and emissions 99g/km (thus avoiding road tax at last). 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 lower-powered 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine is less efficient, returning 51.4mpg and 127g/km, but it is £1,000 cheaper than the 900cc TCe. It's worth considering if you’re not going to be racking up the miles as it may work out cheaper in the long run.
Interior & comfort
The Clio is nice and quiet around town, with both the 900cc TCe petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel models also having enough performance to keep pace with traffic on the motorway. The diesel model is calmer at faster speeds, though, with only a hum from the engine and a rustling of wind around the wing mirrors being all you can hear. It is also pretty straightforward to find a good driving position, as the driver's seat and steering wheel offer a full range of adjustment. One negative is that the soft suspension gets a bit bouncy when driving over rough roads if you get the larger alloy wheels that are available on Dynamique models.
Practicality & boot space
Renault bowed to market pressure when it made the Clio a five-door only, with five-door superminis making up the bulk of car sales in Europe. But they’ve been canny by hiding the rear door handles so that the Clio still looks like a three-door without having any of the drawbacks or loss of practicality. Wider dimensions and a longer wheelbase mean more space inside, with the boot gaining an extra 12 litres to offer 300 litres of space. Fold down the standard-fit split-fold rear seats and that expands to a hefty 1,146 litres. Mid-range models and above get a card for keyless entry and push-button engine start, and there are still plenty of storage spaces and cubby holes dotted around the interior across the whole range. One downside, though, is that the rear seats are high and firm, which means that the low roof blocks the view out for passengers in the back.
Reliability & safety
Renault hasn’t always had the best reputation for reliability, but things are on the up, with it climbing a substantial six places in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Placing 21st out of 32 is quite an achievement for Renault, seeing as it actually came last for reliability in the 2012 survey. The new Clio is still too new to feature, but the third-generation model managed to come 108th in the list of the top 150 cars, which is a mark of its age more than anything else, so expect the latest model to make its debut much higher up the survey. Maintenance for the Clio should be affordable and hassle free – particularly because the engine's timing chain is now guaranteed for the life of the car, eliminating a potentially expensive repair job. The Clio was also awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with it scoring highly in adult, child and pedestrian protection, plus having excellent driver aids, and coming top of its class in four out of five categories. All models come fitted with electronic stability control (ESP), anti-lock brakes (ABS) and emergency brake assist as standard, while rear parking sensors and a reversing camera can be added as optional extras.
Engines, drive & performance
The new Clio is almost 100kg lighter than the older model, which makes it significantly more agile driving through corners – particularly the 900cc TCe model, which is another 60kg lighter than the 1.5-litre dCi diesel model. It's very easy to drive around town thanks to its light steering and responsive controls, and it's also very quiet, which lends it a more grown-up feel. If you’re fan of engine noise, the 900cc petrol has a distinctive three-cylinder exhaust sound that is quite pleasing when you accelerate through the gears. It does feel slow, however, lacking the mid-range acceleration of the diesel, and once you get on the open road, especially the motorway, then it is definitely underpowered. The five-speed manual gearbox also feels clunky and loose, making quick, accurate gear changes more difficult.
Price, value for money & options
You’ll have to pay about the same for a Clio as a Ford Fiesta, which is actually less than a Vauxhall Corsa – but more than a Kia Rio. The base Expression model includes accessories like a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control, but lacks air-conditioning or alloy wheels. The top-of-the-range Dynamique S MediaNav model comes with luxuries such as 16-inch alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, and climate control. And if you don’t mind shelling out an extra £350 then you can upgrade to an R-Link touchscreen, which offers live traffic updates and app downloads, including an app that plays different engine noises through the speakers (if that kind of things floats your boat). However, the sheer amount personalisation options – including bodywork stickers 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 that the price can quickly climb dramatically if you don’t keep an eye on it. The GT-Line model is also undercut by the Ford Fiesta Zetec S – which is much more fun to drive.