Renault has been going through something of a rough patch recently, with sales down and its dealership network in the UK being reduced. Now though it has a saviour in sight: the new, fourth-generation Clio.
Long-established as Renault’s best-selling model, the Clio is in desperate need of a revamp if it’s to reclaim lost sales. So what does the new model have to offer?
Certainly from its visual appearance, its something of a headturner. Lower than than the previous model, which was launched in 2006, the newcomer is also noticeably larger. Why? Well Renault’s aiming for the ever-increasing number of downsizers in the market.
And in contrast to previous versions, the new Clio has a decidedly masculine style to it. The most striking feature is its DeZir concept car-inspired grille, headlight and oversized badge layout at the front, plus those large haunches at the back.
You’ll also instantly notice this is a five-door Clio: Renault has stated there will be no three-door version.
Initially, buyers will have the choice from three engines and four trim levels. Prices will start at £10,595 for the entry-level Clio Expression, powered by the current 75bhp,1.2-litre petrol engine.
One step up is the 0.9-litre TCe unit, with 99- or 104g/km depending on trim level. The range-topper will be the super-efficient (as low as 83g/km) 90bhp, 83.1mpg 1.5-litre dCi diesel which we test here.
It’s worth flagging up the fact that in Dynamique MediaNav trim the £15,095 oilburner is £1100 more expensive than the petrol. So unless you’re doing a hefty mileage, the petrol would be the most obvious choice.
If you can afford to wait till next year, an even more frugal ‘Eco’ version, delivering 88.3mpg and 83g/km, will be introduced.
Across the range, the new-generation Clo will also be well-specced. Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connectivity, electric front windows, LED daytime running lights, keyless entry and start, and cruise control are all standard on the base-level Expression.
Next up is the Expression+ which adds alloy wheels, air conditioning and front fog lights. The best-seller is expected to be the Dynamique MediaNav.
This model delivers touch-screen satnav, a leather steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, plus distinctive gloss black exterior trim.
The most expensive and range-topping Dynamique S MediaNav gets 17in alloys, more colour customisation, climate control, rear parking sensors, rear electric windows and more.
Ok, so that’s all the basics covered: what’s it like to drive? Well it’s surprisingly punchy, and certainly feels faster than its official figures of 0-62mph in 11.9secs.
It’s actually so quiet in normal conditions — ok, you can tell it’s a diesel when you’re accelerating hard — that you’ll struggle to distinguish it from the petrol.
Naturally the diesel version is heavier than the petrol model — by around 62kgs — and that, understandably, means the car feels slightly less agile. That said, the steering remains sharp and positive.
Visibility behind the steering wheel is fine, though some drivers may feel they’re sitting too high up in the car. It’s also worth highlighting the A-pillars are actually quite thick, and from the outside the rear window look small.
Drivers and passengers benefit from more headroom and legroom in the new Clio, but there’s a tad less elbow space. Noticeably, the tactile qualities of the switchgear and plastics has risen.
For some strange reason, Renault has returned to a digital speedometer, which thankfully is situated centrally. The other chromed instruments are heavily stylised, but add that certain je ne sais quoi to the fascia.
The burning question though is, is it strong enough to go head-to-head with the class-leading Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo?
Certainly the new Clio should be added to the shopping list if you’re in the market for a supermini. It’s a cracking looking car, and in diesel form is frighteningly efficient.
Ok, its looks might ease it into the Marmite category, but without question it’s a headturner. Throw in the Clio’s strong core values of interior space, plus value-for-money, and Renault looks as though it has another winner on its hands.