Looking at the fluent and well rounded shapes of the latest Clio, one clearly sees that style has come back to Renault. Designer Laurens Van Den Acker has indeed done a magnificent job: the Clio looks good from any angle.
Does the car keep its promises on the (city) roads? Just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
We drove the Clio with the "base" 1149 cc 74 hp 16 V engine, awaiting a test drive with the new generation of 3 cylinder petrol engines, the dCi90 Diesel unit and of course, the sporty RS.
At the first turn of the key, (or shall we say the card...) it welcomed us with a sporting sound, which indeed was a pleasure to our ears. Clearly, Renault wants to build in driving pleasure in their new Clio, even in this "base" version.
Controls are well at hand, seating position is very much Ok, and off we are under a deep, sporting growl. Like any truly modern engine, it feels completely happy at low revs, and with the gearing of the excellent 5 speed box being very well adapted, you never feel out of place or powerless being in fourth or even fifth gear at legal city speed limits.
The Clio has the Renault electronic "smart card" as standard equipment...
Of course, incorrigible nostalgic buffs as we are, the healthy sound sets us dreaming, and we see ourselves pottering around in an R8 Gordini with a big exhaust pointing proudly a bit upwards in the open air.
When the engine is fully warmed up, we cannot resist to rev it up and have a go. But of course we are not clad in our French blue coloured racing suit, we are not in a light R8 and we are not on a racing circuit…
So even when the engine gets to work under a beautiful staccato, it has to struggle to find all its 74 horses and is then burdened and reined in with a car having a kerb weight of 1055 kg.
But then there are some good sides too: first of all, the acceleration pleasure takes longer, and you can enjoy the beautiful sound just these few seconds more..
Then, the car is more than lively enough under full power, delivers very credible in-gear acceleration, goes from 0 to 100 in 14,5 seconds. One can live with that.
The large 7 inch touch screen is clearly legible and very intuitive to use...
What’s more, it does not punish you with heavy consumption when you are frantically revving the engine in a "have a go" sporting mood either, staying reasonably within the 7-8 litres range. Then, what's so much more, it feels quite happy to potter along for days on end at lowish revs, delivering good pulling power and impressive fuel economy, and this is what no vintage "classic" petrol engine can ever hope to match. Driven with some restraint, even in dense city traffic, only 6 litres flow through the injectors over 100 km, and the average consumption of 5,5 litres as indicated by the manufacturer is not unrealistic.
Well balanced handling and comfort
Where the comparison of course really starts to turn into favor for the modern Clio pilot is when it comes to overall balance of the car, its handling, braking and last but not least comfort.
Here the vast experience of a big French manufacturer tells, and as we all know, they are masters in the art.
The chassis or should we rather say platform of the Clio is a winner, and makes the car a joy to own and drive in daily use.
The Clio feels very much at ease in city and winding roads, with however, due to engine characteristics and corresponding low gearing, some fussiness under the higher revs at motorway speeds.
But the car itself can take very high speeds easily in its stride. Top speed is in the region of 167 km/h with this "base" engine. The shorter gearing makes the Clio also hold its own very well on longer motorway hills, even under load.
Joie de vivre
The cabin feeling of the Clio is also quite pleasant and airy. The styling of the dashboard and especially the dial surrounds is typically French and has a futuristic flair. The interior designer is Matteo Piguzzi, by the way. Renault offers in the new Clio only radio’s with Bluetooth function, and all units have an USB port.
The Clio also sports a MEDIA-NAV system, with a 7 inch touch screen which is quite intuitive to use.
Fortunately the classic speed and rev needles are back, and have replaced the austere digital indicators. Pilot and passengers also find practical stowaway bins and places, and daily life with the Clio is good to say the least.
We find the new Clio a very competent car, full of timeless good qualities, and we are keen to drive it with some other engines and transmissions, read these columns soon!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Photographers notes: for this photo session, we took our two Sony Cyber-Shots off the shelf again, with the sunny title shots taken by the 170 W in wide angle setting, and all the other shots taken by the 'old faithful' DSC-H3. The contour sharpness of its Zeiss 10 x optical zoom never fails to impress us, and with 8,1 megapixels there is (still) ample capacity to produce well defined pictures. Note that the 170 W has also a Zeiss lens of course, noblesse oblige...