It’s 26 years since Papa and Nicole first introduced us to Renault’s cheeky little replacement for the Renault 5 small hatchback.
Renault Clio Dynamique S TCe 120
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 9 seconds
Fuel economy: 53.3mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 118g/km
Since then the Clio’s been through four generations and several more minor facelifts, and got a whole lot bigger than that first model. The latest facelift has thrown some new exterior styling, upgraded cabin materials and two new engines into the mix in a bid to keep up with rivals in the packed supermini market.
The Clio may only have been revised late last year but is in the unfortunate position of seeing key rivals launching newer models soon after. As a result there are points where it already feels like it lags behind. This is probably most obvious in the interior where the Clio’s fairly plain cabin has been left for dead by the stylish new Micra, an issue not helped by some seemingly haphazard arrangement of the switchgear. While it’s well screwed together, material quality too isn’t up to the standards of some rivals and with the test car costing just shy of £20,000 you would expect better.
Where Clio fares better is in equipment levels, with every model getting keyless entry and start; DAB radio/CD with Bluetooth, USB and aux-in; cruise control; electric windows and mirrors; a Bose speaker setup, hill start assist and the R&Go smartphone connection.
The touchscreen “MediaNAV” system is standard on on Dynamique Nav and above. The seven-inch screen is clear and responds quickly, and the basic everyday functions are easy to use, if not a match for the very best in the class.
Worthy of mention is the instrument display. In a world of confusing, configurable, data-heavy screens the simple layout with a large digital speedo flanked by equally large rev counter and fuel gauge is a welcome bastion of clarity.
My test car was fitted with the 118bhp petrol engine – one of the two new powerplants. It’s a really strong unit and gets the Clio moving perhaps more quickly than you’d expect. In truth, the 89bhp version is probably plenty powerful enough for most users but for those who spend a lot of time on fast A roads or motorways the extra oomph of the larger unit and its smooth, quiet and quick power delivery will be worth considering.
Regardless of the engine, the Clio is nicely refined even at those A road and motorway speeds. Noise from the tyres and road are well subdued and the bit of wind noise from around the massive wing mirrors won’t spoil anyone’s driving experience.
The ride is a bit of a let down in comparison, in going for comfortable Renault have gone too far and ended up with a bouncy ride that can struggle to feel properly settled.
Renault have long been famous for their commitment to strong safety performance in their cars and the Clio reflects this. Helping it achieve a five-star Euro NCAP rating are front, side
and curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction control systems, seatbelt load limiters and pretensioners all as standard. All versions of Clio also come with ABS with emergency brake assist, cruise control with speed limiter and hill start assist.
Taken on its own, the Clio is still a solid supermini performer but it’s got some very tough competition on its hands with the new Micra. And things are only going to get tougher when the new Ford Fiesta lands later this year.