Renault Clio 1.2 TCe 100 Dynamique 5-door
New front end design is most notable exterior change
- Exterior refresh is a success, although it could go further
- Cabin is easy to use and practical
- 1.2-litre turbocharged engine is clever and flexible
- TomTom option is excellent value
- Interior changes are minimal
- Handling is competent but not very rewarding
- Audio unit is fiddly unless remote controls are used
- Lack of steering reach adjustment on some models is disappointing
In one of the fiercest markets the competition is always changing and to keep pace with the competition Renault has introduced a revised version of its Clio supermini for 2009. A mild makeover, detail improvements and a refreshed model and engine line up mean the Clio has even more to offer potential small car buyers.
The now-familiar shape of the Clio is largely unchanged, retaining its distinctive low nose, large features and smooth tailgate, but the addition of the family face brings it into line with recent new Renaults such as the Megane. The headlight design and wide front grille are copied from the larger car and give the Clio's appearance a welcome boost of freshness and quality. There are also new bumpers and revised lights at the rear.
There are limited changes to the cabin also. Much of the cabin remains identical to the outgoing version, save for a change in location of the cruise control/speed limiter switch where fitted, but buyers will notice the new trim fabrics and better materials. Models higher up the range benefit from a soft-touch dashboard which does a great deal to promote a feeling of small-car luxury.
Under the skin the Clio uses a familiar range of petrol and diesel engines, with one of the petrols being replaced by a smaller, more efficient version. The 1.5-litre diesel version comes in two outputs, while the outgoing 2.0-litre 136bhp unit has been replaced by a tuned 1.6-litre VVT powerplant offering comparable performance but with better economy and emissions.
A further addition to the Clio range is the option of Carminat TomTom sat-nav. Although not an unusual feature in the class, the Clio offers it as an option at a price on a par with many aftermarket units, as well as offering a unique TomTom trim level with the system fitted as standard at a further-reduced price.
Our verdict on the Renault Clio 1.2 TCe 100 Dynamique 5-door
Although several rival manufacturers have launched all-new models in recent months, the improvements to the Clio keep it in contention as the best in class. Although not the most fun to drive, it offers an excellent blend of versatility and showroom appeal and, with the right engine and trim, will offer good value for money.
Low running costs should be a key benefit to owning this Clio, with impressive fuel economy a key factor. Low insurance groupings and keen pricing further reduce costs and the likely popularity of the car should ensure an easy resale with acceptable depreciation.
Space and practicality
The Clio makes the most of its dimensions, which are big for the class, and this translates into decent cabin space. Front seat occupants will have no concerns while those in the rear can enjoy good space for the class. The boot is also generous and storage space in the cabin is good, although the cup need to be deeper to accommodate taller drinks.
Controls and display
From the driver's seat the Clio has an attractive layout with all the controls logically placed. The air-conditioning controls are quite small but easy to use, as are the steering wheel controls and the stereo column stalk. Smart touches like the 'squash-ball' air vent control are appealing and good to use, with only the small stereo controls letting it down. The instruments are big and clearly labelled, with a useful information display placed between them. There is also a central display carrying time, temperature and audio information, which is easy to read from either front seat.
Renault claims to have invested much time in reducing noise levels and the work has paid off. The Clio is very quiet for a car in this segment with very little wind, engine or road noise at most speeds. This contributes greatly to comfort levels as does the ride quality, which is of a very good standard. Minor imperfections are well filtered and bigger disruptions are contained. Seat comfort is also good, both for front and rear passengers.
The Clio has a generous level of standard security equipment including remote deadlocking and an alarm, as well as useful features such as automatic door locking when the vehicle goes over five mph. The immobiliser fitted as standard is also recognised by many insurance firms, contributing to the lower insurance groupings.
The Clio offers a high standard of safety, with high strength steel used to deliver a stronger safety cell. ABS is standard, with a minimum of four airbags on all versions. Active head restraints have also been included which claims to further reduce the likelihood of whiplash in the event of a rear impact.
In 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol form, the Clio offers an impressive mix of performance and economy. To drive it feels like a much bigger naturally aspirated unit, thanks to the broad spread of torque, yet it delivers excellent fuel economy - even better than the regular 1.2-litre model. When driven with enthusiasm the Clio is consistent and unflappable, but it rarely shares your enthusiasm or rewards a keen driver. A better approach is to relax and enjoy the low noise levels and decent ride quality.
Family car appeal
Smaller families will find the Clio well suited to everyday use, with the centre rear seat designed specifically for children. There is enough rear seat space and boot room for most journeys; only longer trips with lots of luggage may prove a struggle.
First car appeal
First time car buyers are a big market for the Clio and many will be attracted to its broad range of abilities. Low running costs are likely to be achieved, with good fuel economy and low insurance group ratings the main attractions. Its simplicity of use and wide range of engine and trim options means there should be something for all budgets.
Quality and image
Renault has maintained a good standard of quality with the Clio. The exterior has a solid, chunky appearance and inside all the surfaces feel of good quality and well constructed. The overall design is clean and simple, adding to the good impression. The image of the previous generation Clios has been largely about youthful appeal and good value and while this version continues that trend, its size and specification signal a focus on more affluent and mature customers.
On five-door models particularly, access to the cabin requires little effort. The doors front and rear have a wide opening for easy access and, even in the rear, the footwell is generous and the roofline is high enough to avoid contact with the head. Access to the boot is also straightforward with a wide tailgate and minimum intrusion from the taillights.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
All models are fitted with a radio/CD player including an RCA audio connector. It provides good sound quality, largely because the Clio is very quiet at speed. The stereo unit itself, however, is set quite low in the dashboard and the buttons are very small, although this is offset by the excellent controls repeated on a column stalk.
Colours and trim
The Clio creates a strong first impression thanks to the quality of the interior. The plastics are soft to the touch and look smart. Privilege versions come with a two-colour dashboard, with the lower half finished in a lighter hue. This gives a light and airy feel to the cabin and gives an increased sense of luxury and expense. Elsewhere the interior finish is a dark grey, but it remains an appealing cabin.
A large glass area is a huge factor in making the Clio easy to park. The steep rear window makes it simple to judge where the rear of the car is. Light steering and well-placed door mirrors also contribute, though the steeply sloping bonnet is difficult to see.
Full-size steel spare fitted beneath boot floor.
Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre (75bhp and 100bhp); 1.6-litre (111bhp and 128bhp); 2.0-litre (200bhp). Diesel options - 1.5-litre (86bhp and 106bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, six-speed manual gearbox, four-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: Extreme, Expression, Dynamique, TomTom Edition, GT, Privilege, Initiale, Renaultsport.
Ford Fiesta Class best for looks and driving pleasure, good value too
Volkswagen Polo Also new and offers usual high-quality experience
Vauxhall Corsa Good all-rounder offers good specification and value
Toyota Yaris Very practical and cheap to run, not for keen drivers though