What does one need out of a city runaround hatch? Value for money, fuel efficiency and if it looks good that’s a plus. This is generation 4 of the Clio from Renault, and it is the car touted to hopefully pull the ailing French brand out of its financial woes. Hoping to attract a younger and more male oriented buyer, the Clio looks a lot more sporty and dynamic than the model it replaces. Renault has focused on a few major changes in the new Clio – Styling, new smaller capacity turbo engines, top specification in category and improved quality.
Beautiful alloy wheels, bright colours and flowing curving surfaces make it the best looking hatches in category on the road today. The interior is typical Renault with familiar hard plastics and black “piano” shiny plastic finish. The instrument binnacle is a work of art on its own, and all in all it’s a damn good looking car, albeit probably still a little female oriented.
New smaller capacity engines
My test unit was the brilliant 3cylinder, 898cc (yes, there are larger motorcycle engines) turbocharged unit that puts 66kW and 135NM, similar to a naturally aspirated 1.4litre 4cylinder unit. Fuel economy is the big benefit here, 5,4litres claimed, but I achieved closer to 7l/100km. That said, my driving was a bit more spirited, so with careful driving this could more than likely come down. An ECO mode (With button for Stop/Start) that features stop/start aids in fuel consumption is standard. The engine feels nippy off the line, and does a surprising job at keeping up to legal highway speeds and even overtaking. It can sound a bit rough at top revs, but that familiar 3cylinder thrum is quite unique. My only gripe is, you have to dive down to 1st gear if a sudden loss in speed happens, as there’s very little torque in 2nd or 3rd.
The Dynamique specification on test had impressive levels of specification that would put most C-Segment German marques to shame!
Take, for example, the very simple and easy to use 18cm touch screen with satellite navigation and Bluetooth phone preparation. There’s also auto lights and wipers, electric folding mirrors, keyless entry, Bluetooth audio streaming and USB/Aux ports. It’s a comfortable interior, with cloth seats and acceptable space in the rear for a hatch, with a surprisingly deep boot. Renault boasts that the Bass reflex (read no bass at all) sounds system, cruise control and steering “wheel” controls for sound system all standard. Renault has always been known for safety, and it achieved the highest score of 5 stars in the NCAP crash test in 2012. Standard safety spec includes ABS, EBA, EBD, ASR, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Hill-Hold Assist and driver and passenger front, window and side airbags as standard!
The brakes are sharp, and 5 speed manual gearbox and gearshift is typically French, with that slightly worrying loose feel to it, but definitely a lot better than previous Clio’s. Steering is light and particularly devoid of feel, but not as bad as the Rio. Ride and handling is probably best in class, and definitely as good as the Ford Fiesta
What might keep buyers from this great package is Renault’s reputation for shoddy quality and haphazard after-sales service that it has earned itself here in SA. To be perfectly honest, my unit was a bit badly sprayed, with some undercoat showing here and there, and a rattle or two, but overall it did feel a lot better put together than previous Clios. I have under good authority that Renault has undergone huge changes to improve both after-sales service (now over 45 dealers) and quality in this new model, as they are pinning huge hope on it.
Overall it’s a fantastic city runaround with a phenomenal little engine. I was stunned at the versatility and power from the little engine, the comfortable yet dynamic ride and the amount of standard specification. If you can put your trust in the French again, it’s definitely worth a look.
Renault Clio 0.9Turbo Dynamique – 66kW/135NM – R179 900
*3 year/45 000km Service plan, 5yr/150 000km mechanical warranty standard.
Also look at –
Peugeot 208 Active 1.2 5dr – 60kW/118NM – R177 200
Ford Fiesta 1.6TDCi Ambiente 70kW/200NM- R178 400
Suzuki Swift 1.4GLS – 70kW/130NM – R181 900