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8 Apr, 2019 (All day) John McIlroy
We drive the more mature new Renault Clio in prototype form, and the early signs are promising
The Renault Clio is one of the best-known models on Britain’s roads – and now there’s a fifth generation of the car on the way. It’s not due until October but Auto Express has been able to try prototypes of the supermini at a test facility in France.
The latest Clio is slightly shorter than the car it replaces, and it’s based on a new Renault–Nissan Alliance platform, called CMF-B. This helps to keep the car’s weight down and brings scope for electrification.
A mild-hybrid version will arrive in due course, then, but our early drives are all in conventionally powered Clios. We start with what should be one of the best-sellers: the TCe 100, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol with 99bhp and 160Nm of torque.
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Our car has the standard five-speed manual gearbox, but this motor will also be available with an X-tronic CVT.
This engine is designed to replace the Mk4 Clio’s 89bhp motor, and on the strength of this short drive, it’s more than up to the task. There’s the usual three-cylinder thrum if you rev it hard, but the sweet delivery of torque from around 1,500rpm means you rarely have to do this.
The five-speed gearbox feels slicker than before, with a pleasingly short throw; we’re told that the transmission itself has not been changed, but that the linkage has indeed been modified with this aim.
At 60mph in fifth gear, the engine is pulling barely 1,800rpm, when it’s easily drowned out by the wind noise from our test car’s adornments and camouflage stickers. Even so, there’s enough composure here to suggest that the production model will be refined at motorway speeds. This version is just about quick enough, but we suspect that the 74bhp motor (the UK’s base model) may be better suited to just urban use.
The latest Clio’s CMF-B platform feels more sophisticated than the old chassis from behind the wheel. The steering responds crisply, and while there is a bit of body roll, it’s pretty well contained so the car stays faithful in corners. It feels composed on the test track, but the surface is pretty smooth, so we’ll need to wait to see how it deals with UK potholes.
The engine that seems likely to suit the Clio’s more sophisticated cabin best is the new 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol, with 129bhp and 240Nm. It’s available only with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, and engine and transmission work smoothly, although the gearbox is keen to shift up as early as possible and we’re not able to play with the different driving modes on the prototype.
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We’re less impressed with the shift paddles behind the steering wheel, which feel nasty; here’s hoping that they’re improved for final production models.
Renault is also planning to offer diesel engines in the Clio. The UK will definitely get a 1.5-litre 84bhp unit, but we try the more powerful 113bhp version of the same engine that has yet to be confirmed for British dealerships. This unit comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and has 220Nm of torque, with a decent slug of that total available from barely 1,200rpm.
At high speeds, you’re slightly more aware of the engine working away under the bonnet than you would be with either of the petrol motors. On the other hand, neither of them will offer you anywhere near the same range on a single tank of fuel.
Our cars’ cabins are covered up, but we know there will be more space, and better tech and quality will be among the Clio’s strongest features. There should be a choice of infotainment systems including a huge, curved 9.3-inch display. And the production models we’ve seen have had soft-touch materials in all the key areas, including where the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo have harder surfaces.
The new Clio needs to make a big jump to keep up with its supermini rivals and, based on this early drive, we’d say it’s well on track to deliver it. The driving experience looks set to support the more mature cabin and improved technology, which will make Renault’s supermini one of the more grown-up offerings in the class.
- Model: Renault Clio TCe 100
- Price: £15,500 (est)
- Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
- Power/torque: 99bhp/160Nm
- Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 11.0 seconds (est)
- Top speed : 115mph (est)
- Economy/CO2: TBC
- On sale: October