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Renault Clio review

For Impressive interior quality Lots of equipment Great to drive Our Rating 4.5 Against Some rivals are more fun Lacklustre petrol engines Rear space a little tight 2019

The Renault Clio is a star of the supermini class – well-built, good to drive and packed with tech

The latest Renault Clio is the best yet, sitting right at the top of its class alongside the ever-popular Ford Fiesta. The Clio is a high-quality item despite its competitive pricing and feels a near-perfect combination of practicality, standard equipment and stylish showroom appeal. We’d rather the petrol engine line-up was stronger but there’s little else to complain about – the Renault Clio is one of the cars to beat in the supermini class.

14 Nov, 2019 4.5

Renault deliberately took an evolutionary approach to designing the latest Clio – it doesn’t look too different to the previous model, but that’s no bad thing. Sharper design details feature but overall proportions are very similar despite an all-new platform based on the French manufacturer’s CMF-B architecture.

The new platform is claimed to improve the Clio’s safety credentials, efficiency and refinement, while also allowing for the use of more sophisticated technology than its predecessor – not least electrification, as found on the E-TECH version of the Clio.

Those familiar with the old Clio will be most impressed by the latest car’s interior, however. A big step forward has been made in terms of build quality, materials used and – perhaps most importantly in today’s market – infotainment. The car’s dashboard prioritises ergonomics more than ever, with all major controls seemingly raised to fall within easy reach for the driver. A touchscreen infotainment display – available in two sizes – sits proudly in the centre, canted towards the driver, and is easily reached and operated unlike the equivalents on some rivals. There’s a lot of plastic on show in the car’s interior but the majority of it feels of good quality and it’s all well put-together.

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There’s plenty of tech on offer, even as standard – entry Play models do without touchscreen infotainment but get DAB radio, cruise control with speed limiter, remote central locking, auto-folding mirrors and a host of active safety features including automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and traffic sign recognition.

Iconic trim brings the smallest of two infotainment systems and an uprated stereo along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus keyless go and rear parking sensors. The S Edition adds the full-size infotainment screen, digital dials, automatic headlights and wipers, plus a reversing camera and front parking sensors. Top-of-the-range RS Line cars receive largely cosmetic updates over Iconic.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The most basic Play models come with a fairly basic infotainment system with DAB radio and compatibility with Renault’s R&GO app. It’s best to step up to the seven-inch display offered as standard in Iconic models; it gets the aforementioned Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, a responsive touchscreen, an uprated stereo, two USB slots and Bluetooth connectivity.

The smaller seven-inch screen isn’t as sharp or responsive as that found in the Ford Fiesta, but it’s still easy and largely intuitive to use – not something that older Renault systems could be praised for. The larger 9.3-inch screen offered on S Edition and RS Line trims is much better resolved and is technically superior with much sharper graphics, but we found it intrudes on the driver’s view a little as it pokes above the line of the dash. Either system is a welcome improvement over those fitted to Renaults of old, however.

Audiophiles will welcome the £350 Bose premium speaker system that’s available in conjunction with either of the upper two infotainment setups.

4

The Clio has garnered a reputation for driving thrills over the years that Renault has been keen to uphold; it follows that the current model should offer a good driving experience, hitting the supermini benchmarks for ride quality, handling and performance.

On the road, the Clio feels like a quality product. It seems planted on the move, with positive steering and a pointy front end that turns eagerly into corners. The suspension is well-judged, offering great pliancy over bumps big and small but sacrifices a little comfort in the name of body control. It runs the Ford Fiesta close in this department but ultimately isn’t quite as much fun.

We’ve tested the TCe 100 1.0-litre petrol, a turbocharged three-cylinder that’s likely to be a best-seller. Unlike most rivals’ mid-range petrol engines, this engine is only available with five-speed manual or CVT gearboxes; our manual test car didn’t miss a sixth ratio, however, thanks to its fifth gear being tuned for motorway use. At 70mph the engine sits at 3,000rpm – not much higher than most six-speed rivals. It’s a quiet engine at speed too, which should help make longer journeys more bearable.

The best small cars to buy now

The gearbox itself isn’t the best in its class; the high-mounted gear lever works well ergonomically but doesn’t have the most engaging gear change action. Changing gear is a more pleasurable experience in a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo, but there’s nothing especially terrible about the Clio’s ‘box.

We’ve yet to try a Clio with a CVT, but the most powerful TCe GPF model with its 129bhp 1.3-litre engine and dual-clutch automatic is good enough to be considered a warm hatch – the extra performance helps to bring out the best in the Clio’s chassis.

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Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The entry-level Clio engine is pretty basic – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 71bhp and 95Nm of torque, mated to a five-speed gearbox. We’ve yet to sample this engine but reckon it’s best left for low-milage, urban use; outright performance is sluggish (0-62 mph takes 16.2 seconds) and it won’t prove as flexible as its turbocharged counterpart in everyday driving.

Our pick of the range – the TCe 100 – adds a turbocharger to the above, resulting in 99bhp, 160Nm of torque and a much more acceptable 0-62mph time of 11.8 seconds. It’s not the best small petrol engine in the Clio’s class – the 1.0-litre EcoBoost in the Fiesta feels stronger – but it’s a serviceable choice that blends zippy performance with decent running costs and low emissions. It comes with a five-speed manual as standard but can also be combined with a CVT auto.

The most powerful petrol offering is the TCe 130, a 1.3-litre four-cylinder with 129bhp, 240Nm of torque and a nine-second 0-62mph time. Power is fed through a snappy dual-clutch gearbox which helps maximise performance.

The only diesel in the range is the Blue dCi 85, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder with 84bhp but a hefty 220Nm of torque. It’s the best choice for long-distance drivers and is the only model to use a six-speed manual gearbox; 0-62mph takes 14.7 seconds.

4

The latest Clio is the safest yet – it achieved a full five stars when tested by industry body Euro NCAP, with impressive adult, child and assistance ratings of 96, 89 and 75 per cent respectively. By contrast the Ford Fiesta – another five-star car – achieved 87, 84 and 60 per cent in each respective category.

Part of the Clio’s success in this area is down to its impressive range of active safety features. All trim levels get standard automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and emergency brake assist. Highlights from the options list include the Techno Pack, which brings a 360-degree parking camera and sensors amongst other upgrades. The Traffic and Motorway Assistance Pack is available on TCe 130 cars only and brings adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality and lane-centring, amongst some interior comfort features.

The latest Clio is yet to feature in our Driver Power survey but Renault itself achieved a mid-table 19th-place finish in the 2019 survey. Owners were impressed by their cars’ low running costs, quiet engines and good ride quality, but seat comfort and storage space did not score highly, nor smartphone connectivity and build quality. The latest Clio seems to have addressed many of these concerns, however.

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Warranty

The Clio is covered by Renault’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and three years of roadside recovery. This is more or less on a par with rivals like the SEAT Ibiza which is covered by an identical warranty, but which loses out on a year of roadside assistance; the Ford Fiesta also gets standard three-year/60,000 coverage but just one year of recovery assistance.

Servicing

Renault offers fixed-price servicing that can offer coverage for three or four years and 30,000 or 40,000 miles. The former will cost £449 as a one-off payment, the latter £699. This is broadly competitive with similar rivals and undercuts the Ford Fiesta by a considerable margin.

4

The latest Renault Clio’s revised underpinnings have allowed for some improvements in cabin space over its predecessor. All models are five-door only but retain a sportier three-door look thanks to expertly disguised rear door handles tucked into the C-pillars.

Inside and up front, the driver is greeted by a great driving position and comfortable seats; they don’t sit particularly low but there’s a wide range of adjustment, especially in the steering wheel.

It’s easy to get comfortable with the gear lever and all major controls easily reachable – ergonomics are a strong point, with three simple knobs for the heating controls and simply found buttons for other functions. Even the touchscreen is close enough that you don’t need to stretch to access its menus. All-round visibility is good, but the rear window is a little small if we’re being picky.

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There are some small niggles – there’s not much room between the centre console and the clutch pedal so those with bigger feet will have to tuck underneath to reach the footrest. And at some angles, low sunlight can reflect slightly on that central screen.

Renault has designed the Clio’s interior with a few cubbies, including a small one under the adjustable centre armrest and two generously sized door bins front and rear.

Size

The Renault Clio measures in at 4,050mm in length, 1,798mm wide and 1,440mm tall. Helpfully, Renault also supplies a measurement for the height of the open boot hatch – 1,979mm. The Clio is marginally shorter than a Ford Fiesta or SEAT Ibiza but is a little wider than each.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Improved packaging means there’s more room inside the Clio than before. Passenger space in the rear is roughly on par with that of the Ford Fiesta but can’t match that of the larger SEAT Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, two of the largest cars in this class.

Access to the rear seats is comparable to that of most rivals but those regularly fitting child seats may be better off with a larger option. ISOfix points feature on the outer two rear seats.

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Boot

At 391 litres the boot is bigger than that of the Fiesta and Ibiza, and even exceeds that of the much larger Mk7 Volkswagen Golf. Fold down the rear seats and there’s an impressive 1,069 litres on offer.

The boot gets much of its volume thanks to its deep floor, yet the boot opening is wide and has a relatively low lip – two factors that should make loading heavier items easier.

Towing

The majority of Clio models are rated to tow a 900kg braked trailer, or 55 to 630kg unbraked depending on engine and gearbox combination. There’s no factory tow bar option, however.

4

The cheapest Clio to run is the single diesel option, the 1.5-litre Blue dCi 85 – Renault claims a combined 67.2mpg and emissions of 94g/km. Prices are a little higher than for equivalent SCe 75 and TCe 100 models, but higher-mileage users should recoup this through savings on fuel. Like all Clio engines, the diesel is fitted with a stop/start system as standard.

The most efficient petrol-powered Clio is the TCe 100 with its turbocharged three-cylinder. It’ll return a claimed 54.3mpg on average with emissions of just 99g/km – for comparison’s sake, the Volkswagen Polo SE with an equivalent 1.0 TSI 95PS engine and five-speed manual will return 49.6 to 52.3mpg on average, with emissions of 104g/km.

The entry point to Clio ownership is the SCe 75, powered by its naturally aspirated three-pot. Despite its lack of forced induction, the engine manages to return respectable figures – 52.3mpg on average and 111g/km.

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The highest-performing model in the range is the TCe 130, but despite its extra power this engine still offers reasonable running costs: economy is quoted at 49.6mpg and CO2 emissions at 118g/km.

All Clio models should prove to be affordable choices for company car users. The cheapest SCe 75 model in Play trim commands a low 26 per cent BiK percentage charge, while the most expensive TCe 130 in RS Line trim only bumps this up to 27 per cent. Low CO2 emissions across the board mean that first-year road tax (usually rolled into the on-the-road price) is very reasonable, too.

Insurance groups

The Renault Clio occupies insurance group 3 in the least powerful SCe 75 guise, but opting for the more powerful dCi 85 and TCe 100 versions brings a step up to groups 9 or 10 depending on spec. The most powerful TCe 130 is in insurance group 16.

Depreciation

Our experts predict that the Renault Clio will retain about 39 to 45 per cent of its value after three years and 36,000 miles at trade-in time. By contrast, the Ford Fiesta is expected to hold on to around 37 to 49 per cent – a wider range that correlates to that car’s broader selection of models.

About Alex Ward

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