Smart new Renault Clio height of fashion

Bold new Renault Clio is more dynamic in its appearance and delivers on the road.

Bold new Renault Clio is more dynamic in its appearance and delivers on the road. - Credit: Renault

The bold new Renault Clio brings some new verve in the supermini style stakes, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

I have had a soft spot for the Renault Clio from the moment I drove the original model at launch in the early Nineties. So much so that when the first diesel model came out a little later I bought one.

It served us well until our boys, rather than my wife and I, outgrew it and we needed something bigger.

Ever since I've watched how the Clio has grown up but have never owned another because it has just not fitted in with our lifestyle.

Now, with the boys having cars of their own and more motorists down-sizing their cars to cut running costs, I could fancy owning the new fourth-generation Clio which has the wow factor of the original model which, with Nicole, won me over.

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Renault has transformed the Clio's image with this head-turning new model which puts it right up there at the top of the fashionable supermini stakes again.

It's youthful, dynamic and stylish and, despite being available only as a five-door model, looks like a sporty three-door model with the rear door handles cleverly concealed in the window surround.

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Small cars need only small engines – a must in these days of high fuel economy and low emissions – and the mainstream models get a 75hp 1.2-litre petrol and a couple of 90hp engines with the 1.5-litre turbo diesel and 0.9-litre turbo petrol.

Small-capacity three-cylinder turbo petrol engines are catching on now with car-makers and while the Clio's is one of the smaller ones it's got plenty of go. It revs freely, with a mildly throaty three-cylinder throb from the engine, and cruises happily at motorway speeds. Surprisingly flexible in the lower rev range, even in top gear, above 2,500rpm, it picks up briskly enough.

Even driven with gusto I never saw less than 50mpg and with a light foot was getting high 50s.

Ride has always been a strong point with Renault and the Clio continues the tradition with generally smooth progress even on rough road surfaces so for a small car it is more than capable of covering long journeys comfortably.

Despite the suspension's bias towards comfort, handling is neat and tidy with a well-mannered, agile feel on twisty country roads and good feedback from the steering.

The modern, eye-catching design continues inside but the sloping roof limits headroom in the back for tall passengers and rear legroom is quite tight compared to the class-leaders but it can carry four adults provided those up front don't have their seats slid back too far.

The deep, flat-sided boot's 300-litre capacity means it can take a couple of large suitcases. Rear seat backs fold 60/40 flat on the cushions but leave a step up from the boot floor.

You won't complain if you are in the driving seat with the funky fascia with a big rev counter and fuel gauge flanking a digital speedo. It's easy to feel at home behind the wheel but visibility is hindered by a small screen, head restraints and chunky pillars.

Big-selling Dynamique MediaNav really opens up the customising options but I would choose gloss black detailing panels on the doors, dashboard and wheel rather than the body colour French blue ones on the test car. Unfortunately the cabin looks better than it feels with a lot of hard, scratchy plastic trim.

Available in Expression, Expression+, Dynamique MediaNav and Dynamique S MediaNav levels, all cars get stability and traction control, hill-start assist, six airbags, cruise control, speed limiter, keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth, USB port and jackpoint, electric front windows and door mirrors and split-fold rear seat.

Expression+ adds 16in alloys, front fog lights and air conditioning but Dynamique MediaNav is the one to go for with the new tablet-style integrated multimedia system controlled by a 7in touchscreen which provides satellite navigation as standard. Dynamique S MediaNav adds automatic headlights and wipers, 17in alloys, climate controland rear parking sensors.

The new Clio is a bold move – it's fun and fashionable and should appeal to people down-sizing to smaller cars but still seeking lots of creature comforts.

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