2013 RENAULT CLIO REVIEW
What’s hot: Great style and features, an uncommonly good drive at a very good price.
What’s not: No auto for three-cylinder models; rear drum brakes.
X-FACTOR: The sense of refinement at the wheel and surprising space will win lots of hearts - both older and younger.
Clio Authentique TCe 90 - manual - $16,790
Clio Expression TCe 90 - manual - $17,790
Clio Expression TCe 120 - EDC auto - $19,790
Clio Dynamique TCe 120 - EDC auto - $23,290
TCe 90 - 66kW/135Nm 898cc 3cyl petrol / 5spd manual
TCe 120 - 88kW/190Nm 1.2 4cyl petrol / 5spd manual or 6spd EDC auto
listed: TCe 90 4.5 l/100km | tested: 7.9 l/100km
listed: TCe 120 5.2 l/100km | tested: 7.6 l/100km
Renault Australia can offer a whole lot of reasons why it would like you to consider its all-new Clio.
“The perfect light car for the Australian market.” That’s what Renault Australia boss Justin Hocevar said at launch.
So why would you consider it?
Well, there are some practical cost-saving reasons: like, it comes with a five-year warranty, capped price servicing (just $299 for its annual service over the first three years), and five-years roadside assistance.
And its parts are priced among the cheapest in the sector – beaten only by the Fiesta among popular light cars.
It’s also got sat-nav as standard in all but the entry model, and the range is priced from a very friendly $16,790.
But there is a lot more to this car than those practical considerations.
For style and dynamics, Renault’s new Clio is whole new ballgame. This is one really appealing little car.
The entry level Authentique TCe 90 has just three cylinders beavering away under the bonnet. But you would never know it. It drives and handles far better than it’s reasonable to expect a small light car to drive and handle.
The Clio, both three- and four-cylinder models, offers a level of on-road refinement that is unusual in this sector.
At the price, none other can match it for on-road comfort and ‘quiet serenity’.
If Renault can get enough people into enough showrooms to give this smart little car a run, we think it is going to remake the Renault brand in this market.
It’s certainly funky in here. With the new Clio, the fashionable exterior palette can be carried over into the interior.
Depending upon the colour of your car, you can have highlights of high-gloss red, blue, yellow (etc.) mated to the chrome and piano black of the door garnishes and centre console.
And depending upon the model grade, the colour-matching can be extended to the seat inserts, dashboard and door trims. It looks mighty; it has a high quality feel and is as tight as a drum.
The chrome-rimmed centre stack, sitting proud of the dash, is especially appealing. It also houses the touch-screen display for the sat nav, vehicle and trip information and audio and Bluetooth functions.
And while the top spec Dynamique model is unusually smart and well-featured (and can be specified with striking two-tone dash and doors), the entry-level Authentique looks anything but a base model.
Its cloth trim is tightly woven and pleasing to the touch, and, front and back, is really nicely put-together.
In this, for quality feel, it is a match for the Polo but trumps the VW’s conservatism with French flair.
It took me a bit of jiggling to get set at the wheel, but the seats are nicely padded and comfortable across the range, the wheel feels good and the gearshift and controls have a solid quality feel.
There is ample room for feet and knees for rear seat passengers, and the rear doors provide plenty of room for getting in and out.
Run down the spec-list and you’ll find some really good features.
Seven-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and audio streaming, music storage, hands-free operation, jack and USB ports (for portable music players and mobile phones), bass reflex audio built into the sound system, and MEDIA NAV and R-Link systems (in Expression and Dynamique models) which also includes sat-nav.
There is also keyless entry, fuel-saving stop/start, hill-start assist, an advanced eco-driving function (which provides advice to help reduce fuel consumption), cruise control, air-con, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, electric door mirrors, and electric front windows.
The range-topping Dynamique gets climate control complete with charcoal/carbon pollen filter and Air Quality Sensor, and reversing camera with parking sensors
Lastly, the top-spec model comes with the ‘R-Sound Effect’ system which allows the driver to choose an engine sound from a screen selection, and to set its volume. You can choose from a hot-hatch, to a rorty V6 to a vintage race car, among others, and, it’s a gimmick, but it sounds sensational.
ON THE ROAD
The Clio drives very well. The three cylinder engine under the bonnet of the entry level Authentique and Expression models is surprisingly lively.
It’s certainly not ‘fast’ (0-100km/h in 12.2 seconds), but has no trouble keeping with the traffic or being hustled into a hole onto the freeway. We gave it quite a workout through the hills, and really stretched that little ‘low inertia turbo’ power-plant.
(The properly quick model, the new Clio RS, will be here soon.)
While fuel consumption suffered (it was a full-on workout), we came away very impressed with its tractability and on-road performance.
Sure, loading it up would knock the edge off things, but this is a very good unit.
Like its bigger brother, the TCe 120, it’s uncannily quiet and uncannily free of vibrations. Road noise and vibration suppression does not get any better in this segment (nor among any smaller cars).
The manual transmission of the three-cylinder is light and easy to slot between the ratios, but the six-speed EDC twin clutch mated to the 1.2 litre is the pick of the drivetrains (and it’s not such a stretch more – there’s $2k in it).
The 1.2 litre puts out a very reasonable 88kW and 190Nm. With just a little over 1.1 tonne to drag around, and happy to rev cleanly to 6000rpm, it gives the Clio a zesty turn of speed. It will skip to 100km/h in 9.4 seconds.
It is matched beautifully to the EDC auto, which, left to its own devices, keeps things in the sweet spot of the little turbo’s wide torque band, and can move things along very quickly.
It also changes down pre-emptively, putting the right gear underfoot when cornering, and changes are typical ‘twin-clutch’ fast.
It can be hustled along manually in ‘sport’ using the plus-minus plane of the gearshift, but, except when manually down-shifting for overtaking, is probably best when left to do the work.
But the big story on-road with the Clio is its refinement and comfort. On even the coarsest of bitumen, road roar and mechanical noise is entirely banished. It is uncanny.
In both models, the TCe 90 and TCe120, you can have a quiet conversation at speed without any intrusions. For noise damping and suppression, Renault has done a sensational job with this car.
It’s more softly sprung than most, and the trade-off is some extra body-roll when cornering (it leans a little on the outside front) and an initial tendency to understeer – to run a little wide.
But, like ‘long-travel’ Renault suspensions of old, it’s very well stuck and a quick lift-off or light dab on the brakes tightens the line smartly.
It’s also free of jitteriness, and all those wearing things that so commonly typify small light cars. The Clio is one you’d happily drive between capital cities.
The brakes are fine, discs up front and drum rear (which is typical of the sector). We’d prefer discs at the rear but this is a light car and there is no complaint with the way they perform.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
If you’re shopping sub-$20k, give this one a very close look. For style, function, comfort and dynamics, the new Clio is as good as you’ll find at this end of the market.
For refinement on ratty Aussie roads, Renault’s new Clio has all-comers in the sector shot to bits. None of its competitors can match it.
The Clio is also ‘a size larger’ than most in this segment, and drives like a larger car. There’s ample room for four adults in this interior and they’ll be treated to a very comfortable ride.
So, if those things are important to you, put Renault’s new Clio on the list.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Clio Authentique TCe 90 - manual - $16,790
- Clio Expression TCe 90 - manual - $17,790
- Clio Expression TCe 120 - EDC auto - $19,790
- Clio Dynamique TCe 120 - EDC auto - $23,290