Vehicle Style: 5-door light hatch
Price: $28,790 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 88kw/190Nm 4cyl petrol | 6spd dual-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.2 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km
What’s in a name? When it comes to the automotive world, plenty - and no moniker is quite so revered (or abused) as the letters 'GT'.
GT badges, the claim of the 'Gran Turismo', have appeared on both the undeserving and sports classics alike. So what does that have to with the shiny blue Renault you see before you?
It also wears the GT badge, and comes hot on the heels of the larger Megane GT220 hatch and the accompanying ‘visual-pack’ GT-line.
This little guy offers some of the racey RenaultSport division’s handling nous, without getting too carried away in the go-fast department.
As a result you’ll find a sporty handling package, but the same 1.2 litre engine and six-speed auto found in more pedestrian Clio models.
There’s also extra equipment, some premium touches to the interior, and sporty styling that gives the Clio some added kick.
- Colour touchscreen, sat nav, single-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start.
- Cruise control with speed limiter.
- Leather seat trim, sports leather steering wheel, GT-embossed headrests, grey seat belts.
- Reversing camera, auto lights and wipers.
- Six-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone and audio, aux-in connectivity.
- Luggage space: 300 litres, seats up. 1146 litres, seats down.
Just like lesser Clio models, the GT features a modern interior with high-quality materials and a smart feel throughout. It’s hard to fault.
For GT duty, the colourful trim options get the flick, instead there’s a grey-on-black decor with diamond-print plastics, leather seat trim, and gloss-black highlights.
For some reason Renault seems to think pale grey seatbelts are sporty (they’d look more at home in nan’s Camry) but the grippy and well-bolstered leather seats are right on the money.
Those long, real-metal gear-shift paddles deserve some recognition too - column mounted instead of on the wheel, easy to grab and always where you left them. A few ‘real’ sports cars could learn from these.
The huge glass roof doesn’t open, but floods the cabin with light. Unfortunately, if things really heat up, the thin gauze blind doesn’t offer much respite from a biting Aussie summer.
The usual Clio frustrations still exist. The starter button is all the way to the left of the centre stack and the glovebox is pretty compact.
Cabin width isn’t huge either, and the folding armrest of the Dynamique model isn’t included in the GT.
Overall though, the interior is modern, well executed and high quality. Better than the well-regarded Volkswagen Polo in many respects.
ON THE ROAD
- 1.2 litre petrol turbo inline four: 88kW @ 4900rpm, 190Nm @ 2000rpm
- Six-speed twin-clutch auto transmission with paddle shifters
- RenaultSport-tuned suspension
- 258mm front discs | 228x38mm rear drums
- Electrically assisted variable power steering.
- Fuel consumption listed: 5.2 l/100km
Instead, the 1.2 litre engine and six-speed dual-clutch auto of the standard Clio range carry over.
Fear not though, that’s really no debit to the Clio GT’s charms.
It may not be the most powerful car in its class, but the charming 1.2 litre turbo is still plenty of fun for a spirited drive.
Apply the throttle generously and it will spin freely, and doesn’t sound too strained when put to work. However, while you might feel racey, the 0-100km/h sprint takes a leisurely 9.4 seconds.
The key to the Clio GT’s success lies in the RenaultSport developed handling package, with five-percent firmer springs and dampers that have been firmed by 50 percent up front and 40 percent at the rear.
Road-holding benefits immensely, this Clio stays level when cornering and displays real verve through a series of tight bends.
Despite that, it is still comfy enough for urban duties - yes, it’s certainly firmer than the standard models but never uncomfortable.
There’s also an RS mode button. When pressed, it serves up sportier gear shifting (holding onto gears at higher revs) and adds weight to the steering.
It’s more fun than it should be and gives the Clio a clear shift in persona - perfect for a cheeky blat through the hills.
As smooth and refined as the little Regie is, Australia’s battle-scarred tarmac can still throw up plenty of road noise.
Short of that though, the light car class could learn a thing or too from the baby Renault, particularly the smooth and silent idle.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.87 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Dual front and dual side/head airbags are standard, as are anti-submarining seats, load-limiting front belt tensioners with height adjustment and adjustable head restraints for all seats.
Stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution and ABS brakes are also standard.
Important to note: the front head airbag is an extension of the side-bag. Curtain airbags are not available in the Clio range, despite this Euro NCAP determined the Clio to be the safest car in the light-car class when tested in 2012.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Picking a suite of rivals for the Clio GT is no easy task.
You could hypothetically save yourself a fortune and buy a Holden Barina RS or Kia Rio SLS and still have a more powerful car.
If style and equipment matter, try the Peugeot 208 Allure Premium. Alternatively, you could do without a few toys and take a Fiesta ST - its quick and capable, but may be a little aggressive.
You could also (if performance is more your thing) buy a Clio RS200 for the exact same money and get a 147kw engine to go with that brilliant handling.
- Holden Barina RS (warm hatch)
- Kia Rio SLS
- Peugeot 208 Allure Premium
- Ford Fiesta ST (hot hatch)
- Renault Clio RS200 (hot hatch)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As much as I want to like the Clio GT Premium, the big dollar-sign hanging over it causes a bit of trepidation.
In value-for-money terms it suffers, particularly when the same powertrain can be yours from as little as $19,790 in the Expression TCe 120.
It adds however a lot of equipment, some of which isn’t available from competitors yet at any price. Also, unlike the the Clio RS200 that shares the same price point, it isn’t unrelentingly focussed on performance.
So, yes, this is the Clio for the 'grand tour' rather than the race track.
It is also one for the style conscious, but who appreciate some on-road athleticism. The Clio GT Premium offers a nice middle position.
And, really, it wouldn’t be out of place cross-shopped against an Audi A1 - and suddenly that value issue becomes a lot more palatable.