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Renault Clio

Renault's smarter looking Clio should retain the status quo at the top of the supermini class. Steve Walker reports.

Preview

Renault was never about to let its Clio fall behind the pace setters in the supermini market. Even if it had wanted to, turning the 2006 European Car Of The Year into a forgettable also-ran would surely have proven a task beyond even the most spectacularly inept team of executives and product planners. The foundations of the third generation Clio have always been strong and they remain so today. Showing its guile, Renault has largely left them alone and concentrated on finessing the window dressing of the latest models.

Ten Second Review

The latest version of Renault's Clio gets sportier looks, better refinement and some choice bits of equipment thrown into the mix. The strong basic qualities of the car remain unchanged, however, and Renault should see its supermini continue to operate at the top of the class.

Background

The Clio line-up looks much as a good supermini range should. The three and five-door hatchbacks kick off with the cheap and economical before extending to the fast and luxurious. There's a more practical Tourer estate, a balanced range of petrol and diesel engines and a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. In short, most supermini buyers should be able to locate a Clio that fulfils their requirements and the Clio can put up a direct alternative to the vast majority of models offered by the supermini market's other leading lights in the hope of poaching their sales.

Driving Experience

Renaultsport, Renault's performance brand, has gained an outstanding reputation over the last few years for the quality and focus of the performance hatchbacks it turns out. At the top of the Clio range are the Renaultsport 200, the Renaultsport Cup 200 and the Renaultsport Gordini which will accelerate like a cat with a blazing tail and get masses of attention from the press and hot hatch fans because of it. As always, however, it's the more sedate Clios that sell most strongly. That means the ones with the 100bhp TCe turbocharged petrol engine and Renault's highly impressive 1.5-litre dCi diesels. The petrol range opens with the affordable 1.2-litre 16-valve engine that develops 75bhp then comes the clever 1.2 TCe unit and two versions of the 1.6-litre VVT engine packing 110bhp and 128bhp with the aid of their variable valve timing technology. The 1.5-litre diesel comes in 86bhp and 106bhp guises and remains one of the very best small diesel engines on the market. The standard gearbox is a five speed manual but the most powerful engines get a manual 'box with an extra ratio and the 110bhp 1.6-litre engine is available with a four-speed automatic transmission.

Design and Build

The Clio Mk III was always a big car in the supermini class but this facelifted model is even bigger. At 4,027mm, it's 41mm longer than the pre-facelift model and that extra length is utilised in making the Clio appear lower, leaner and more streamlined. This isn't one of those facelifts that leaves everyone at a loss as to what exactly has changed. The front end of the Clio is markedly more aggressive with the sharp lines of the air-intake and the headlights combined with the thin, smirking grille. It's a look that debuted on the Megane family hatch and it gives the Clio a far more purposeful appearance, even in its non-sporting forms. The interior was also upgraded with some relocating of the minor controls to increase user-friendliness. Higher spec models now get a soft touch dash with the satellite navigation screen integrated into it. Beneath the skin, Renault's focus has been on increasing refinement on the Clio and today's model features upgraded sound-deadening measures to combat engine, transmission and wind noise. The occupants should have a pretty cushy time of it because the Clio also continues to set the standard for supermini cabin space with its impressive rear head and leg room along with a generously proportioned boot of 288 litres.

Market and Model

Small cars are no longer the simpletons of the automotive world. These days they come packed with technology and clever thinking of the sort reserved for larger and more expensive models just a few years ago. The Clio is available with an integrated Carminat TomTom navigation system which even gives information on traffic problems, speed restrictions and speed camera locations. Elsewhere, buyers can specify cruise control, an automatic speed limiter, cornering lights that swivel to illuminate the road, parking sensors and automated wipers and headlights. Renault's card-based entry and start system is also available, as is Bluetooth connectivity and a USB connector for wiring-up your MP3 player to the stereo. Safety remains a key priority of the Clio, which gained a full five-star rating at the Euro NCAP crash tests. Safety equipment includes ABS brakes with brakefore distribution, brake assist and a full complement of airbags.

Cost of Ownership

Renault is keen to highlight its most fuel efficient Clio models, making it easier for customers to pick them out and does so with its ECO2 branding. The 1.2 and 1.2 TCe petrol engines as well as two of the diesels qualify for ECO2 status because of their low emissions and fuel economy. The 86 and 106bhp diesel models both emit less than 120g/km of CO2, giving owners significant tax advantages as well as the opportunity to do their bit for the environment.

Summary

The latest Renault Clio has taken a step forward in a number of key areas and its far-reaching styling tweaks are designed to mark the facelifted models out. The car has gained a sportier look that should underline the connection between the basic models and the highly regarded Renaultsport hot hatchbacks, while improvements to the interior, a more detailed equipment list and enhanced refinement will also count in its favour. The Clio's strengths will remain its spacious interior, strong engine range and high quality feel. The latest models make a number of worthwhile improvements that increase the desirability of the package but with its core strengths, the Clio was a top supermini before and it's a top supermini now.

The latest Renault Clio has taken a step forward in a number of key areas and its far-reaching styling tweaks are designed to mark the facelifted models out. The car has gained a sportier look that should underline the connection between the basic models and the highly regarded Renaultsport hot hatchbacks, while improvements to the interior, a more detailed equipment list and enhanced refinement will also count in its favour. The Clio's strengths will remain its spacious interior, strong engine range and high quality feel. The latest models make a number of worthwhile improvements that increase the desirability of the package but with its core strengths, the Clio was a top supermini before and it's a top supermini now.

The latest Renault Clio has taken a step forward in a number of key areas and its far-reaching styling tweaks are designed to mark the facelifted models out. The car has gained a sportier look that should underline the connection between the basic models and the highly regarded Renaultsport hot hatchbacks, while improvements to the interior, a more detailed equipment list and enhanced refinement will also count in its favour. The Clio Mk III was always a big car in the supermini class but this facelifted model is even bigger. At 4,027mm, it's 41mm longer than the pre-facelift model and that extra length is utilised in making the Clio appear lower, leaner and more streamlined. This isn't one of those facelifts that leaves everyone at a loss as to what exactly has changed. The front end of the Clio is markedly more aggressive with the sharp lines of the air-intake and the headlights combined with the thin, smirking grille. It's a look that debuted on the Megane family hatch and it gives the Clio a far more purposeful look even in its non-sporting forms. The interior was also upgraded with some relocating of the minor controls to increase user-friendliness. Higher spec models now get a soft touch dash with the satellite navigation screen integrated into it. Beneath the skin, Renault's focus has been on increasing refinement on the Clio and today's model features upgraded sound-deadening measures to combat engine, transmission and wind noise. The occupants should have a pretty cushy time of it because the Clio also continues to set the standard for supermini cabin space with its impressive rear head and leg room, along with a generously proportioned boot of 288 litres. The Clio's strengths will remain its spacious interior, strong engine range and high quality feel. The latest models make a number of worthwhile improvements that increase the desirability of the package but with its core strengths, the Clio was a top supermini before and it's a top supermini now.

The latest Renault Clio has taken a step forward in a number of key areas and its far-reaching styling tweaks are designed to mark the facelifted models out. The car has gained a sportier look that should underline the connection between the basic models and the highly regarded Renaultsport hot hatchbacks, while improvements to the interior, a more detailed equipment list and enhanced refinement will also count in its favour. The Clio Mk III was always a big car in the supermini class but this facelifted model is even bigger. At 4,027mm, it's 41mm longer than the pre-facelift model and that extra length is utilised in making the Clio appear lower, leaner and more streamlined. This isn't one of those facelifts that leaves everyone at a loss as to what exactly has changed. The front end of the Clio is markedly more aggressive with the sharp lines of the air-intake and the headlights combined with the thin, smirking grille. It's a look that debuted on the Megane family hatch and it gives the Clio a far more purposeful look even in its non-sporting forms. The interior was also upgraded with some relocating of the minor controls to increase user-friendliness. Higher spec models now get a soft touch dash with the satellite navigation screen integrated into it. Beneath the skin, Renault's focus has been on increasing refinement on the Clio and today's model features upgraded sound-deadening measures to combat engine, transmission and wind noise. The occupants should have a pretty cushy time of it because the Clio also continues to set the standard for supermini cabin space with its impressive rear head and leg room, along with a generously proportioned boot of 288 litres. Small cars are no longer the simpletons of the automotive world. These days they come packed with technology and clever thinking of the sort reserved for larger and more expensive models just a few years ago. The Clio is available with an integrated Carminat TomTom navigation system which even gives information on traffic problems, speed restrictions and speed camera locations. Elsewhere, buyers can specify cruise control, an automatic speed limiter, cornering lights that swivel to illuminate the road, parking sensors and automated wipers and headlights. Renault's card-based entry and start system is also available, as is Bluetooth connectivity and a USB connector for wiring-up your MP3 player to the stereo. Safety remains a key priority of the Clio, which gained a full five-star rating at the Euro NCAP crash tests. Safety equipment includes ABS brakes with brakefore distribution, brake assist and a full complement of airbags. The Clio's strengths will remain its spacious interior, strong engine range and high quality feel. The latest models make a number of worthwhile improvements that increase the desirability of the package but with its core strengths, the Clio was a top supermini before and it's a top supermini now.

Scores
Performance 6
Handling 7
Comfort 8
Space 7
Styling 7
Build 8
Value 8
Equipment 7
Economy 8
Depreciation 6
Insurance 6
Total 78

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