The groovy new Renault Clio.
The groovy new Renault Clio.

Road test: Renault Clio has style and substance

SLIDING into showrooms this week like a "wet willy" is the most important car since Renault's return to the Australian market one decade ago.

Although, the new Renault Clio is a much more comfortable fit than an index finger, dipped into the mouth and then slotted into your ear.

The "wet willy" is part of Renault's TV marketing campaign showcasing the new Clio's style while also appealing to Australian larrikinism.

And the little Clio is one slippery little customer. Starting from $16,790, Renault is determined to gain a mainstream small car presence after being pigeon-holed into a niche sporting brand.

RS versions of the Renault small cars have become popular, but this fourth generation Clio and the recently-updated Megane range are poised to put Renault on Aussie motoring shopping lists with a renewed emphasis on value for money, cheaper running costs and better resale values.

Comfort

Personalisation is an ace up the Clio sleeve. There are a range of colour coding options available for $250 to match the exterior hue which delivers brilliant cabin character.

Black is the basic package but it would be hard to resist ticking the box to add some flair.

Despite its light-size dimensions, the Clio doesn't feel claustrophobic.

Like all offerings in this segment, there is precious little accommodation in the back. If those sitting in the front pews are long-legged there is limited knee and leg room for those in the rear.

You can still house four adults as long as they aren't all rugby front rowers.

And while the Clio has a reasonable amount of French quirks, the cabin is brimming with commonsense.

The driver has a good peripheral view along with clear gauges and a crisp digital speedo, the steering wheel has telescopic adjustment, there are two spots for cups in the console and bottle holders in the doors.

All pews are nice and spongy with reasonable support from all angles.

On the road

Two turbocharged petrol engine options are available, a 0.9-litre three-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual and a 1.2-litre four-potter with a dual-clutch six-speed automatic.

For those seeking a more urgent response the larger donk is the obvious choice. But anyone who doesn't stray onto the highway too often and is looking for a thrifty, honest little performer, the three-cylinder can do the job.

Renault has put together a smooth chassis and suspension package.

It handles directional changes well, soaks up the road imperfections without issue, and has brilliant noise suppression.

Passengers can carry a conversation without having to raise voices even when trekking at speed on the open road.

Automatic transmissions have timely shifts and are silky in operation which negates the need to push it across for manual control. The five-speed manual is easy to shift with a clutch which is quick to engage.

The steering is light which makes it a nimble little machine through the city but it could do with more feel for when you attack corners.

What do you get?

Three trims are available, Authentique, Expression and Dynamique.

Basic kit includes cruise control, air con, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, automatic stop-start, 18cm touch-screen with Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, USB and Aux inputs (but no CD player).

There are some pretty cool items on the options list, including an array of internal and external colour features. Some impressive combinations are available for an awesome looking piece of gear.

One vital extra which does cost you $300 is the electric pack, which includes auto lights and wipers, electric rear windows and folding door mirrors, along with keyless entry and start.

Tech fans will also love the groovy $1490 Premium Pack with sat nav and a cool feature called R-Sound. This enables you to change the engine note through the sound system. Under acceleration you can choose between a rally car, something from the Jetsons, a Moto GP bike and a range of option options.

It's probably something you would show off to your mates in the first few months of ownership, and then never touch again. Nonetheless it's a smart option to offer the impressionable.

Running costs

With about 100kg stripped from the previous model, this new generation Clio is a frugal thing. Neither will suck the juice with the three-cylinder likely to achieve less than five-litres per 100km.

Capped price servicing is $299 for the first three years, and a five-year warranty and roadside assist for the same period is good peace of mind.

Renault is also mindful of ongoing costs after that period, and parts shouldn't be prohibitive come future maintenance.

Other options

Key rivals are the Volkswagen Polo (from $16,990), and Mazda2 (from $15,790), along with the Toyota Yaris (from $15,690), Kia Rio 5D (from $16,290) and the Hyundai i20 (from $16,590).

Practicality

Boot space is a handy 300 litres (ample for a weekly grocery shop), with an ability to fold the rear seats 60-40.

There are also three child seat anchorage points and two Isofix allocations.

Funky factor

Designer Laurens van den Acker has hit his straps. This has to be the best looking offering among the light car brigade.

Aided by a brilliant colour palette with various configurations inside the wheels, interior and exterior treatments, it looks the goods from all angles.

WHAT MATTERS MOST

The good stuff: Attractive from all angles, options list for personalisation, improvements in running costs.

What we'd like to see: Automatic transmission option for base model, electric pack should be standard, slightly more steering feel, alloys standard.

Warranty and servicing: Five year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 15,000km or annually, prices capped at $299 for the first three years.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Renault Clio.

Details: Five-door front-wheel drive light-size hatchback.

Engines: 900cc turbocharged three-cylinder generating 66kW @ 5250rpm and peak torque of 135Nm @ 2500rpm; 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 88kW @ 4900rpm and 190Nm @ 2000rpm.

Transmissions: Five-speed manual (0.9 only); dual clutch six-speed automatic.

Consumption: 4.5 litres/100km; 5.2L/100km (combined average).

CO2: 105g/km; 120g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 12.2 seconds; 9.4 seconds.

Bottom line: Authentique TCe 90 (m) $16,790, Expression TCe 90 (m) $17,790, Expression TCe 120 (a) $19,790, Dynamique TCe 120 (a) $23,290.



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