French favourite undergoes a mid-life nick and tuck plus perkier new engines.
Eight years is now a fairly typical model life-span for a modern car, and halfway through that time there’s often a mid-life facelift as a freshen-up against newer rivals. So here comes a new version of the popular little French favourite, Renault’s Clio.
It is actually a nip-and-tuck update of the fourth generation Clio launched in 2012, but a bit more substantial than some, with a restyled front end, upgraded cabin and two new engines to give the performance of the mid-range versions a bit more oomph.
Going on sale from September, the new Clio comes as the car celebrates a 25 year life-span of all its various incarnations, accompanied by some catchy advertising over the years. They range from those memorable Papa-Nicole commercials, through the Va-va-voom days with heartthrob French footballer Thierry Henry, to the more recent campaign with people larking about on the car roofs.
Putting on a fresh face
Over a quarter-century, the Clio has morphed from a fairly basic little hatchback to a larger – it’s now 35 cm longer than the 1991 original – and roomier modern supermini. Changes to the Clio this time include a redesigned grille and lights, with C-shaped LEDs as daytime running lights included for the first time on some versions.
Inside, there has been general makeover to tone done some of the glitziness of the current Clio and give this one a slightly more upmarket ambiance to the cabin. Better quality and more tactile materials have replaced some of the plasticky trim, the chrome bits are more subtle and there’s less reflective glare. It percolates down into the Clio a style that Renault has previously adopted in some of its more up-scale models.
There are two new engines joining the range, a petrol 1.2 litre TCe 120, and a diesel 1.5 litre dCi 110. Both come with a six-speed manual gearbox, and have more power than the existing TCe 90 and dCi 90 power units that continue in the Clio line-up.
Room with the vroom
For its overall size, just over four metres long, there’s a roomy feel to the Clio’s cabin and it’s an agreeable place to be. There’s pretty decent elbow room all round for a car this size, and kneeroom in the back isn’t too skimpy, although anyone tall may still grumble a bit about the tight rear headroom. Boot space at 300 litres is fairly average for a car this size.
You get a choice of interior colour schemes, either a business-like but rather neutral Smoky Grey, or the livelier Florida Red with colour inserts on the seats and dash, which has a more youthful and extrovert appeal.
Renault has upped the equipment levels in the Clio, and there’s more connectivity. From the less expensive versions upwards, every Clio is now equipped with Renault’s R&GO system, to let you link your smartphone to the car and operate functions via a seven-inch screen in the dash. Automatic parking is now on the options list.
Driving it …
The new TCe 120 is expected to be a popular version, so we grabbed one to try, in one of the four new colours now added to the range: Mars Red. With 118 bhp of power on tap, the enigne feels zesty and willing, and suits the car well.
It’s a pity that Renault hasn’t taken the opportunity to tweak the suspension setup, and address a ride quality that can be a bit fidgety at times in lower-speed urban driving, but it does smooth out at a higher pace.
What they have done, and it’s a welcome improvement, is modify the steering to give it more feel. Anyone with a current Clio will notice the difference. This new one feels a bit more response and pointy. Papa would approve.
Renault Clio Stats Review
Model tested: Renault Clio TCe 120
Top speed: 124 mph
0-62 mph: 9.0 secs
Economy: 53.3 mpg
CO2: 118 g/km
Images: Sue Baker