The new Renault Clio offers cheap and cheerful motoring, but we’d recommend opting for the all-electric Renault Zoe.
We liked the latest generation Clio when it first appeared. It looked good, with clean, unfussy styling, and it was fun to drive. The Clio has now been updated – so does the new model represent progress?
Our TCe 100 test car had a 3-cylinder, 1-litre petrol engine with a 5-speed manual gearbox.
This is a supermini, so you need to manage your expectations in terms of interior space. This means there’s not much legroom for rear seat passengers, and the boot is small – although it’s quite deep. There’s a button to open the boot under the rear bumper, but when you try and lift up the hatchback, there’s hardly any space for your hand to get under the tailgate.
When this latest generation Clio was originally launched the styling was clean. The new design details under the headlights of this latest version result in the styling now looking fussy. Although one good thing about our test car was its bright blue colour.
Superminis should be small and light, and so they should be fun to drive. This Clio weighs 1,178 kg, which is light compared to most cars, but it isn’t the lightest of superminis.
However even if there is some benefit to be had from the relatively light weight, and any other plus points, the fact is that the whole driving experience is spoilt by one thing: the engine dies at low revs. So every time you start off, the revs die, then when the turbo kicks in, the revs shoot up, then if there’s any hint of too much power going to the front wheels, the traction control system cuts the revs. This kills any potential enjoyment that may be on offer elsewhere in the driving experience. This issue doesn’t only relate to Renault, it’s common with many small capacity turbo engines since the new WLTP economy and emissions test was introduced – but this TCe 100 engine in the Clio is the worst we’ve experienced.
The 3-cylinder, 1-litre petrol engine also features the typical sound of a 3-cylinder, 1-litre petrol engine – which translates to a noisy driving experience.
The Clio is supposed to feature a stop-start system, but this seemed to be operational only very rarely.
And then there’s the suspension, which didn’t feel as though it was doing a very good job of shielding the car’s occupants from the discomfort of poor road surfaces.
The infomedia system isn’t the most intuitive to find your way around; many of the graphics and touchscreen controls appear to be based around the iPad ’swiping’ concept, but in practice they appear as gimmicky rather than functional; zooming in and out of the map isn’t easy; and then of course there’s the volume controls that are completely hidden away behind the steering wheel.
The cabin seemed to take a long time to warm up from cold, and perhaps this wasn’t helped by the maximum interior temperature setting appearing to be just 25.5 degrees – we’re pretty sure that temperatures can be set higher in virtually all other cars.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Renault Clio Iconic TCe 100 is 54.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 99g/km.
Our real-life economy averaged 46.3mpg, which is down on the official figure. This improved to 56.6mpg at motorways speeds of 60-70mpg, and we even saw 70mpg at 50mph. The Clio was displaying a useful driving range of 450 miles.
The Renault Clio Iconic TCe 100 costs £16,295. Our test car had the options of spare wheel (£200), Metallic Renault I.D. Paint (£660), Comfort Pack (£350), Convenience Pack (£300), and Parking Pack (£300), taking the total price as tested to £18,105.
The Clio comes in trim levels of Play, Iconic (as tested), S Edition and R.S. Line. There are SCe 75, TCe 100 and TCe 130 petrol engines, and a dCi 85 diesel.
We genuinely want to be able to write a glowing review for every car we test, but sometimes this just doesn’t happen, and this is the case for the Clio. We just couldn’t live with the engine dying at low revs – it becomes tiresome very quickly. It’s also noisy, and the suspension doesn’t feel as though it’s been very well engineered. A supermini should be fun to drive, but this term couldn’t be used to describe the Clio’s driving experience. Overall it felt that very little investment has gone into this latest update, and that the car hasn’t moved on. Superminis don’t have to feel cheap, and the latest Peugeot 208 proves this, as it’s an excellent all-round, quality product. As a result of all this, the Renault Clio Iconic TCe 100 ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 6 out of 10.
However there is some good news for Renault out of this. The Clio, dying at low revs, being noisy, and generally being hard work to drive, is a great advert for EVs, such as the Renault Zoe. The Zoe is extremely quiet, refined, smooth, responsive, fun and easy to drive – the opposite to the Clio. And of course the Zoe needs no petrol and has zero tailpipe emissions. So if you’re reading this because you were interested in a Clio, we’d urge you to also take a Zoe for a test drive – and let us know which you prefer.