Say hello to our new Renault Clio long-termer

Published: 28 July 2020

► Living with a fully-stocked Clio
► Auto, punchy engine and sporty trim
► Our regular reports will reveal all

For some reason the only photos I took were of patio furniture, but fortunately my memory of last June's Renault Clio launch is crystal clear. The weather was glorious, the roads were good and both versions of the car I drove in Portugal were very impressive. I was particularly keen on the manual gearbox and the two-tone cabin trim of the lower-spec model.

And for the next few months I'm driving the opposite of that: the higher-spec model with an automatic gearbox. Not complaining, of course, but it adds to the list of questions I want to answer during my months with the Clio. Because plush cabins and automatic gearboxes completely contradict what my prejudices tell me is important in a hatchback. Hatches are light and simple and require the driver to be fully engaged, not driving with one foot. We'll see.

First impressions are that this TCe 130 in RS Line spec and Iron Blue paint is so accomplished that I'll soon forget my pre-judgements. There's a meatiness to the steering, a sophistication to the ride and a lively responsiveness to the engine that lifts it way above average.

But, impressively, it manages that grown-up classiness while also clinging on to some of that classic Clio perkiness.

Clio LTT wheels

With precious little driving going on at the moment, my main focus at first will be on burrowing into the details of the cabin. It's lovely in here, and most of it is standard on this top-spec car.

Extras include £660 metallic paint, a £200 spare wheel and the £500 Techno Pack, which needs exploring. It involves hands-free parking, a 360º around-view monitor and Multi-Sense, which is Renault's customisable driving modes. I've started experimenting with different combinations of engine mapping, steering assistance and ambient lighting (and I'm determined not to give up until I've tried every combination).

RS Line involves a duller appearance than the two-tone cabin featured on lower-spec cars, but the cloth upholstery feels lovely, as does the perforated leather steering wheel, and I like the look of the aluminium pedals. It comes with a 9.3-inch touchscreen, with DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and Apple Car Play/Android Auto included, as well as a choice of eight colours for the cabin lighting.

Clio LTT infotainment

It also comes with a high level of assistance systems, including cruise control, lane keeping assistance, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and LED lights front and rear. The 17-inch diamond-cut alloys are part of the RS Line deal too, along with these slightly different front and rear bumpers and lower grille, the tailpipes, and the tint of the rear windows.

This 128bhp version of Renault's 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol four offers what seems like a decent real-world combination of a sub-10-second 0-62mph time and fuel consumption in the 40s. But it also comes with that seven-speed automatic transmission, which on paper seems wrong for a modestly sized, modestly powered hatchback. As I said, all my small-hatch instincts are about minimal equipment and maximum driver involvement. But in practice, the changes are smooth and quick, and you can make them yourself with the paddles, and the whole set-up feels very well balanced and set up.

But then again I've only done 34 miles, and have spent far more time recently exploring patio furniture than driving the Clio.

Logbook: Renault Clio RS Line TCe 130 EDC

Price £20,295 (£21,655 as tested)
Performance 1330cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 128bhp, 9.0sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 49.6mpg (official), 42.4mpg (tested), 118g/km CO2
Energy cost tbc
Miles this month 34
Total miles 2621

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions