► Super-frugal diesel Clio tested
► Not cheap to buy but should be to run
► Up there with the supermini class-best?
Funny how time can soften a design’s impact. When the current-gen Renault Clio first emerged, blinking its large headlights in 2012, it seemed like its features had been drawn too large for its face; that supersized badge and those elephantine lamps just seemed so big. But it’s ageing nicely, and those swoopy styling cues still help the Clio stand out in a segment that’s mostly about horizontals and creases.
Time for a revisit road test, to find out if the rest of the Clio is still looking good.
Which Clio’s this one, then?
The diesel, in upper-mid table Dynamique MediaNav trim. While there’s a brace of petrol engines to choose from in Clio world (plus the hot Renaultsport variant), there’s just one diesel: the 89bhp, 162lb ft 1.5-litre ‘dCi’. It’s not a new engine – this block’s been round the proverbial one a few times in various Renault-Nissan models – but it is a good one.
As standard it offers a claimed 83mpg and 90g/km CO2 rating but we’re testing the car in ‘ECO’ guise, which fits low-rolling resistance tyres and some moderate weight-saving measures to boost mpg to a yet-more-startling 88mpg and drop CO2 to a hybrid-like 83g/km. Tightwads, this is the Clio for you.
Does that mean it feels a bit strangled on the road?
Not at all. It pulls strongly and never feels underpowered or undertorqued, even when the throttle response is dulled by the switchable fuel-saving ‘Eco’ mode. There are only five speeds for the manual gearbox (an auto is an option) but they’re so well-matched to the engine that you never feel the need for a sixth.
Wind noise outweighs engine roar at a cruise, and it’s not unduly noisy getting there. According to the trip computer, fuel economy fluttered around the 60mpg mark over a mix of A- and B-roads, and dropped closer to 50 during harder driving. Not quite the on-paper 80mpg+, but good enough to mean you wouldn’t need to fill up all that often nevertheless.
How does it handle?
Very well indeed. The suspension’s geared more towards ride comfort than sports car tautness – it’s less firm than a Fiesta for example – and that’s absolutely fine. It deals with lumpy roads with aplomb at speed yet manages to avoid feeling overly soft or wallowy, and contains its body movement nicely. While you’d probably pick a Fiesta for outright driving fun, the Clio’s not a million miles away.
The steering’s perhaps a little over-light at speed and could be a touch more communicative, but its fluid, easily twirlable nature comes into its own around town.
Hats off to Renault for weighting the pedals properly, though. This is one supermini that doesn’t make you feel like a bull in a china shop, stamping on feather-light, over-assisted pedals.
There are plenty of reasons to like the Renault Clio. It’s decent to drive, different to look at and pleasant enough to sit in, with similarly wavy design cues to those of the exterior. The cabin’s a bit plasticky, like most cars in the class, but feels well screwed together. You get reasonable leg- and headroom for tallish passengers in the back, and a handily deep boot too.
This being a MediaNav version, a shield-shaped panel in the middle of the dashboard houses Renault’s R-Link touchscreen system, which isn’t quite as ropey to look at or operate as it used to be. It’s no better or worse than most other multimedia screens out there.
Downsides? It’s not all that cheap; while the boggo Clio Expression kicks the range off from around £11k, this particular engine and trim will set you back more than £15k, and with a sprinkling of options our test car topped £17k. But it’ll cost peanuts to run, and if you rack up plenty of miles the dCi is the engine to go for.
Everyone bangs on, quite rightly, about how good the Ford Fiesta is but there’s no reason this car shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath. Carry on, Clio.