It’s called the Grand Tour but it looks just like a Clio Estate to me…
Well spotted - that’s exactly what this is. It's simply the concept version that was built for the Geneva Motor Show 2007 as a preview to the Estate. Renault is revealing a proper roadgoing version at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September. The car we’ve driven was built to show what a supermini estate could look like. Renault is aware that up until now this category of car hasn’t exactly enjoyed the youngest of clientele - and it wants to change that with a supposedly funkier take on the mini wagon sector. A sector that's being restimulated by this autumn's newest and hippest fashion accessory, the Mini Clubman. Does Renault's effort work? Read our first drive to find out.
Don’t tell me. Renault wants this car to appeal to young buyers with an active lifestyle!
Got it in one. It’s chasing the Holy Grail for motor makers. It thinks if it gives its version of the supermini estate a bit of style – I expect their marketing sorts would say va va voom – rather than just sticking a big boot on the back, it’ll sweep up buyers who want some practicality without resorting to a Peugeot 207 SW or Skoda Fabia Combi. So it’s no accident that this car is based on the Clio Renaultsport 197. That’s why it’s got a slightly wider track and meaner stance than regular Clios.
Looks pretty mean all over if you ask me
The designers claim they were inspired by TV’s Pimp My Ride at the front, hence that slinky intake within an intake, the swept-up headlights and the chrome detailing around the traditional Clio front end. They’ve also added a brushed aluminium cover to the Clio 197’s usual side vent and it sits on racy 19-inch gold painted alloys. The Grand Tour concept has a rising shoulder line and as it’s a three-door its profile isn’t unlike the Volvo C30's. At the back, they’ve inserted the exhausts in a brushed aluminium surround and given it a sporty boot spoiler.
So is the production model going to be a three-door then?
Not initially. The car Renault will unveil at Frankfurt will be a five-door, but it’ll retain some of the look of this concept. And it’ll definitely keep its practicality. Renault bosses want this to look both clean and classy but above all to be usable. The overall length has increased by 30cm and that translates into 147 litres more boot space, compared to the hatchback supermini's - and that’s without the seats folded. Flip them down and it’s got 1275 litres. They’ve also given this car a novel tailgate that designers say will be on the roadgoing car too.
Tell us about this special boot door then
It incorporates the registration plate and part of the rear bumper so that when you lift the tailgate you get completely open access with no irritating lip to navigate loads over. To show exactly what this set-up allows, Renault has incorporated a storage bin in one side of the boot floor and a pop-out stool in the other. These details might be a flight of fancy, but the wide screen for the navigation, the joystick to control its functions and the neoprene gaiter round the gearstick are all elements that will see the light of day on future Renaults, we hear.
And what’s it like on the road?
As it’s based on the Clio 197 it’s got the 2.0-litre engine so it’s a pretty poky performer for one so small. It sounds the business, too! There’s not much in the way of sound deadening so you get a glorious noise in the cabin. Accelerate GTi hard and this baby Renault responds instantly with a rasping exhaust note. Suspension travel is limited on this precious concept so you don’t really get much of an idea of what it’s like round corners, but that glass roof makes up for it. It gives you a superb feeling from the inside, a bit like the canopy of a fighter plane.
There’s nothing particularly radical about the Clio Grand Tour. But if the forthcoming Clio Estate continues the theme and offers a practical supermini estate with a sporting side, Renault could sweep up buyers who currently wouldn’t consider such a car. This show version isn’t meant to be driven hard, but it’s near enough to a finished model to give you an idea of what it would be like on the road. And we reckon that Renault's production model could be pretty good news.