The complicated name bestowed upon the Renault Clio GT-Line 120 EDC gives a clue to its nature: a mix of an efficiency-biased turbocharged petrol engine with some sporty hardware from the £21k RS Clio 200 hot hatch, but at a more affordable £17,395. It’s targeting everything from the Ford Fiesta Zetec S and Citroen DS3 through to the Suzuki Swift Sport. So, does the Clio GT-Line deliver the best of both worlds or is it a confusing supermini that’s best avoided? Read on for the full CAR verdict.
Is the Renault Clio GT-Line merely a detuned RS Clio?
No – it uses a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine instead of the RS’s 1.6-litre turbo motor. Power stands at 118bhp and 140 lb ft, and it’s channelled through an identical-to-RS six-speed dual-clutch gearbox (hence the EDC, for Electronic Dual Clutch) with paddleshifters and racier modes for faster changes. And, like the RS, you can’t buy it with a manual transmission.
Any other sporty add-ons?
A new front bumper with a deeper air intake and LED running lights, attractive 17in alloys and twin exhausts set in a silver rear bumper that apes the RS Clio’s no-nonsense diffuser are part of the show. Compare it with a regular Clio and the GT-Line’s extra swagger is obvious, but in isolation it’s not much more of a head-turner than the rather pretty standard car. Inside there’s a set of superb sports seats, metal shift paddles for the EDC (Efficient Dual-Clutch gearbox) pinched straight from the RS Clio, and a slightly incongruous Renaultsport badge.
So, does the Clio GT feel worthy of that hallowed Renaultsport badge?
No – but it makes a compelling case as a halfway house between the wicked up RS model and the bread-and-butter Clios. Think BMW M Performance instead of M Car, or S-Line Audi instead of RS, and the GT-Line hits its mark. The RS Clio, with its turbocharged engine and lack of manual gearbox, isn’t a hot hatch for the classic purist, and the GT-Line won’t win any friends there either, but it’s not really aimed at your classic Clio Williams fan. It’s really pitched at young drivers who’d like a hot Clio but can’t afford to buy, or worse, insure one. And for young’uns, there’s plenty to like…
Plenty of showroom appeal then?
Let’s reel off the positive first impressions: the sports seat clasps the driver’s body firmly, the chunky steering wheel feels great to hold and offers masses of adjustment, and little touches like silver seatbelts and polished pedals give the cabin a sporty sense of occasion. While Audi and Jaguar insist on hampering their paddleshift-equipped cars with nasty plastic buttons, the Clio GT gets long, cool aluminium column-mounted levers with a nicely-damped movement and quality feel to them. Meanwhile, The touchscreen ‘R-link’ infotainment system is intuitive, bursting with features, and quick-witted enough to embarrass a few so-called ‘premium brand’ interface’s sleepless nights.
The suspension’s serious overhaul, with damping rates 40% stiffer than a regular Clio, hasn’t turned the car into a skateboard – it’s well controlled and yet perfectly tolerable day-to-day. However, while your passengers won’t mind the firm chassis, the hard ride does take its toll on the cabin. Our car was plagued by a variety of rattles and buzzes emanating from the dashboard, door cards and ceiling switches. And while we’re talking unpleasant noises, the much-hyped ‘Bass Reflex’ speaker system’s sound quality is as disappointingly flimsy as the ugly speaker covers themselves. The other Clio drawbacks of cramped rear seats and lots of wingmirror wind noise remain.
Right, it’s attractive but flimsy: but how does the Clio GT-Line drive?
It’s a mixed bag of fun and frustration. Leave the dual-clutch gearbox in the default auto mode and it’s mostly smooth and unobtrusive, save for initial getaway and creeping in traffic, which is jerkier than a Texan barbeque. It'll also hold onto ratios for just a second or two longer than the best-calibrated autos. The steering is light, direct but inert, and the engine a touch breathless-sounding. To really bring the Clio GT to life, you need to select Sport mode via the RS Drive button on the centre console, and knock the cheap-feeling gear lever across into manual mode, bringing those lovely paddles into play and adding an edge to the Clio’s timbre.
Why does Sport mode make such a difference?
There’s more weight to the steering, and although there’s still not a massive amount of feel, at least there’s some weight to push against as you pick up the pace. Gear change times drop from 200ms to 170ms, and the throttle response becomes noticeably keener, if not sharp: period. In Sport mode, using the paddles, there’s some real play value to the Clio GT, flicking between ratios at peak power of 4900rpm, (before the change-up light turns yellow, and the ’box takes matters into its own hands) and cheekily left-foot braking for the full go-kart experience. Given that the standard Clio’s manual gearbox is far from one of the great changers on the market today, it’s unlikely you’ll miss the interactivity of a third pedal. We certainly didn’t.
Despite stiffer springs, the Clio’s chassis still isn’t truly playful – a regular Ford Fiesta is more lively, adjustable and communicative, but equipped with those fat tyres and a flatter cornering stance, the Clio GT grips hard and can carry plenty of speed. Keep the whiny engine wound up on boost by flipping the paddles, both hands firmly clamped to the wheel, and it’s impressive point-to-point. In short, the gearbox and chassis really make the most of the morsel of power under the bonnet. It is fun, but it’s a different sort of fun to the old-school, turn-in-and-lift-off joy of a Fiesta.
How do the finances stack up?
We’ll cover the complete ins and outs of insurance technicalities and the optional kit’s value for money in a future blog on CAR Online, but in terms of price, the Clio GT-Line isn’t cheap, at £17,395. A Ford Fiesta Zetec S EcoBoost costs £2000 less, but Renault sales folk will surely counter with the Clio’s additional pair of doors, dual-clutch gearbox, bespoke suspension and excellent R-link system. The Clio’s claimed economy is 54.3mpg: realistically you’ll get low-to-mid-forties in The Real World.
The Clio GT-Line successfully pulls off its new-school attitude and play value – it’s a fun if pricey warm hatch. A Fiesta Zetec S or even a Suzuki Swift Sport are more honest drivers’ cars, but the Clio GT-Line has won me over and is definitely worth a test drive if you can’t stretch to one of Dieppe’s finest RS models. Just remember to select Sport mode and manual gearshift as routinely as you buckle your seatbelt…