The common sense answer to needing a supermini with more room is to buy a Megane-sized hatchback. And the Megane is an apt example here. Not only is it from Renault, it’s sufficiently dimensionally challenged to be closer in concept to the Clio than you might think. Though if you go the whole hog and pick a Megane Sport Tourer, you really do get loads of space. Buyers seem to agree. Estate sales take just three percent of the European supermini pie, divided currently divided between the only two contenders, the Skoda Fabia and the Peugeot 207SW.
Fair point. But it does looks a bit more practical than the Clio hatch...
That’s true, for Renault has actually done a fine job within the constraints of its envelope. An extra 384 mm has been grafted on behind the rear wheel arches and there’s a neat third window that manages to allow the Sport Tourer to retain most of the balance of the original. And there’s 50 percent more luggage space with the rear seats in place, which is certainly useful.
But what about serious load capacity?
Well, there isn’t any, not in a real estate car sense, a fact that’s compounded by the raked rear window – style is as important as substance here. Yet what is on offer is handled well. There’s a straight run in from the tailgate sill through the level floor to the back of the front seats. It’s a decent length and so sensibly squared off it’s hard to imagine more being made of the available space. Actually there is a drop inside the rear sill, but this is handled by a false floor that leaves a large concealed area a few centimetres deep beneath. You can slot the retractable parcel shelf in here, and fold the floor up against the rear seat to gain some extra space when the rear seats are in use.
Is the Clio Sport Tourer heavier and more cumbersome?
Renault has cleverly managed to ensure the estate weighs in at only 25kg more than the five-door hatch, which is a tidy trick to pull off. Thus the stiffer rear suspension is as much about dealing with the greater likelihood of heavier loading in day-to-day use, plus the fact that that load is pitched further back behind the rear wheels. Renault didn’t provide any ballast to evaluate the Sport Tourer loaded up, but lightly loaded it handles as well as regular Clios – which means enjoyably – without the change in suspension rates having a noticeable affect on ride quality.
Renault has some decent small engines these days, doesn’t it?
Like most manufacturers there’s much concentration on extracting power from lesser capacities. Renault’s 1.2-litre engines now give up to 100bhp in turbocharged form while there are three different outputs available in the 1.5dCi turbodiesel range. It seems probable that the entry-level 68bhp version won’t make it here until Renault needs a way to offer a budget entry-level diesel but the 86bhp derivative has sub-120g/km CO2 levels up it’s sleeve which add to the price-saving benefit over the 106bhp principal diesel.
How does this add-up on the road?
In Dynamic dCi 106 specification you might hope you are buying, if not a hot hatch, a decently warmed mini estate car. And in a way you are. This version of the Clio Sport Tourer offers 177lb ft of torque which provides pleasing levels of urge and throttle response. It’s a touch tardy off the line, though, which is where the petrol turbo Clio seems so much better, and the handling is prone to some serious bouts of body roll in the bends. With one of the better electric power steering systems around, that’s a pity but not altogether surprising. Want to go fast in a Clio? Buy a 197.
We’re far from convinced by this whole supermini estate car niche. You need to have some pretty specific car requirements to end up going down this road. Dog-owning city-dwelling pensioners come to mind. Not that the Sport Tourer isn’t a pretty good car in many respects. But with diesel Megane estates on the Internet for under £11,000, this Clio has a hard time justifying its corner.