It doesn’t look revolutionary compared with the outgoing version, but Renault’s latest small hatchback is a bigger step than it might appear.
On the road
On the road
Renault’s Clio has always been the most recognised of the brand’s models, even if its Captur small crossover passed it for sales volume to become the French firm’s biggest-selling car in recent times.
This fifth-generation Clio is a modest revamp of the styling, because, Renault says, a large portion of its customers choose the supermini for its good looks, so there was no need for a major external reworking.
Instead, the company has focused on the areas of criticism, which included interior quality and packaging, with particular emphasis on the boot space. That’s now nearly 20% larger at 391 litres (the previous-generation car had just 330), thrusting the Clio to the top of the class with a luggage area that’s actually bigger than the 341-litre effort in the lower medium Ford Focus.
The new Clio comes in four trim levels, and has up to four engine options, depending on trim, with the entry 75hp petrol only in the lower Play and Iconic, and the top 130hp petrol only in the higher S Edition and RS Line, while the 100hp petrol and 85hp diesel power are offered across all four.
Emissions hit a low of 94g/km for the sole diesel, while the 100hp petrol, which is expected to be the most popular engine, also scrapes under the 100g/km mark, putting it three BiK bands below the diesel thanks to the Government’s penalty for non-RDE2 diesels.
1. Front Isofix isn't found in all models in the sector and is a very useful touch in a car that's potentially large enough to act as family transport
2. There's not enough power to the creep function of the top-spec cars EDC auto gearbox, which makes it difficult to moderate at low speed and for a smooth getaway.
3. An interior rear light is a surprising omission and would be helpful when trying to strap smaller people into the back seats.
The brand is right that not a lot of work was needed with the characterful exterior design, although the introduction of new ‘C-signature’ LED daytime running lights gives it a bit of modernisation. Despite the evolutionary looks, Renault says the car is 100% new and, unusually for a new model, is actually slightly smaller than its predecessor with most of the 12mm decrease in length being shaved off the front overhang. Despite the fall, and the increased boot, there is also more space on the inside, with changes to the front-seat backrest liberating another 25mm for rear passengers. The car is also slightly lighter than its predecessor, despite containing more technology, aiding efficiency.
That technology also includes enough safety kit to have Renault claiming the Clio is the safest car in its class, and standard equipment includes a lane-departure warning system, lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking and traffic-sign recognition. And all that is included even on the £14,295 entry-level model. The bottom Play specification also gets LED headlamps, cruise control with speed limiter and DAB radio, although only a 4.2-inch screen. The screen size increases to 7.0-inch and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the next-up Iconic spec, then there’s a 9.3-inch vertical screen fitted to S-Edition and RS Line versions.
The £1000 walk to Iconic is likely to be made by all bar the utterly price-driven, because it adds 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, leather steering wheel, rear parking sensors and rear privacy glass, which is a lot of kit for that price walk, when added to the touchscreen mentioned above.
Another reasonable £1000 step where the same engines are offered pushes up to S Edition trim, which adds the larger touchscreen, as well as luxury items such as electric rear windows, climate control, automatic lights and wipers and 17-inch alloys. The top RS Line’s styling and interior improvements, as well as rear camera and front parking sensors, look a relative bargain at an additional £500 over S-Edition, although only available with the top 130hp engine and auto gearbox . Especially with the interior and exterior sporting enhancements, including a sporting red-lined treatment to large swathes of the cabin, larger bumper and lower grille and attractive alloys, the RS Line looks very well priced and makes for a car that, on the inside especially, looks markedly different compared to the lower trims.
On the inside, it’s clear that Renault has made improvements to the cabin quality, which was a legitimate criticism of the fourth-generation car, and the brand is claiming a 25% increase in the quantity of soft-touch material. It’s not universally improved though, with the adjustment handles on the side of the seats feeling particularly cheap and flimsy.
Meanwhile, the 9.3-inch screen, which is claimed to be best in class, looks good but has some major functionality issues, particularly when trying to scroll down a list of radio stations. It takes on a mind of its own and renders this an incredibly frustrating operation. On the cleverer side, the system will auto-update its software over-the-air, with functions including the map displaying petrol station prices so the driver can select the cheaper one.
Various buttons have been moved onto the steering wheel, and it’s good that the likes of the ventilation system are still controlled through proper buttons, rather than being incorporated into the infotainment system; this makes it much easier to use.
At the back, that large boot is noticeably deep and has a couple of bag hooks, but doesn’t have any clever split-floor devices, and the parcel shelf is annoyingly easy to knock from its fixing and then flaps loose, getting in the way. Rear visibility, meanwhile, is hampered by the wide rear pillar and fairly narrow rear window.
The 130hp range-topping engine driven here is only available with the EDC automatic gearbox, which is a bit of a shame because it doesn’t make for smooth driving away from a standstill thanks to the virtual absence of any regular automatic-car creep. That makes it difficult to modulate low-speed manoeuvres, although it is better once on the move. The manual gearbox we previously sampled on the 100hp petrol model that’s expected to be most popular doesn’t offer the sharpest of gearchange.
On the road, the new Clio feels like a proper nippy little supermini, with the 130hp engine proving plenty for picking through urban traffic, and a well-sorted chassis and nicely weighted steering also combining to make for a car that’s comfortable being thrown around. There is, however, a surprising amount of road noise, especially at higher speeds, and the ride is on the acceptable side of harsh, given it’s a tidy handling set-up.
And the Clio has another ace up its sleeve, in terms of the running costs. On top of keen pricing, the Clio has a residual value that outpoints all of its key competitors’, impressively including even the Volkswagen Polo, as well as the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza. It remains to be seen what will happen when the new Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa enter the market early next year, but for now the Clio stands up well on running costs, even if this 130hp petrol car’s emissions figures aren’t the best in class, and are some way off the rest of the Clio range. Getting the core 100hp engine, which is also perfectly adequate in power and performance, under 100g/km is a definite result for Renault, and gives the Clio another strong argument to go alongside the RV, practicality, safety and styling plusses already in the new car’s armoury.
Renault describes the Clio as the “icon” of its range, and it’s a nameplate that is the number one small car in Europe and the best-selling French car in the world thanks to no fewer than 15m finding homes across the globe.
The first Clio was revealed in 1990, running alongside the final iteration of the Renault 5, which carried on in budget-spec Campus trim. The car arrived in the UK in three- and five-door forms the following year, winning the European Car of the Year title and accompanied by the famous Papa and Nicole television advert.
The second-generation Clio followed in 1998, selling more than five million cars across the world during its 14-year production run in various markets that overlapped with the Clio III in 2005.
That third car was the first supermini to gain the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, and Renault’s eighth to earn the maximum, as well as becoming the first two-time European Car of the Year. In 2009 the range expanded to include an estate model as well as three- and five-door, a bodystyle that continued into the fourth-generation car that hit the UK in 2013.
What they said
What They Said
“The Clio offers company car customers D-segment technology and features in a B-segment package."
“Its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are the most sophisticated in its class and include Level 2 autonomy, while the Easylink infotainment system has a three-year subscription to connected services."
“Residual values are some of the strongest in the segment. Business lease rates begin at just £159 a month, while for an extra £15 a month an all-inclusive servicing package even includes the cost of punctured tyres. It’s just right for company car drivers.”
Mark Dickens, Fleet Director, Renault UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
A big deep boot outpoints pretty much anything in class
The keyless system beeps as it locks automatically when leaving the car
The RS-Line offers a great list of aesthetic upgrades for only £500
...And one we don't
The touchscreen scrolling to select a radio station seems almost impossible to control
Renault’s new hatch handles with a balance and security that puts it near the top of the class, while the engine offers good performance.
Less powerful petrol or diesel versions get below 100g/km, which is impressive, but the auto-only 130hp version is a bit higher.
The hefty boot and acceptable rear passenger space make for a more usable supermini than before.
Kit levels are pretty good, including premium items such as keyless early in the range, and the price jumps between specs aren’t large.
The least dramatic change versus the outgoing car, but it’s still a good-looking little hatchback.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
There’s a surprising amount of road noise, especially at higher speeds. Otherwise it rides on the hard side, but not obtrusively so.
Renault has made some steps forward with cabin quality, but there are still some bits it has missed. It’s much better though.
The big screen is only on higher trims, and then it’s not very usable in places, particularly the uncontrollable scroll to change radio stations.
Whole life costs 9/10
Excellent steps forward with residual values as well as a very decent fuel economy figure help the costs, although insurance is surprisingly high.
CCT opinion 9/10
An impressive rebirth of Renault’s popular supermini, despite the modest styling changes, in particular the practicality and RVs.
Renault has pushed the Clio back up the table after sliding out of favour. The excellent whole-life costs and big boot combine with a decent drive and good looks.