Not too long ago all that was required for a successful city car was an efficient zippy engine, the bare minimum of features and a turning circle tighter than your budget. Now with the rise of digital technology and its subsequent integration into all things automotive, the bar for a solid city car has been raised substantially. That’s where the Renault Clio steps in, designed for the packed streets of Paris, the Clio has evolved over the years to become a formidable and stylish city car that takes to the urban environment like a duck to water.
Suitably modern, the Clio’s body has curves in all the right places and flows from front to rear with a minuscule bonnet and wheels placed as close to each corner as possible to maximise interior space. The Pure Vision C-shaped LED headlights add visual sophistication and more importantly, light up everything in their path far better than ordinary headlights ever could.
Moving the rear door handles into the window section gives the Clio a clean appearance from the side profile and the buff rear quarters make it easy on the eyes from the back to the boot. Overall the Clio has well defined and polished style that many of its rivals can’t match.
All too often a car’s looks are only skin deep, with the interior not quite up to the same standard but I can happily state that the Clio packs just as much style inside as out. The seats steal the show, thanks to their unique dimple textured velour and leather finish. Piano black adorns the center console and air vent surrounds contrasted by highlights of silver on various trim pieces. As a driver or passenger, the Clio is a nice place to be and stands out from the pack. Drivers will appreciate the center armrest and chunky leather wrapped steering wheel to grip their mitts around, while passengers can relax to the soundtrack pumped out by the Clio’s R-Link infotainment system and 3D Arkamys Auditorium six speaker sound system.
Taller passengers will want to stay up front as rear head room is limited due to the sloping roofline. So what could Renault have done to further improve the Clio interior? A larger glovebox would be a good start as the tray above does add convenience at the expense of overall capacity and my ears did pick up a very minor door rattle that was only noticeable with the radio off. So, there is potential for build quality issues.
Boot space in the Clio is okay at 300 litres but not amazing, the boot floor is deep down giving the impression of more space which can only be had by folding the split 60/40 seats down at which point there’s a total of 1,146 litres of cargo space.
Forward visibility in the Clio is actually quite good thanks to the sloping bonnet and lower mounting points for the mirrors, though out the back, it’s restricted due to the small window profile and thick raised C-pillars. Not to worry as Renault has included a reversing camera in all models as standard which greatly assists.
The city car of yesteryear would most likely be powered by a small atmospheric four banger devoid of the fancy technology found in its larger siblings. Not so for the 2018 Clio. There’s a high tech 1.2-litre turbocharged intercooled four cylinder engine making an acceptable 88kW of power at 4,900rpm and a chunky 190Nm @ 2,000rpm. Those are solid figures for a city car and enough for some fun out on the open roads, too, which is where the Clio really shines.
Take the engine up to its 6 grand redline and it even makes a nice induction note edging you to push it harder. I found myself taking the Clio for a midnight blast through the hills just for the hell of it which would account for the higher than rated fuel economy rating of 7.3L/100km. Those with self control should be able to get far closer to the factory rating of 5.6L/100km than I but will miss out on the great drive hidden within.
A zippy little engine would be a complete waste when combined with comfort orientated suspension that ultimately makes a car feel like an ocean liner. Thankfully, Renault has imbued the Clio with some of their Rally heritage and the result is a strong initial turn in with grip to back it up once the weight shifts. The suspension is set firm and once committed to a corner there’s only minor body roll to contend with making the lightweight Clio playful and rewarding to drive. It’s the seat bolstering that gives up before grip once the sideways g-forces start to rack up which keeps you in line from making stupid adrenaline filled mistakes.
Renault has nailed the driveability at high speeds with the Clio but how does it fair at the other end of the spectrum?
In stop and go traffic the brakes are overly touchy, lacking the progressiveness needed for smooth stops, it’s as though the brake pedal does nothing and then all of a sudden wakes up and slams the brakes on, making traffic a special kind of chore.
In these same conditions, the 6-speed automatic dual-clutch gearbox doesn’t exactly shine, either, with jerky throttle pick up and drop off. Once you get going the gearbox is also hesitant to switch up or down gears holding them just that bit longer than you’d like. The Clio is French to the core, it abhors being driven slow and snobs you off if you try to force it. The solution of course is to take the scenic route every time, every where and drive like a French Formula 1 driver.
Thanks to wonders of globalisation and the cheap labour it delivers from developing nations, all manner of electronic features are cheaper than ever to implement into new cars. So it’s of little surprise to see the top-spec Clio Intens I tested packing some technological firepower.
- Rear vision camera
- Proximity keyless entry
- Proximity parking sensors
- Speed limited cruise control
- Satellite navigation
- Parking assistance with automated steering
- Rain sensing wipers
- Dusk sensing headlights
- Android Auto (No Apple CarPlay)
- Climate control
- 7-inch touchscreen with Digital, AM/FM, MP3, AUX, Bluetooth and USB input
Factor in the 5-star ANCAP safety rating and the Clio Intens has both safety and convenience covered, while also doing its best to assist with tricky parking and manoeuvring around town.
Design and Comfort: 8.0/10
Performance and Handling: 7.5/10
Equipment and Features: 7.5/10
The Renault Clio is an easy car to like and an easier car to enjoy. The combination of stylish looks inside and out, along with the rewarding driving experience (at speed) all add to the Clio’s charm whereas the clever selection of useful features are sure to make your life easier day-to-day.
It puts up a strong fight to its Japanese and Korean rivals and even edges ahead in some circumstances but the build quality and transmission behaviour may rub some potential buyers the wrong way.
2018 Renault Clio Intens pricing and specification
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||From: $22,990|
As tested: $23,540
|Warranty:||5 years/unlimited kilometers|
5 Year Roadside Assistance
|Country of Origin:||France; Manufactured in Turkey|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/30,000km|
|Engine:||1.2-litre turbocharged intercooled 4-cylinder petrol engine|
88kW @ 4,900rpm, 190Nm @ 2,000rpm
|Transmission:||Sports Automatic Dual Clutch|
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||77.1|
|0-100km/h (s)||Claimed: 9.4|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 5.6 / Tested: 7.3|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||45|
|Body:||5-door hatchback, 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 6 Airbags, Antilock Brakes (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Reverse Camera, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Traction Control System (TCS)|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4063/1732/1448/2589|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,104|
|Entertainment:||7-inch Infotainment System, 6-speaker 3D Sound by Arkamys, Satellite Navigation, Bluetooth, USB, AUX, Android Auto, DAB+|