2016 Renault Clio Review

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2016 Renault Clio  GT Premium

Priced From $18,000Information

Overall Rating

0

4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProLooks; interior flair; engines; ride.

  2. ConDual-clutch auto needs care in stop-start driving.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Renault Clio Expression 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

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The Renault Clio is a slick looking little hatchback with French flair inside. It offers two lively turbo petrol engines, rides and handles with comfort and polish, is easy to park, and is covered by a five-year warranty.

What might bug me?

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Operating the cruise control. It uses fiddly buttons that are placed out of the way on the centre console, rather than on or near the steering wheel as they are in most cars.

Parking and low-speed driving with the auto transmission: the dual-clutch auto gearbox in the more expensive Clios is great once you’re moving, but it won’t feel as smooth and easy in stop-start conditions as a conventional or CVT auto.

Driving at less than 80km/h on the space-saver spare tyre, until you can fix your full-sized flat.

Paying more for fuel: Renault recommends premium unleaded for both Clio engines.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door hatchback only.

This review covers the Renault Clio and Clio GT. There are also Renaultsport versions of the Clio, which have more power and are more driver-focused. These are examined in a separate review.

The Renault Clio drives its front wheels, and is classed as a light car, lower priced.

What features does every Clio have?

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Air-conditioning, and cruise control with a speed limiter. A digital speedometer (which makes it easy to monitor your speed precisely at a glance).

An MP3-compatible audio system with a radio, auxiliary and USB inputs, and Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming.

Hill-start assist, which operates the brakes automatically to make uphill starts easier.

A space-saver spare wheel and tyre.

Four airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; and one alongside each front occupant to protect the head and chest from side impacts.

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Every Renault Clio carries a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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The 0.9-litre, three-cylinder, turbo petrol that drives the two least costly Clios – the 0.9 Authentique and Expression – uses least fuel on the official test, consuming a mere 4.5 litres/100km (city and country combined).

This engine, which Renault calls the TCe90, is willing and has enough low-speed urge to make city driving easy. It also has an off-beat exhaust note that you may find entertaining.

One reason you might not choose it is that you plan to take your Clio on long trips into the countryside, and would enjoy the easier overtaking and more relaxed highway cruising provided by the other engine available, a 1.2-litre, four cylinder, turbo petrol called the TCe120.

Another is that you would prefer an automatic gearbox. Clio TCe90s come only as manuals.

The TCe120 drives the more expensive Clios – the Expression and Dynamique TCe120s, the GT, and the GT Premium. It musters about 35 per cent more urge than the TCe90, while consuming about 15 per cent more fuel.

The manual gearbox in TCe90 cars is a five-speeder. All Clios with the TCe120 engine come only as six-speed, dual-clutch, automatics.

A dual-clutch auto operates much like a manual gearbox with robotic control. It will save fuel and will shift very swiftly and smoothly on the highway, but generally it won’t feel as fluid and elastic as a conventional auto in stop-start driving.

The TCe90 (but not the TCe120) cuts fuel use in the city with a stop-start system, which shuts down the engine when you stop and restarts it when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away.

Renault recommends premium unleaded petrol for all Clios.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly Clio is the Authentique, and it comes only with the three-cylinder TCe90 engine and five-speed manual gearbox. Wheels are steel with plastic covers, of 15-inch diameter.

Spending more on a Clio Expression brings you a choice of engines: the TCe90 or the more powerful, four-cylinder, TCe120 with its auto gearbox. With either engine you get a 7.0-inch central touchscreen, satellite navigation, and leather trim on the steering wheel and gearchange lever. Wheels are an inch bigger at 16 inches, and made of lighter and better looking aluminium alloy. They are fitted with lower profile tyres that sharpen the steering a bit.

Spending more again on a Clio Dynamique gets you the TCe120 engine, and keyless entry and start (which lets you unlock the car and drive away without removing the card-key from your pocket or bag). The air-conditioning can maintain a set temperature. Headlights turn on automatically when it’s getting dark, and windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains. There is a reversing camera, and front parking sensors (which give you an audible indication of how far the bumpers are from obstacles).

The most expensive Clios are the Clio GT and GT Premium. Both use the TCe120 engine but bring a sportier flavour.

Choosing a Clio GT gets you firmer suspension, 17-inch wheels, and tyres with a lower profile again, all of which sharpen the steering and handling. Paddles on the steering column let you select gears manually via the dual-clutch automatic gearbox. And you get RS Drive, which allows you adjust how immediately the car responds to the accelerator pedal and steering wheel. (In Sport mode the steering feels a bit heavier, to give you a more substantial feeling of connection with the car.)

The GT does not have a reversing camera, however.

Choosing the more costly GT Premium replaces the cloth interior trim with leather and gets you heaters for the front seats, and a fixed glass sunroof. There is a better sounding audio system, internet connectivity via a paired phone, and Renault’s R-Link infotainment system (which has pre-installed apps and can be controlled by voice). The satellite navigation uses real-time traffic data to help you avoid traffic jams, and the reversing camera is restored.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The Clio Dynamique has a reversing camera, but the more expensive Clio GT does not. (The GT Premium does have a camera.)

The firmer suspension in the Clio GT and GT Premium makes for a busier, less-supple ride than you get in the Clio Authentique, Expression and Dynamique. The GT models’ lower profile tyres also contribute to the reduction in ride comfort, because there is less rubber and air to cushion you from the road.

The three-cylinder TCe90 engine has a lovely, warbly, off-beat sound. The more powerful TCe120 four-cylinder sounds good too, but its note is not as distinctive or characterful.

You get a choice of four standard paint colours, including the Renault-signature Inca Yellow and French Blue. The remaining six hues cost about $550 extra.

How comfortable is the Clio?

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The Clio feels like a solid little car. Doors shut with a substantial thud, and the front seats are firmly padded. There is a chunky steering wheel, leather-trimmed in all but one Clio, with pronounced thumb grip areas.

Soft-touch plastics on the dash top and door trims add to the impression of good quality.

Most minor controls, such as those for the air-conditioning, are sparingly marked but straightforward to use and have a nice feel. There are fingertip controls for the audio system on a block that sprouts from the right of the steering column. While their position is unusual, using them is intuitive.

The elliptical-ringed digital speedo placed centrally on the instrument panel between the tachometer and fuel gauge is unusual but effective and clear. Splashes of chrome, gloss black or coloured plastic trim liven up the cabin.

The fabric seat trims (only the GT Premium has leather) are grippy and feel hard-wearing. The front seats, though firm, are comfortable for long drives. And they support you even when you’re cornering enthusiastically.

Ride comfort is excellent in the Clio – a real strength of the model. The suspension has a nice absorbent feel, and the ride is still pretty good on the sports suspension and low-sidewall tyres fitted to the Clio GTs.

The Clio is also among the quietest of light cars to ride in.

What about safety in a Renault Clio?

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Stability control, four airbags, and seatbelt warning lights for front and rear occupants, contribute to a good safety package, and the Clio did well in independent crash tests. Dynamique, GT and GT Premium versions add auto-on headlamps and automatic windscreen wipers.

However, while the airbags protect front-seat occupants from frontal and side impacts, there are no curtain airbags to protect rear-seat passengers from side impacts.

And only the Clio Dynamique and GT Premium have a reversing camera (it’s arguable this is less important in such a small car).

An autonomous emergency braking system is not offered in any Clio.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Clio its maximum five stars for safety. It received a perfect score in the pole and side impact tests, only losing points in the frontal offset test. (The Clio was tested before side-curtain airbags became a prerequisite for a five-star rating.)

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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The Clio’s character and quirks make it a more interesting proposition than the average light hatch. It exudes Gallic charm, and it is an inherently fun, and subtly sporty, car to drive.

Perhaps the first sign the Clio is a bit different from the average little car will be its card key. A Renault trademark, the key, which is the size and shape of a credit card but thicker, slots into the dash (or you can leave it in your pocket if your Clio has keyless entry and start).

The handling of the Clio is agile and enthusiastic, and the electrically assisted power steering gives you a reassuring sense of connection with the road.

The ride comfort and refinement adds to the pleasure, because you can tackle bumpy corners in the knowledge that the Clio will stick surely and won’t rattle your teeth loose, even if it’s a Clio GT.

The manual gearbox available in the least costly Clios is a delight to snick through the gears. The dual-clutch auto in the more expensive versions can be slow to engage and move away from a standstill, and if you prod it by pressing the accelerator pedal sharply you might provoke a jerky take-off. However, the auto is usually quick to change gears once you’re moving.

The three-cylinder engine is willing and full of character, but the more-powerful four-cylinder is superior on the highway, or for enthusiastic driving.

How is life in the rear seats?

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There is plenty of leg room in the back of the Clio – it has a longer wheelbase than most other light cars, which allows extra space to stretch out. Headroom is good, too.

Rear occupants are treated to the same excellent ride quality and refinement experienced by front occupants. The ride is supple and the Clio does a great job of shutting out tyre noise.

The Clio’s seat base provides good under-thigh support and the backrest gives good side support.

The upswept bottom of the rear windows makes it a bit darker in the back of the Clio than in some alternatives, and it’s also a bit more difficult for small children to see out. (The other side of this is that there’s more metal to protect rear occupants in a side collision).

Manual rear window winders are standard in the Clio Authentique and Expression. Powered windows are optional in the Expression, and standard in the Dynamique and GT.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The Clio has plenty of room in the boot for a car of its size. It can swallow 300 litres of stuff, which is more than most light hatch alternatives – although not as much as the Peugeot 208 and Honda Jazz.

The Jazz has superior luggage flexibility among hatches of this size, with its versatile Magic folding rear seat. Other light cars are similar to the Clio, which has 60-40 split-folding rear seatbacks. With the rear seats folded, the Clio can take 1146 litres of luggage.

Where does Renault make the Clio?

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The Renault Clio is made in Turkey.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Perhaps city-speed autonomous emergency braking, which is an option in any Mazda 2 for example (in the form of Smart City Brake Support, which costs about $400). Such systems detect obstacles in front of the car – typically a slower vehicle – and will apply the brakes automatically if you do not react to a warning.

If you’re looking for a little car with van-like qualities, you might appreciate the generous cargo space and versatility of the Honda Jazz, which has a highly configurable folding rear seat.

Among other cars worth considering are the Volkswagen Polo, Peugeot 208 and Ford Fiesta.

And if you want more power and a sharper focus on the driver, perhaps look at a Clio Renaultsport (these are covered in a separate review), Fiesta ST or Polo GTI.

Are there plans to update the Clio soon?

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The current, fourth-generation Renault Clio arrived in September 2013. A facelift is expected about 2017. It will have side curtain airbags to protect rear occupants, and may introduce a hybrid version.

I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?

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We like the Clio Expression TCe90. You get the charming three-cylinder engine with a manual gearbox, which is more fun than the auto and avoids the around-town dual-clutch driveability stumbles. The Expression gets a few nice extras compared with the Authentique, for about $1500 more.