- Interior flair
- Dual-clutch auto needs care in stop-start driving
What stands out?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?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.
Trying to fit a 600ml drink container or large takeaway coffee cup in the tiny cupholders.
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?Five-door hatchback only.
This review covers the Renault Clio. There are also Renault Sport versions of the Clio, designated the Clio RS, 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?Air-conditioning, and cruise control with a speed limiter. A digital speedometer (which makes it easy to monitor your speed precisely at a glance).
A sound system with AM/FM and digital radio, auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and at least four speakers, controllable from a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen.
Leather wrap on the steering wheel. Heated and power-adjustable exterior mirrors.
A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors.
Headlights that switch themselves on when it gets dark, and windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains.
A proximity key-card, which you can leave in a pocket or bag while unlocking and starting the car.
Hill-start assist, which operates the brakes automatically to make uphill starts easier.
A space-saver spare wheel and tyre.
Four airbags. Anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control – which can help you control a skidding car. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Clio safety features, please open the Safety section below.)
Every Renault Clio carries a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?The 0.9-litre, three-cylinder, turbo petrol available (only) in the least costly Clio – the Clio Life – uses least fuel on the official test, consuming a mere 4.8 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 would prefer an automatic gearbox. The TCe90 engine comes only with the Clio Life Manual.
Another 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 engine in the Clio Life auto and every other Clio, a 1.2-litre, four cylinder, turbo petrol called the TCe120.
The TCe120 musters about 35 per cent more urge than the TCe90, while consuming about 15 per cent more fuel on the test – 5.6 litres/100km.
In the real world you can expect a Clio auto to average about 7.5 litres/100km – a few per cent more than, say, a Mazda2 or Honda Jazz.
The manual gearbox in the Clio Life is a five-speeder. All other Clios are 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 Clio Life manual (only) 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.
Power outputs and all other specifications for each Renault Clio can be reached from the Cars covered carousel near the top of this review.
What key features do I get if I spend more?The least costly Clio is the manual-gearbox Life, which comes with the three-cylinder TCe90 engine. It has cloth seat trim, manually controlled air-conditioning, 16-inch steel wheels, and the features in any Clio.
Spend some more and you can have a Clio Life auto, which gets you the more powerful, four-cylinder, TCe120 engine and dual-clutch gearbox.
Paying more for a Clio Zen brings you the TCe120 engine and auto gearbox as standard, and adds satellite navigation, two more speakers for the sound system, and very bright and long-lived LED headlights. Wheels are the same size, but in nicer looking aluminium alloy. And front parking sensors augment those at the rear.
Spending more again on a Clio Intens gets you climate-control air-conditioning (which maintains a set temperature), and seats trimmed in velvet and fake leather. The touchscreen supports enhanced smartphone connectivity via Renault R-Link. Wheels are an inch bigger at 17 inches, and are wrapped in slightly wider, lower profile, tyres that add some grip. The sound system is branded Arkamys, and you can let the car guide itself into a parking space.
For the same outlay as the Clio Intens you could have instead a Clio GT-Line, which has bare-metal control pedals and a sportier aesthetic inside and out. (Unlike the superseded Clio GT, the suspension tune is the same as on the other Clios).
Optional on the Zen, Intens and GT-Line is a glass roof ($1000 extra). Optional on the Intens and GT-Line is a Bose-branded sound system with boosted bass ($500). And if you want real leather seat trim, you can have it on a GT-Line – with heating up front (for an extra $1500).
Does any upgrade have a down side?The three-cylinder TCe90 engine in the manual-gearbox Life 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.
Standard colours are white and ivory. Other colours cost about $550 extra.
How comfortable is the Clio?The Clio feels like a solid little car. Doors shut with a substantial thud, and the front seats are firmly padded. A chunky leather-trimmed steering wheel with pronounced thumb grip areas can be adjusted for reach and height.
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.
Seat trims 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. You can adjust the driver’s seat in all Clios for height, and the steering wheel for height and reach.
Ride comfort is excellent in the Clio – a real strength of the model. The suspension has a nice absorbent feel. The Clio is also among the quietest of light cars to ride in.
What about safety in a Renault Clio?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.
Safety was further enhanced from May 2017 with the introduction of additional standard safety features including auto-on headlamps, daytime running lights, automatic windscreen wipers, reversing camera and rear parking sensors (front parking sensors are also included with the GT Line).
However, autonomous emergency braking is still not offered in any Clio, and, 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.
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 in 2013 before side-curtain airbags became a prerequisite for a five-star rating.)
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?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).
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.
The manual gearbox available in the least costly Clio Life is a delight to snick through the gears. The dual-clutch auto in all other 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?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).
Front and rear powered windows are now standard across the Clio range.
How is it for carrying stuff?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?The Renault Clio is made in Turkey.
What might I miss that similar cars have?Perhaps autonomous emergency braking. 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. The Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris are among light cars offering this.
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.
I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?We like the Clio Life Manual 0.9L. 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 Zen gets a few nice extras compared to the Life, for about $2000 more.
Are there plans to update the Clio soon?The current, fourth-generation Renault Clio arrived in September 2013.
A facelifted version arrived in May 2017 with a fresh look, and additional standard equipment such as smart-key entry, auto-on headlights, and auto wipers. The former Authentique, Expression and Dynamique trim levels were renamed Life, Zen, and Intens. The Clio GT-Line replaced the Clio GT, retaining the GT’s sportier look but not its sportier suspension.
The fifth-generation Clio is expected in 2019 with interior and exterior styling based on the Renault Megane. It is likely to feature automatic emergency braking, and an optional mild-hybrid powertrain.
- Interior flair
- Dual-clutch auto needs care in stop-start driving
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