Ever since the late 1940s, Renault’s range has featured an unbroken line of interesting small cars, of which the Clio has been one of the most successful.
More than 12 million have found homes and, along the way, the Clio has found and enjoyed a youthful, vibrant image.
Earlier variants of the Clio deserved that rep, too: being agile, neatly designed, compact, engineered for some dynamism and intelligently marketed.
But – and Renault wasn’t alone in this – during the mid 2000s, when the Clio III arrived, some of that purity was lost. The Clio became bigger and heavier, and went searching – with honourable intent – for more refinement and class, growing up with its customers.
With the extra refinement it found, however, it lost something, as did several of its peers during the past decade. Out went a bit of what Renault used to dub the ‘va-va-voom’.
Which brings us to Clio IV: it’s notably leaner and cleaner than its predecessor. It is also offered with a range of engines, including a frugal 0.9-litre three-cylinder TCe petrol engine and a 1.5-litre dCi diesel, and a decent range of kit.
Question is, has all of that reintroduced some of the joie de vivre? Let’s find out.
Design & Styling
First impression? The new Clio is bold, make no mistake. Even though it is sculpted to appear much more lithe than its immediate ancestor, it still looks like a Clio to us. Even, we suspect, were it not wearing a Renault diamond the size of a dinner plate on its nose.
There are differences in proportion, though. Renault has made quite a big play of the fact that the wheelbase is longer than on Clio III (by 14mm, up to 2589mm) but while this is likely to have an effect on handling, it doesn’t help place the wheels closer to each corner, because overall length is up by 30mm.
With that too, though, has come an increase in track, a more steeply raked windscreen and a much lower height: at 1448mm, the latest Clio’s roof sits some 45mm closer to the ground than a Clio III’s.
All of which leaves it looking more dynamic. Renault also reckons that, model for model, the new car is some 100kg lighter than the old one. The Clio III did, in fairness, carry easy pounds to lose, but even so, at this level 100kg is not an amount to be sniffed at.
The range of new engines in the Clio reflects that of its rivals, catering for most tastes and requirements. The entry-level engine is a basic 1.2-litre 16V petrol unit. A modern turbocharged 0.9-litre three-pot TCe petrol is also offered, as well as an 89bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel.
All versions claim admirable levels of economy and efficiency, particularly if you choose the optional ECO derivatives of the diesel and TCe engines. These emit and consume less than the standard ones, although only by negligible amounts.
There are three engine choices for the Clio. Buyers can pick from a basic 74bhp 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, a more powerful turbocharged three-cylinder TCe petrol or an 89bhp 1.5-litre turbodiesel.
The mid-range engine option is a TCe unit, the conceit being that you’re getting 1.4-litre performance with greatly reduced fuel consumption, but that’s potentially a little misleading. We have, after all, tested other superminis of a similar displacement that are both faster and more efficient.
Nevertheless, it’s a good engine. Quiet, refined and responsive, its light-pressure delivery suits theRenault right down to the ground. The engine only really feels turbocharged at very low revs, otherwise it pulls cleanly and with stoutness through the mid-range while holding on to its power at high revs. it's also particularly smooth throughout. Ford’s EcoBoost triple may be more powerful, but it can’t match this Clio’s lack of noise and vibration.
The diesel engine is the more mature choice. It feels quicker than the figures suggest and it’s so quiet and refined that you’d struggle to tell it’s a diesel. Pleasantly, it’s also a tractable engine with a wide torque band, so you don’t have to work the gearbox as hard as you would in the petrol versions.
Admittedly the diesel does add 62kg to the kerb weight of the petrol model, leading to it feeling slightly less agile as a result. Those interested in maximum enjoyment should, consequently, stick to the zesty TCe option. There’s also a 1.2-litre engine carried over from the old model, producing 74bhp and 79lb ft of torque.
In all versions, the shift quality is light but well defined, and brake pedal feel is good. Overall, the Renault Clio is an entirely pleasant device, peppy at times and quite suave at others, with the flexibility and polish to take mixed daily motoring duties in its stride, from motorway miles to cross-country backroads and the urban sprawl.