Renault Clio hatchback (2012 – ) expert review
Read the Renault Clio hatchback (2012 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives
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The Renault Clio has always been considered as one of the more stylish superminis, and this version is no exception. The steeply-angled headlamps dominate the front end and, with the narrow grille connecting them to the over-sized Renault badge in the middle, the nose looks striking, purposeful and attractive. The curvy haunches at the rear give the back of the Clio just as much style. This is one very swish-looking car and fashion-conscious buyers – of which there are many in the supermini market – will love it. Base models do without most of the swish looking kit though, so stick to the Play or Dynamique models if you want 16-inch wheels and front fog lights. The Renaultsport versions get sporty body kits, and lowered suspension as well, but buyers can give less powerful models a similar treatment by adding the optional GT-Line Look pack.
The Clio’s interior is a mixture of positives and negatives. On the plus side, all models come with driver’s seat height adjustment and a steering wheel that adjusts for both rake and reach, so finding a comfortable driving position is fairly easy. Most of the dashboard controls are easy to use, too, and if you add the excellent optional R-Link touch-screen infotainment system (only available on the two top trims), you’ll be impressed; the menus are clear and logical, the graphics are sharp and the screen is sensitive. However, some switches are tucked away out of sight, and many rivals offer similar systems as standard lower down in the range. Despite the interior design being pretty swish, the materials – the hard, scratchy dashboard and door panels in particular – are rather disappointing compared with those in many rivals, it looks and feels flimsy and cheap.
The Clio is only available in five-door format, which makes access to the rear seats easier than in any of its three-door rivals. Those door handles are hidden in the shape of the windows too, to make it look more like a coupe. However, the Clio isn’t quite as roomy as the biggest cars in the class, such as the Hyundai i20. There’s plenty of space up front and good headroom in the back, but rear legroom is no better than adequate. The boot has 300 litres of storage space, which is on the more generous side of average for the class, but the load bay is oddly shaped, and has a higher lip than some rivals. All models have a 60:40 split-folding rear bench to aid practicality. Unfortunately, you don’t get a flat floor when you fold the back seats down, or a false floor to split the carrying capacity.
Ride and handling
The Clio is no class-leader in this area, but it still does a pretty good job. The responsive steering and good body control help it stay composed and controlled through a set of bends, while the suspension will effectively soak up most - if not all - of what a tatty road surface can throw at it. Sure, it can’t match either the sharpness or the comfort of a Ford Fiesta, but it’s one of the best of the rest. The stiffer Renaultsport version also gives a great blend of ride and handling, but compared with the best junior hot hatches, it’s short on thrills: the steering is remote, hesitant and overly light, while the throttle responses aren’t sharp enough - when you really push on the Clio feels like a big, heavy car when compared with its more nimble competitors.
The range kicks off with a 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, but we haven’t yet had the chance to try it. We have, however, tried the turbocharged three-cylinder 0.9 with 87bhp. It’s not very smooth or quiet for a three-pot, but it gives perky if rather steady performance. The only diesel engine in the range, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit, has the same power output as the turbocharged petrol. However, the extra torque it delivers means it feels a lot stronger in the mid-range. The majority of the Clio's rivals have a wider range of engines to choose from. Still, the diesel is reasonably, smooth, even if it’s not as quiet as the diesel engines in some rivals. Both engines work well with the standard five-speed gearbox, but the change is not terribly precise, and some drivers might wish for a sixth ratio once they hit the motorway. Buyers of the Renaultsport might wish for a manual gearbox of any kind. Its turbocharged 1.6 petrol engine has a mighty 197bhp, but the reticence of the semi-automatic ‘box means it doesn’t feel near as fast as it should.
The Clio is reasonably priced when compared with other top-end superminis, and resale values aren’t bad for the class, either. Renault has built the Clio with lightness in mind, so even the dirtiest engine, the entry-level 1.2, delivers almost 52mpg. The other engines are fitted with stop and start and, depending on the trim you choose, the 0.9 turbo can deliver up to 65.7mpg, with the diesel capable of up to 88.3mpg. That is average for the class though, the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta are both considerably cleaner. The correspondingly low CO2 emissions also make this an affordable company car, while road tax and insurance groups are low as well. That won’t be the case for the Renaultsport, though, with the average consumption given at 44.8mpg.
Although the Clio’s cabin doesn’t really dazzle with its quality, it should be mechanically sturdy. However, some individual interior panels feel a little flimsy and some of the harder plastics look like they’ll mark pretty and scratch easily. Renault currently ranks mid-table in Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings, but the Clio itself hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory in the company’s Reliability Index, only achieving a mediocre score. Our own on site owners reviews paint a similarly mixed pictures, and there are plenty of other superminis that are likely to perform better over the long term.
Renault has built a reputation for producing some of the safest cars around: the Clio is no different. All models have stability control, six airbags, anti-whiplash headrests and Isofix child seat mountings. It’s already been crash-tested by the experts at Euro NCAP and it achieved the maximum five-star rating, along with one of the highest overall scores in the supermini class. However since then the rules of the tests have changed, and the Clio misses out on a lot of the newer safety kit like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot indicators and lane-keep assist, all of which can be found in its best rivals.
Entry-level Expression models come with electric front windows and mirrors, Bluetooth, USB connection and cruise control, but we reckon it’s worth upgrading to the Play model for its air-conditioning, alloy wheels and front foglamps. The Dynamique Nav has a touch-screen navigation system, keyless-go, a leather steering wheel and various styling enhancements, while the Dynamique S Nav has climate control, powered rear windows and rear parking sensors. The Renaultsport comes in two trims, both of which have decent kit, so all in all the Clio seems like a generous package, you can choose to spend extra on personlisation options, but it hardly seems worth it to us. Your money will be better spent on the R-link infotainment system, which is optional on all but the very highest trim.
For those who want their supermini to have distinctive looks, the Clio really fits the bill. It’s decent to drive and affordable to buy and run. We can see it proving very popular with image-conscious supermini buyers, but there are better superminis out there.