New 2016 Renault Clio first drive review
The Renault Clio has always been a solid choice for anyone looking at a supermini, but it now has revised looks, an upgraded interior and a new engine/gearbox combination.
- Refreshed version of Renault’s stylish supermini
- Revisions to styling, interior and engine range
- On sale in September starting at £15,455
For anyone who’s not an eagle-eyed, die-hard Clio aficionado, let us explain the changes. The front grille has been reworked and the restyled headlamps have been given a c-shaped motif to match the one in the rear light clusters and to make it look a teensy bit more like the all-new Megane. The rear bumper has been reshaped as well, but from an exterior styling point of view, that’s about your lot.
The revisions inside are even harder to spot. Some of the interior plastic panels – including those in the doors and on the steering wheel – have been replaced with higher grade items, while there’s also new design for the gearlever and one or two new trim pieces. Question is, are these minor tweaks enough to give the cabin the desired lift?
The dashboard layout hasn’t changed much, either, so there are still some ergonomic issues, with switches that are poorly marked and strangely placed, along with an R-Link touch-screen system that has messy graphics and confusing menus - although this optional system is still responsive, and quicker than the ones you'll find in some rivals.
We’ve yet to try the two infotainment choices below that, the higher of which also incorporates a 7.0-inch touch-screen and the other of which is little more than a downloadable smartphone app and a cradle, which frankly, means you're better off using Bluetooth for music, and traffic apps like Waze to find your way instead.
The equipment levels have improved across the board, though, with more included as standard on each trim level. The entry-level Expression cars are still pretty basic with electric front windows, central locking, cruise control, Bluetooth and a DAB radio, while Play versions add alloys, air-conditioning and front foglights.
Dynamique Nav trim is worth the upgrade because it adds the middle-grade infotainment system incorporating (surprise, surprise) satellite-navigation, along with automatic lights and wipers, a leather-bound steering wheel and keyless entry. Dynamique S Nav adds climate control, rear parking sensors and rear electric windows.
Our test car’s 118bhp 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine is nothing new to the Clio, either, but the fact it’s paired to a six-speed manual gearbox is. Previously, this unit was only available with Renault’s complex twin-clutch EDC transmission, and the availability of a manual makes it considerably cheaper to buy. It’s a much nicer combination, too, because although the manual shift is a little notchy, it’s better than the jerky and slightly sluggish shifts you get from the EDC.
The engine itself is a wee bit flat at the very bottom of the rev range, but there’s enough fizz from 2000rpm to give it good flexibility and it delivers reasonable pace when you work it harder. It doesn’t become too loud or too coarse, either.
Elsewhere, the Clio’s mechanical bits are completely unchanged, and so, as a result, is the driving experience. It’s not exceptional in either ride comfort or handling prowess, but it gives a good balance of both abilities. The steering doesn’t give you much in the way of feel, but at least the weighting is consistent and predictable, so it's easy to drive.
Yes, the Clio, especially the version we drove, is not a cheap car these days, costing £15,455, but compare that with equivalent versions of the rivals mentioned above and it’ll save yourself a couple of hundred quid. On the flipside, though, the Clio won’t be as cheap to run as either of its rivals, with higher CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
- Model: Renault Clio 1.2 TCe 120 manual Dynamique Nav
- Price: £15,455
- Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol, six-speed manual
- Power/Torque: 118bhp/151lb ft
- 0-62mph: 9.0secs
- Top speed: 124mph
- Economy: 53.3mpg
- CO2/BIK tax liability: 118g/km/20%
- Boot space: 300 litres
By far the best car in the class to drive, and competitive in other areas
Another stylish Gallic contender, and an efficient one too, especially the diesels
Strong on image, quality and class, and gives a sophisticated driving experience
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