A week with a Renault Clio

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AWWClio_1Day one: I was hoping to borrow one of those new Renaultsport Clios but they didn’t have one ready yet so this is a normal Clio. It still looks quite sporty. There’s no three door version but all five doors have hidden back door handles so they look like three doors and there are lots of complicated curves and swoops all over the place. The front lights are huge while the back ones are a bit squinty and Evoque-ish. I like it. The inside feels like they put some effort in too. It’s a bit minimalist and there’s a big touch screen. There are just two immediate downsides. First of all, I can’t get comfortable. And secondly, the brakes seem quite bad. I could live without enough back support but I would imagine driving into a tipper lorry could be very uncomfortable indeed.

Day two: This Clio has a three cylinder petrol engine with a little turbo on it. It’s another of those new school downsized engines. See also the Fiat Twinair and that Ford 1-litre Ecocock or whatever it’s called. The Renault’s engine is very quiet. So much so, you don’t notice when it stops itself at traffic lights. But it’s a bit cranky to get going again so I turn the stop-start off. When you do, the dash tells you it’s been deactivated. Clearly Renault has bought an English dictionary in the last few years. In the old sporty Clio, when you turned of the stability control it told you it had been ‘desactivated’. Still not sure about the brakes. They also feel like they’ve been desactivated.

Day three: Hmm, no. The brakes really aren’t right. When you press the pedal there’s a big bit of dead travel and then a mushy bit. The car stops but it does a good job of making you think it might not. Not sure if it’s this test car or a characteristic. If you’ve got a new Clio and the brakes are like this, drop me an e-mail. Make the subject line, Shit! That was close!

AWWClio_3Day four: In general, the Clio feels quite polished. Apart from the brakes which may have been polished too much leaving no pads behind. The ride is decent, the design is very smart and the refinement is excellent. But you can see bits where corners have been cut. In this car, the trim around the gearlever had popped out of place. Also, they clearly couldn’t be arsed to do a proper job of switching everything over for right-hand-drive. The starter button is over by your passenger’s knee and if you use the Bluetooth phone the other person’s voice comes out of the left hand speaker only which makes them sound like they’re shouting at you across a river.

Day five: Here’s a thing. The Clio has keyless entry. You keep the key card in your pocket and push a button on the door handle to lock and unlock it. But if you get out and walk off without pushing the button the car notices that the key card has gone out of range and locks itself. It’s a good security feature. But what if you’ve left a child or an animal or a minor royal in the car and just dashed off to use a cash machine or something? Does it lock them in or does it know they’re in there? I wanted to do an experiment to see what happens but my wife was out and the dog claimed to be busy. Briefly considered getting into the car, dropping a window slightly and throwing the key card away to see if this would make it lock itself. Then had visions of ringing Renault and slowly explaining that I was locked in one of their Clios because I had thrown the key card out of window like a massive idiot and it had gone down a drain. So I didn’t.

Day six: To the Top Gear studio. A brisk run down A3 and then a bit of a blat across country. At speed Clio seems to handle quite well. Also, the electric power steering which seems a bit wispy in town actually gets better with hard use.

After this round trip the Clio’s computer says it’s doing about 40mpg. It was doing about 40mpg in town too. Officially, on the combined cycle, it can do 65.7mpg. But, like the Fiat Twinair and the Ford 1-litre Ecoboobs,  clearly the test figures don’t relate to actual driving. Still, it’s nicer than a diesel. If you turn the radio off you can even hear a bit of  amusing three-cylinder engine noise.

AWWClio_2Day seven: It’s raining. Rain sensing wipers are shite but the Clio’s are especially shite. Unbelievably, aggravatingly, hopelessly shite. They seem to work off what the weather is doing in a place 700 miles from here. I end up turning them off and operating the flick wipe manually.

Goodbye: The old mk1 and mk2 Clios were hilariously good fun. The last one was a bit more grown up and this version is even more mature. Which is fine, but it’s lost its zing. You might be drawn to the Clio because it looks nice but if you want a properly fun small car, you should probably buy a Fiesta. If you want a very grown up small car, I’d prefer a Polo. And if your next door neighbour is a French nationalist who will shoot at you if you don’t buy Renault, I’d be tempted to save a load of cash and get a Dacia Sandero. That said, if you want a little hatchback that looks modern and stylish, this is your car. And, since you might shit yourself under heavy braking, it can also promote weight loss.

The car written about here is a Renault Clio Dynamique MediaNav TCe 90. It has a 898cc three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine which makes 89bhp. It can go from 0-62 in 12.2 seconds and on to 113mph. In this trim it costs £14,445.


  1. clearly then Romain Grosjean played a part in the engineering side of things

  2. I’ve only driven one new Clio and can’t remember the brakes being overly cack, so yours might just have been a bit iffy.

    I sort of prefer the Clio to the Polo or Fiesta, or several of the others too. It’s less generic than the last Clio. Looks and feels a bit more “French”.

    However, I can’t really see myself buying one if I had the money, since the Sandero exists. And apart from shrugging nonchalantly, the most French thing in the world is spending as little as possible on cars, so Renault has out-Frenched itself.

  3. Ha! Your last paragraph is bang on, Antony.

  4. Operating a set of wipers manually?! Oh the humanity.
    There should be a law against having to use your hands to operate switches and things. Damn you France!

    Personally i’d go for the Clio Dynamique Mediasavvi Nonchalante TcEiEiO 1.37/8… or a Fiesta.

  5. Rather have a 208 gti. Does not try to hard and is good to drive. Renault have gone to far just because in F1 they have “the World Championship engine” they think that people now want flappy paddles in a small hatchback, just silly.

  6. Might one suggest that massively faded and abused brakes are a normal feature of a press car, it’s just that Renault’s prep between British journalists shows the same loving care as their interior trim assembly line?

  7. I had one of these (but with the really poor non-Turbo engine) for a day. I didn’t notice a brake issue, but then in the 20 miles I drove it there wasn’t time for it to accelerate above 40mph. I can confirm however that the keyless thing did not lock the car all day in the work car park, even though the key card was on my desk 50 metres away.

  8. I own a Clio 4 Dynamique TCe 90 (different model designations in RSA but the same car). Brakes are not shit, I agree with Gridlock. I’m a former motoring journo.

    Regarding the auto key locking thing (@Simon) – if the key card has been used to unlock/lock the car (i.e. the buttons have been pressed instead of using the button on the door handle) then the car will not automatically lock itself again unless it is started . So if you were to leave people/pets in the car and take the key with you, a simple override of the auto locking system would be to use the card’s buttons. Simon, I should imagine the car would not have locked itself because between your switching it off, getting out and walking away, you locked/unlocked it with the remote, thereby overriding the system.

    Could be wrong but in SA that’s how they work.

  9. One styling feature is particularly French: gashes in both sides due to desactivation of brain while negotiating stone bollards in historic Provencal village. Genius. Also, brakes may be a victim of RHD conversion? I think that’s another very French phenomenon…

  10. Jonny Halliday… now that’s a French phenomenon.

  11. Jonny Halliday… now that’s a French phenomenon.

  12. One of the biggest queries we hear about this model is the rain sensing wipers, so it’s no surprise to see you’ve picked it up in the review.

    Great review though!

  13. I had a new Clio as a hire car over the weekend.

    I can attest that the brakes were comically awful.

    It was also the slowest car I’ve ever driven, and that includes a G-reg Polo.

    It seems all of the development budget went into the nifty touchscreen, and then they realised they’d forgotten to put any brakes in.

  14. What is it with the designers of small cars’ obsession with running shoes?

    Every current small car on the market appears to have been modelled on a Nike Air Max Power Turbo Blast III.

    Witness: Ford Fiesta, some sort of Reebok. Mazda 2, some sort of cheap Asian Reebok knock-off. Renault Clio, Le Coq Sportif (make up your own jokes).

    Having said that, it’s a styling trend I quite like. I’m a mess of contradictions, me.

  15. Richard. Oh shit! That really WAS close!
    You know me…last of the late-brakers. Well, not any more! It seems that Renault’s enthralling new Clio, shaped like Florence’s bootee, or not, even though they are both Gallic, of that there is no doubt, has taught me an important lesson – do NOT trust in the middle pedal, especially just before departing the hotel car park. I am almost certain that a delivery truck must have caused the most damage to the wall….

  16. Oh Shit that was really close!

    Last of the late brakers; actually first of the early brakers but now gaining an impressive reputation of having massive teste due to curiously under servo-ed French Brakes.

    I did feel that this Clio is significantly bigger than the last one, and the addtion of the synthesised engine noises really does make it interesting to drive. Although the lack of “knackered old smokey Renault 4” from the sound options robs it of it’s authenticity of being a small (or slightly large) French hatch back.

    Nevertheless, as a result of it being roomier and having gadgets as noted above you can now look and sound as like an even bigger **** than you did when driving the outgoing model.

  17. C’est vraiment une autre voiture francaise merde. Absolument terrible pour les rues de la Grande Bretagne.

  18. Bought a new 1.2 in 2013,i can confirm that brakes are crap.Its woefully underpowered and has noisy front suspension that my local dealer is unable to solve after 3 attempts.This is the worst car ive ever owned and would advise anyone who is thinking of buying one to think again.

  19. 2013 TCe 90 here. Brakes are good. Front suspension had a known repair for the noise. Anti-rollbar bushes were changed.

  20. Clio baby get on the treadmill, when I snogged you I was but a clumsy virgin but you’s letting yourself go a bit. Always a cutie babe. Don’t compete with wellardmobiles.

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