Day 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!
Day 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.
Day 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.