The first production Renault to have been designed entirely by Laurens van den Acker, the Clio 4 aims to be more instantly recognisable, more upmarket and more desirable than its predecessor, which never achieved the sales success of the first- and second-generation models: Renault UK sold 21,000 Clios in 2011, compared to 86,000 in 2002.
Longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, the new car sits on an updated version of the existing platform, meaning torsion beam rear and MacPherson strut front suspension.
The architecture is “heavily upgraded” according to Benoit Bochard, Renault’s program director for small cars, with altered wheelbase, tracks, and notably a revised electrically-assisted steering system set-up to bring “a lot more steering precision, for a real upgraded driving sensation”.
The five-door only Clio 4’s exterior design is a deliberate departure from its predecessor. It is the first model in the range to get the new corporate face, bearing a bigger Renault badge and sleeker, integrated grille and headlights.
Prominent rear wheel-arches are inspired by the Renault DeZir concept, and go a long way to providing elements of the “sexiness and sportiness” that Van den Acker is keen to promote.
The rear door handles are hidden in the C-pillars. Bouchard maintains that the Clio 4’s design “offers enough desirability to satisfy those who might have bought a three-door”.
With price being such a make-or-break element in this class, Renault has taken the decision to drop the entry price of the Clio 4 by around £1000, bringing the base three-cylinder car in at under £10,500, in order to be more competitive with the Peugeot 208.
A broad range of personalisation features will allow buyers to select different coloured body accents, including varying colours of side strip and diffuse, decals, and interior colour panels.
Crucially, the cabin is a dramatically more upmarket affair. All trim levels will get the same dash architecture (the Clio 3 was criticised for having cheaper dash layouts in the base model), which will include a 7-inch colour touch screen as standard in the mid- and higher-spec cars.
The software used on this infotainment system, dubbed ‘R-Link’, is co-developed by Renault and Tom Tom and will be available with a variety of optional extra including internet connectivity and eventually speech-to-text functionality. Base cars will get Bluetooth and standard radio/CD.
This together with a variety of material finishes, coloured inserts that can be personalised to match exterior colour choices, soft-touch rotary dials and a generally more solid-feeling cabin altogether goes a long way to supporting Renault’s assertions that the new Clio will up the brand’s premium appeal.
Safety will remain five-star and Renault claims that efficiency will be class-leading. The eco-heroes of the range will appear in the form of a new turbocharged 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, and a heavily revised version of the 1.5 turbodiesel four-pot, both of which will put out around 90bhp.
The Clio will be the first application of Renault's new three-cylinder Energy TCe 90 engine. Renault claims performance is comparable with a 1.4-litre naturally aspirated engine. It develops 90bhp and 99lb ft at 2000rpm and returns 65.9mpg. CO2 emissions are rated at 99g/km.
The 1.5-litre diesel unit offers 162lb ft of torque from 1750rpm, and an economy-optimised Eco2 version with taller gearing has headline figures of 83g/km and 88.2mpg. That better's the Ford Fiesta Econetic’s figures to claim class-leadership.
A turbocharged 1.2-litre four-pot petrol will also feature in the range from launch, and will be mated to a new six-speed dual-clutch auto as standard. The same gearbox will be optional on the diesel.
Order books open in next month, with first deliveries beginning in early 2013.