Renault has revealed the interior of its new, fifth-generation Clio, with the supermini's exterior design due to be unveiled tomorrow (29 January).
The Clio will distinguish itself from rivals by being one of the most technologically advanced models in its class when it launches at the Geneva motor show. The move is part of a bid by the French car maker to keep its supermini at the forefront of the sector, especially in the face of increasing competition from compact SUVs.
The exterior styling will be evolutionary, keeping elements such as rear door handles hidden in the door frames, albeit with a more grown-up look in line with the Mégane. It’s also expected to take design cues from the Symbioz concept car, shown last year.
The interior, though, is where the bigger changes take place. Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker accepts the firm “dramatically needed to improve perceived quality”, and reckons 70% of the time he spent with the new Clio was on its interior.
He accepts criticism of current Renault interiors, prompting his team to focus on material design and fit and finish. “That’s really where we’ve been criticised in the last few years, and we’re trying to create a very coherent concept," said van den Acker.
In the Clio 4, he says, “the hard plastic was in your face. Now what’s soft is close and what’s hard is far away. We’ve benchmarked against our competitors, but we’re reaching towards premium segment cars. Of course we have hard plastics but you don’t see them. That’s clever design and doesn’t cost anything.”
Thinner seats have increased rear leg room in this five-door-only model by 26mm, while the glovebox is bigger and the 330-391-litre boot is said to be the best in class.
“The interior is where the emphasis is,” said van den Acker, “but the difference between today and tomorrow is cars become smart.”
To this end, the Clio will be available with a 9.3in portrait-angled touchscreen, said to be inspired by that of the much larger and pricier Espace (not sold in the UK). There's also a 10.0in digital insrument binnacle that can display sat-nav instructions.
However, van den Acker claims the interior will be easier to use than the outgoing car, with things like temperature control returning to dashboard buttons.
“The Clio 4 instrument cluster was rich on decoration but not information,” he said. “Designers like the idea of getting rid of buttons because Apple takes buttons away. But in a smartphone you’re concentrating and in a car you’re doing 120kph. It takes maturity to accept that it’s common sense.”