The crucial new Renault Clio will be revealed at the Paris motor show in October and go on sale by the end of the year, promising to bring “sexiness and sportiness” back to the struggling brand.
With Renault about to slash its range in the UK in a bid to return to profitability, the all-new Clio 4’s importance in the streamlined model line-up becomes greater than ever if Renault UK is to prosper again.
The Clio 4 will be a much lower and wider, instantly more recognisable and have a much higher quality interior than the forgettable Clio 3, which has never come close to scaling the highs of the best selling original from the mid-1990s.
Renault’s product planning chief Beatrice Foucher told Autocar that Renaults needed to become “German first and French second”. She added: “We need to improve quality first before we think about design and innovation. There’s just no emotion in the current car so it’s not hard to improve the design and sexiness.”
The Clio 4 will be the first all-new model to be designed by the firm’s design chief Laurens van den Acker, who joined Renault from Mazda in 2009. Speaking to Autocar, the Dutchman said the Clio’s looks would lean heavily on the styling of the acclaimed DeZir low-slung sports car concept from the 2010 Paris motor show.
“The DeZir is the spirit and DNA of what’s to come from Renault,” he said. “I hope the sexiness and sportiness of the DeZir will transfer to Clio 4.”
Design touches will include a much bolder DeZir-inspired front-end, with a more pronounced lower bumper, and a more upright front black gloss grille emblazoned with a large diamond Renault logo. The grille will be flanked at either side by smaller, less rounded, more technical headlights, another trait of the DeZir concept.
The Clio 4 will have a slippery silhouette to make it as aerodynamic – and sporty - as possible. It will have a much lower roofline and will “hug the road”, according to van den Acker. The wheel arches will be closed in to further contribute to the sporty stance.
“We have to be bolder,” said van den Acker. “Renault has been criticised for making great concepts and not making theme into production cars. This is something I want to do from the very start.”
The Clio 4 will only be made as a five-door model this time around. Van den Acker claims the five-door will look just as sporty as three-door thanks to a clever solution for the rear door handles, which are likely to be hidden in the C-pillars. “It will be a sporty car even with five doors,” he said. “It was a challenge but I think we managed it.”
Despite the lower roof for Clio 4, interior and boot space is likely to match that the Clio 3 thanks to some clever packaging. The two cars will be similar in length. “We would love it be shorter,” said van den Acker, “but it’s physically impossible.”
Foucher said the Clio 4 would get a “driver-focused interior, with more emotional design and higher perceived quality with improved materials on the dashboard”.
The Clio will also benefit from Renault’s new R-LINK integrated tablet computer, which has been co-developed with TomTom. It includes a full range of mobile connectivity, a live traffic update sat-nav system and downloadable apps from Renault’s own app store.
From launch, downsized petrol engine range will include a base 0.9-litre three-cylinder unit with around 90bhp and a new 1.2-litre TCE with a likely 112bhp to replace the current 1.6 VVT. A core version of Renault’s 1.5-litre dCi unit with around 104bhp is likely to be the only diesel at launch.
Foucher confirmed there would be another Renaulstport model, but the chances of it keeping the current 2.0-litre engine are slim. She instead indicated that a smaller, turbocharged engine was a more likely powerplant for the cult model.
Although the standard Clio 4 will offer a high degree of personlisation, Focuher said a Citroen DS3-style more premium version was also under consideration. “When we build a £20,000 car, we don’t think about the £30,000 version. Citroen do this very well.”