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Supermini chases greater maturity in its latest iteration but at what cost to driver fun?

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Back when the fifth generation Renault Clio launched in 2019, it was the best-selling supermini in Europe. The firm has sold 16 million Clios since its initial 1990 arrival, with 1.3 million of those registered in the UK.

For years, the Volkswagen Polo was the ultimate go-to for a mature supermini with a manageably proportioned package, while the Ford Fiesta upheld the segment in terms of actual driving dynamics. 

The Mk5 Clio has very un-French primary ergonomics: a low-set seat, upright wheel with plenty of reach adjustment, well-placed pedals and a perfectly located gearlever. It’s a very welcome development.

It’s a shame, then, that the Fiesta has now departed, and it might not be long until the Polo follows suit.

Or is it? The previous generation Renault Clio outsold both of those rivals, and Renault’s track record for delivering hatchbacks that are fun and characterful despite puny horsepower figures stretches back decades. 

This generation’s 2019 arrival brought with it a new platform and the potential for a twin-motor electric powertrain along with level two ‘hands-off’ autonomy hitherto unseen in the segment.

It also brought a new look, which has again been significantly updated for 2023. It’s a seriously good-looking hatchback, and its interior has also been reimagined with an emphasis on perceived quality. 

There is also now a far more impressive array of multimedia technologies, and yet the price still sits beneath that of the Ford, and far beneath the Volkswagen. And, of course, below any rival crossovers.

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Bring in hybrid power for some claimed economy improvements, plus upgrades to standard technology, and the Clio could be at the top of your supermini shortlist.

The Renault Clio range at a glance

The new Clio comes with a slimmed-down line-up for 2024, with one pure petrol engine and one hybrid petrol powertrain. Renault initially planned to sell the Clio in the UK solely as a hybrid, but recently also added a pure petrol option at a lower price point. 

This was in response to the government extending the 'ban' on the sale of non-electric cars until 2035 and reducing the price of the car with the cost-of-living crisis, but it feels more than a bit tactical from Renault's part in filling the gap created in the mainstream petrol supermarket vacated by the Fiesta. Good on 'em. 

The range opens with the TCe 90: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine producing 88bhp and 118lb ft of torque. It completes 0-62mph in a leisurely 12.2sec, with a top speed of 112mph - but the more important aspect for most buyers is its frugal 54.3mpg fuel consumption figure.

At the top of the range sits the Clio E-Tech full hybrid 145, with 143bhp and 106lb ft. Naturally this engine is more expensive, but it ups performance slightly, bringing a 0-62mph time of 9.3sec, and a 67.3mpg fuel consumption figure. 

This hybrid powerplant combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, which combine to drive 143bhp and 151lb ft through the front wheels. It can only be had with an automatic gearbox.


2024 Renault Clio rear

After Laurens van den Acker resigned from Mazda and joined Renault in 2009 as design director, he set to work on a mid-engined concept car known as the DeZir.

The Dutchman’s dramatic creation was considered so successful that the powerful aesthetic can still be appreciated almost a decade later in this new Clio. 

Rear bumper loses the substantial expanse of black plastic found on the old models and replaces it with a crisply textured panel in the same colour as the rest of the body. The result is smart and demonstrates less is often more.

It uses similar LED headlights to those of the Mégane and features a more assertive front air intake, but fundamentally the new Clio remains true to the DeZir-inspired fourth-generation car, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Back in 2019, the Clio was very much a new car. Every panel was new, as was the CMF-B platform, which the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance developed in common and with driver assistance systems and electrified powertrains in mind.

For 2024, the new Clio gains a much smarter visual appearance, but it measures 4,053mm long, 1,988mm wide and 1,440mm high - exactly the same as the previous model. 

It gains Renault’s new logo, and is the first model to receive the firm’s new signature lighting with full LEDs offered even on entry-level Evolution models. There’s also a lower diffuser and improved aerodynamic design elements at both the front and rear.

Suspension is via MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam rear axle. That’s entirely predictable in this class, where cost sensitivities tend to prohibit the use of anything more sophisticated. But if anyone can tune basic hatchback engineering to deliver a good combination of ride and handling, history shows us that it is the French.


2024 Renault Clio cabin

The conservatism that defined Renault’s approach to updating the Clio’s exterior is totally absent from its stylishly revamped cabin. As far as overhauls go, this is an extensive one – and the results, for the most part, are very positive indeed.

On a purely aesthetic level, the new Clio’s interior is now easily one of the more modern and visually appealing in its class – and a decidedly minimal approach to design is a central part of this success.

In particular, the clean horizontal lines of the air vents that flow across the dash top and the revamped centre stack with its tablet-style screen and minimal smattering of buttons both lend the interior a more mature and sophisticated air than its predecessor ever approached.

Higher-spec models make even greater play of this attractive new design language, courtesy of their more liberal use of colour and soft-touch plastics than our lower/midlevel test car had – particularly on the doors and dash top. By contrast, our Iconic test car had a more monochromatic seriousness about it but, in typically French fashion, it’s still leagues ahead of the likes of the Ford Fiesta or outgoing Vauxhall Corsa for outright style.

Even Evolution models look and feel nice, with a nice knurling to switchgear and nice light grey seat fabric too, which feels like a sportswear-style fabric. 

Evolution models make do with a smaller 7in touchscreen but this is still a slick operator. The graphics seem quite old now compared to Renault’s own Google system offered in newer models such as the Renault Austral and Renault Scenic. Wireless Apple CarPlay functionality, even on the entry-level model, can help bypass that, though. 

However, it does suffer from some shortcomings relating to practicality. It would seem that by opting to give the Clio one of the largest boots in its class (there’s 391 litres of seats-up storage capacity on offer here), Renault has compromised the amount of space available to occupants in the second row. 

Our tape measure recorded typical rear leg room at a restrictive 620mm and rear head room came in at 910mm. By contrast, the Polo conjures 690mm of rear leg room and 950mm of head room, with a boot capacity of 351 litres.

No prizes for guessing which car a grown adult would sooner travel in the back of. Even those of average height would likely feel cramped in the back of the Clio. But Renault’s decision to sacrifice some rear practicality in the pursuit of greater boot space could well please owners who would rather take acceptable room for younger children and more space for buggies and baggage than have an adult-sized four-seater – and you’d imagine that describes plenty of supermini owners.

Despite running newer software than its predecessor, this infotainment system remains one of the more graphically basic suites on the market. That said, there’s still enough detail in the mapping software to easily make out where you’re travelling and the display itself is generally easy to read. It’s usefully customisable, too, allowing you to select which shortcuts you’d like displayed on the home screen. Although it’s simple enough to navigate, it could do with an additional level of responsiveness.

Standard equipment is good, though. Satellite navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and rear parking sensors are all included, as are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The quality of sound from the car’s four 20W speakers is sufficiently good without being excellent, ably providing enough in the way of volume to drown out road and wind noise without becoming distorted.


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A sense of new-found sophistication pervades much of the way this fifth-generation Clio functions as well as how it looks and how it feels inside. Moving beyond Renault’s old 898cc three-pot turbo engine to adopt this new 999cc three-cylinder turbo may sound like a pretty dry and technical change, but it has allowed this car to hit new heights on refinement, drivability and efficiency.

Outright performance isn’t outstanding. Even with the new engine, this mid-range petrol Clio proved the best part of a second slower from rest to 60mph than the 94bhp 1.0-litre Volkswagen Polo we performance tested last year. And yet, clocking a respectable 11.6sec, it was also half a second quicker than the 89bhp Nissan Micra IG-T we tested in 2017 and almost a full second quicker from 30mph to 70mph through the gears.

Sharp bends and corners fleetingly unearth quite a lively chassis balance on a trailing throttle, but only until the electronics chime in.

In subjective terms, there’s plenty that impresses. The engine is quiet and well-mannered for a three-pot during start-up and on tickover and it’s operated via a well-calibrated, intuitive-feeling accelerator pedal, which makes it easy to be smooth as you pull away.

The motor remains pleasingly restrained as it begins to work and throttle response is notably better than it was with the old 898cc engine. 

There’s still a very useful wave of torque accessible between 2000rpm and 3500rpm, which allows this car to pull higher gears at motorway speeds with an authoritativeness that you simply wouldn’t have found in a comparable supermini 25 years ago but that has become so common in today’s turbocharged breed as to be almost unremarkable. 

At high engine speeds, meanwhile, Ford’s smallest Ecoboost triple remains a more vigorous and free-revving prospect – and yet the Clio doesn’t feel averse to getting a sweat on beyond 5000rpm when the occasion calls for it.

A welcome part of the facelift is a return for the six-speed manual gearbox in place of the five-speeder Renault offered before this round of revisions. Like the 'box it replaces, the shift quality is well-weighted and nicely defined, allied to a clutch pedal that’s equally easy to get on with.

As for the hybrid, while its set-up might initially sound complicated, it works well to improve economy and makes driving simple in most scenarios. EV mode is silent and smooth around both urban areas and slower village lanes, while the petrol engine kicks in seamlessly under heavier acceleration. 

The Clio’s talents are best displayed at urban speeds, thanks to its excellent mid-range torque. It feels far more brisk than its 9.3sec sprint from 0-62mph might suggest. At higher speeds, though, the four-cylinder petrol tends to growl unpleasantly, a sound which also rears its head during foot-to-floor acceleration.


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The new Clio has little truck with the well-worn dynamic character type of the classic French supermini.

It’s important to record, of course, that the number of modern small hatches that are now anything like a skinny-tyred Citroën 2CV or even a Peugeot 205 to drive is precisely zero. And yet the last Clio retained a lightness about its steering, a certain indefinable delicacy about its handling and a suppleness to its ride, all of which made it seem intangibly ‘French’-feeling to drive – compared with many of its firmer-sprung, stouter-feeling opponents, at least.

Turn in is keen, with disciplined body control and good composure. It’s not ultimately as rewarding to drive as a Ford Fiesta but few, if any, other rivals match it

The new one is a notably different prospect. Seeming wider on the road and instantly more agile than its predecessor, it’s also shorter about its suspension movements and more businesslike in the way it deals with a changing road surface. The car turns in with impressive levelness and immediacy and feels precise and composed when driven briskly through a series of bends. It isn’t quite a match for the still exceptional Fiesta for driver appeal but it would likely yield to little else in the class.

Renault’s electric power steering calibration is heavier and quicker off centre than we’re used to from a Clio. Although it opens up with an over-assisted vagueness at low speeds, it becomes more usefully feelsome and reassuring at speed, allowing you to position the car with confidence in quicker sweeping bends and to have a decent stab at gauging the car’s remaining grip level when you’re leaning hard on the outside wheels.

The suspension controls pitch and dive every bit as well as roll and so stability under extremes of acceleration and braking is good, and the car remains well within its comfort zone for handling security at outside-lane motorway speeds. In many ways, then, the Clio has become another small car with the dynamic qualities of a bigger one – and although it might have lost some of its old delicacy and fun factor along the way, it has gained plenty that you might more readily appreciate in everyday driving.

In this age of always-on electronic stability control and grip-at-all-costs chassis tuning, mid-range superminis like this Clio gradually seem to go backwards, in some ways, for driver appeal. In other ways, though, and up to the point that most drivers might seek to enjoy them, they’re hugely competent, secure and impressive.

The Clio’s handling over-delivers for steering response and handling agility to begin with. Even on modest 16in wheels and on a damp day on Millbrook’s Hill Route, it turned in more keenly than the old Clio might have and had good body control under extremes of lateral load. Traction was strong enough to use all of the engine’s torque on the way out of bends without troubling the ESP too much and to carry plenty of speed.

When the stability control does intervene, it does so quite forcefully. Even so, the Clio should still feel like one of the more interesting modern hatches in its class to a keen driver.

Comfort and isolation 

The Mk4 Clio’s unique ability to blend a soft-edged, fluid ride with engaging, entertaining handling proved endearing when we road tested it in 2013. However, in its metamorphosis to Mk5 form, some of that easy-going ride quality has been lost in pursuit of a more mature gait.

Thankfully Renault has since ironed out the tendency on earlier models for sharper ruts and edges to make their presence felt more than they probably should and retained the sophistication about how the dampers are tuned to ensure the secondary ride remains agreeable the rest of the time. 

But although the Clio no longer quite lives up to the standard of, say, a Volkswagen Polo in its ability to confidently round off all but the sharpest surface impacts, it nonetheless remains a comfier car than most of its competitors.

Cabin isolation is impressive, although not quite flawless. The 1.0-litre engine is hushed enough at motorway speeds so as not to become tiresome, while wind noise is kept well under control – and only road roar is occasionally allowed to distract your aural attention.

At a 70mph cruise, our microphone recorded cabin noise at 67dB on a pre-facelift car, versus 66dB for the 1.0-litre Polo we road tested in 2019 and 70dB for the 1.0-litre Ford Fiesta from 2017.


renault clio review

If you're keen to save a few pennies, the Clio's powertrain line-up certainly looks very appealing indeed.

The entry-level TCe 1.0-litre petrol is priced at £17,795 placing it below its closest rivals. Its claimed 54mpg economy figure will be attractive to many, and in 500 miles of testing we got above 50mpg. Its emissions rating of 120g/km means you will be venturing in to the 29% BIK band, though. 

Clio looks set to perform very well indeed in terms of residuals, bettering both the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta

As for the E-Tech hybrid, Renault promises even higher savings. This is currently the cheapest hybrid on sale, ahead of the Dacia Jogger and Toyota Yaris. 

Renault promises 67mpg and 96g/km for a BIK rating of 24%. We weren't too far away from those economy figures, with our mixed A-road, B-road and motorway drive along the winding roads of the Cotswolds presenting a decent 59.4mpg. 

Renault is offering three specification levels for the new Clio. The range opens with the Evolution spec, priced from £17,795 with a 7.0in digital drivers display, 16in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system. 

Techno starts from £19,195, and adds 17in wheels, front and rear parking sensors, wireless phone charging, ambient lighting and a shark fin antenna. 

The Esprit Alpine trim sits at the top of the range, with unique 17in wheels, grey aerodynamic bodywork, a 10-inch instrument cluster and a larger 9.3in touchscreen. You also gain an improved suite of safety kit with adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

It is an enticing price point, but slap on the Esprit Alpine trim and the price rises to £24,095 - that’s almost Volkswagen Golf money. The cheaper 1.0-litre turbo petrol encourages additional savings.

You seriously need to consider whether you need the hybrid powertrain over the standard petrol, too, given the £3500 price difference and the already impressive 50mpg-plus economy of the petrol car. That's some price difference to make up with fuel savings, likely only for people with annual mileages well into the teens. 



2024 Renault Clio front static

If this fifth-generation Clio had swaggered in with a chic look and a deft blend of ride and handling only, it might have been more like the car that long-time fans of the Clio, and of French superminis in general, expected. However, it wouldn’t have been nearly as well equipped to make real commercial progress for its maker as the classy and complete effort that Renault has actually turned out.

Where other brands have stuck their heads in the sand, Renault has correctly observed the emerging trends in this class. It has gone to considerable effort to drive up the perceived quality, refinement, drivability and handling composure of its supermini institution to what we might call ‘big car’ levels. And it has succeeded in making it very competitive with the more rounded, desirable rivals that have lately arrived on the scene.

Plusher, smoother, more mature. A car of substance as well as style

Ultimately, Renault’s evolution of the Clio means all of its best characteristics remain for another few years - and with its enticing price point, that’s a benefit for us all.

Most importantly, it cements the Renault Clio into the conversation for supermini class leadership in which it hasn’t been involved for some time.

If you used to buy a Fiesta, buy one of these instead.

Renault Clio First drives