From £10,855
Early test drive in the next-generation Renault Clio suggests it will be a strong challenger against the likes of the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208

Our Verdict

Renault Clio

A multi-talented contender that can stand comparison with the best

22 February 2012

What is it?

A shed on wheels? Not exactly. This is project X98, or the next-generation Renault Clio, heavily disguised on its final tests in Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna, north of Sweden, prior to its first public appearance at next Paris motor show, and its market launch right after.

The Clio's fourth generation keeps the same platform, albeit deeply modified, with some 110kg taken off it. At launch time, engines will be two new TCE direct injection turbos: a three cylinder, 0.9-litre with 89bhp and a four cylinder 1.2-litre with 114bhp. On the diesel front we'll get two variants of the extensively updated 1.5 dCi, with 74bhp and 89bhp.

The gearbox is the same five-speed manual as the existing Clio but with revised linkage and different ratios. The steering is new, with electric power assistance and a faster rack.

Exterior dimensions remain nearly the same, but tracks are 30mm wider and the car is 30mm lower.

What's it like?

Looking at this disguised PT1 (code for the first 150 prototypes made in the production line, in Turkey) you wouldn't say it's a car, let alone a new Clio. But we can guarantee it is, having seen the final version five days earlier, at Renault's top secret Technocenter, in France. Unsurprisingly, it looks much better than the old car, now seven years old.

The interior gets a fixed tablet called the R-Link that can be uploaded with 50 different apps. Seats are improved – the driving position benefits from that and also from the steering wheel's more upright positioning and more generous adjustments.

A frozen lake, with minus 18 degrees Celsius, is hardly the best environment to test a new model, even with a reassuring 40cm of ice between feet and water.

We tried the 0.9 TCE-engined version. It takes less than a second to start up, even from extreme cold and idles with just a hint of its three-cylinder architecture. Soundproofing is thicker than on the four cylinder and the end result is good, you only feel some minor vibrations in the seat.

At very low revs it moves the car with ease but after 2200rpm it is obvious that the torque curve gets to its maximum, even if the engineers from Renault refused to comment on detailed data. It revs up until 6250rpm with linearity and without much added noise.

The gearbox feels considerably more precise and the ratios didn't seem too long. The steering felt quicker but driving on ice is not the best way to evaluate this. Surprisingly, the ice lake had some bumps that showed a suspension tuning capable of dealing with that in a very Renault-like manner: comfortable but with great damping.

Grip depended on whether the wind had blown a layer of snow over the ice. When it hadn't, the handling felt precise and predictable. There's no button to disconnect the ESP but it's action was very discreet and helpful. All in all, the car felt light, eager to accelerate and much more solid than the old Clio.

Should I buy one?

If you're looking for a supermini, by the end of the year you'll have a lot of good cars to choose from. We're sure Clio will be one of them. The three-cylinder turbo 0.9 is lively and, presumably, frugal, too. Of course we have to test it on proper roads to draw further conclusions, but the first impression was very positive.

It's still early days to know how much it'll cost. But even with an expected small price rise, it feels like it will be a very strong contender to "frighten the hell out" of cars like Fiesta, Polo, Corsa and 208, as Carlos Tavares, Renault's CEO, told us in France.

Francisco Mota

Renault Clio 1.0 TCE

Price: tba; 0-62mph: tba; Top Speed: tba. Kerb weight: tba; Economy: tba; CO2: tba; Engine: 3 cyls in line, 999cc, petrol direct injection, turbo; Max power: 89bhp; Max torque: tba; Gearbox: 5-spd manual

Join the debate


27 February 2012

I think that these turbocharged petrol engines are very good, but not offering a naturally aspirated small petrol engine in the Clio would seem silly. It's a small car, and a lot of the current Clio's sales are dominated by the entry level 75bhp 1.1. An entry level next generation Clio is probably going to cost in excess of £10k.

27 February 2012

As interesting as these cold weather testing drives are, do they really give any indication of what a car will really be like, aside from the quality of the heater unit?

I know there will be some indication of response and general feel but is it good enough to really justify a first drive piece?



It's all about the twisties........


27 February 2012

Another 3cm wider? Even the old one was too wide for a 2m garage door. What's the point of a "supermini" that's bigger and still heavier than a 90s Golf?

27 February 2012

So this will be where the "spy" pictures came from the other day...

27 February 2012

[quote TegTypeR]As interesting as these cold weather testing drives are, do they really give any indication of what a car will really be like, aside from the quality of the heater unit?[/quote] It amazes me the hours they must spend doing cold weather testing and yet the cars I've had that have suffered with frozen locks, frozen door seal, frozen petrol petrol caps, frozen handbrakes etc. I guess the problem is they go somewhere very cold to test extremes but don't test in transitional temperatures. I mean, how difficult is it to make washer jets that defrost themselves?

  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

27 February 2012

Shame there won't be a 3 door version.

27 February 2012

[quote catnip]

Shame there won't be a 3 door version.

[/quote] Big mistake if you ask me and my colleagues, they will be alienating the younger market and a fair few Clio three doors are sold to young guys and gals, but hey Renault have been successful recently in making bizarre decisions.

28 February 2012

[quote Fidji]

It's a small car, and a lot of the current Clio's sales are dominated by the entry level 75bhp 1.1. An entry level next generation Clio is probably going to cost in excess of £10k.


The current entry-level petrol Clio (a 1.2, I thought) might be the biggest seller, but it's a dreadful engine. It is slow, torqueless, drinks petrol and at 70 mph on the motorway, it is spinning at a silly 3500 rpm.

I suspect the new 1.0 TCE will be much better, but for me, the Clio works best as a diesel.

28 February 2012

This isn't so much a "first drive" as a carefully orchestrated campaign by Renault to achieve maximum awareness of the new Clio, even at the expense of jeapordising some sales of the existing car. I don't doubt that the people from Glass Guide and CAP (who set new car residual values) have received similar invites with a view to convincing them about the car's quality and durability.

Renault has a lot of work to convince us it can build solid dependable and desirable cars again - best to start this process early!

28 February 2012

[quote LP in Brighton]Renault has a lot of work to convince us it can build solid dependable and desirable cars again - best to start this process early![/quote]

Renault are already on the way to building solid dependable cars, starting with Laguna III which has fed down to Megane III and Scenic/Grand III, unfortunately this sort of things takes a long time to filter down to the buying public, hopefully when Clio IV comes out what with the Clio being the most popular model in the Renault range people will start realising that Renault is now a well built and reliable product, I just hope it isn't priced too high. The new 4+ package should help too.


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