First DriveFirst taste of reskinned Clio on UK roads reveals a car that's certainly no worse than before but not considerably better
First DriveThe popular Renault Clio receives a mid-life facelift and the option of a new 108bhp diesel engine. There’s plenty of punch, but it’s pricey in this guise
What is it?
It's Renault's newly revised Clio, in GT form. First used on the Megane, GT spec usually includes a bit of extra kit and some sporting styling add-ons, but no extra poke. That almost applies here too, but the Clio does get a new-to-the-range 1.6-litre petrol engine with 128bhp; it's a version of the motor already seen in the Renaultsport Twingo. A diesel-engined version is also available.
In the Clio's case, Renaultsport does appear to have done more than supply the odd motorsport-related badge, because the GT's dampers are 15 per cent stiffer than a regular Clio's. The power steering has been recalibrated too.
GT spec includes 16in alloy wheels, a gloss black front grille, black headlamp surrounds, twin exhausts and a rear spoiler. Inside there are sports seats and aluminium pedal covers.
What's it like?
Not bad at all. The Clio's tweaked chassis is a good one; it's game enough to hang on on the twisty stuff, but revamped dampers (which feature an extra valve in their system) keep the ride quality in check while cruising on a motorway.
The Clio's electric power steering system still isn't great on feel, but it's a little heavier than before, and all the better for it. The Clio is still willing to change direction pretty swiftly, so there's fun to be had here.
However, while the Twingo-sourced powerplant might be strong enough in Renault's baby, it feels a little underpowered in the GT. Frankly, you need to work pretty hard to maintain decent progress on a twisty road, and if hills are involved then you'll need frequent downshifts. A slightly thrashy tone does the engine few favours either.
Inside, meanwhile, the Clio's cabin is neat enough, but it's starting to feel a little date and low-rent compared with plusher rivals such as the Ford Fiesta.
Should I buy one?
Committed Clio owners will probably find the GT a useful addition to the range; it's a little quicker than regular cars (if not a patch on the Renaultsport 200), handles well and has just enough motorsport-related pomp to look the part.
It's just a pity, then, that the petrol engine feels too gutless to live up to even the faintest promise of performance. The GT's 'premium price' takes it alarmingly close to the Fiesta Zetec S, and while Ford's star doesn't feel any quicker, its fabulous steering and trendy cabin give it greater appeal.