From £12,750
Has this supermini evolved into a true class champion for its fifth generation? Four months behind the wheel should reveal all
Tom Morgan, deputy digital editor
10 July 2020

Why we’re running it: To see whether the latest version of Renault’s top-seller can unseat the Ford Fiesta as the UK’s favourite supermini

Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Renault Clio: Month 1

Welcoming the Clio to the fleet - 1st July 2020

Renault’s most popular model has been a sales success across Europe for four generations now, although it hasn’t managed to claim the supermini top spot here in the UK for quite some time. We Brits just can’t seem to shake our love for the Ford Fiesta – which is a shame for Renault, because the Clio’s claim to the throne has never looked stronger than at the start of its fifth generation.

In a group test back in the spring, the new Clio proved that it could rub shoulders with both the Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo as one of the best superminis on sale. At the time, we said that we could easily recommend it without needing to add any caveats – something that arguably wasn’t the case with the previous Clio. So what has changed?

The familiar styling might suggest a relatively modest upgrade, but this Clio now sits on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s all-new CMF-B platform, which also underpins the latest Renault Captur and Nissan Juke crossovers. When we road tested a mid-range Clio last year, it revealed a new-found level of dynamism that was up among the best in the class, along with a more driver-friendly cabin, a vastly improved level of perceived quality and upgraded technology and safety systems that made it seem like fantastic value for money.

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Renault Clio 2019 road test review - hero front

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

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The question now is whether that’s true across the board. To find out, we’ve added a more expensive derivative to our long-term fleet for a longer stint behind the wheel.

The TCe 130 we’ve chosen is currently the most potent petrol on offer, with its 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 128bhp and a healthy 177lb ft of torque from just 1600rpm. That puts it ahead of the equivalent Polo in the performance stakes and on an even keel with the three-cylinder Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa but behind the more powerful mild-hybrid 1.0-litre Fiesta that was introduced last month.

A 0-62mph sprint of 9.0sec isn’t to be sniffed at for a mainstream supermini, though, and hopefully the WLTP-tested fuel economy figure of almost 50mpg will translate closely into real-world driving.

This is an engine that’s also offered by the Captur, Mégane and Scenic, but here it comes mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. I appreciate the inclusion of paddle shifters for taking manual control, but I’m expecting the next few months to reveal whether an auto can justify its added expense or I would have been better off opting for a lower-powered manual. It will also be the first non-electric car I’ve run in almost a year and, as much as I’m going to miss being able to charge for free at the office, I’ll be glad to completely forget my range anxiety.

Our Clio is in top-spec RS Line trim, which is inspired by the Renault Sport range – even if there isn’t actually a Clio RS for it to borrow any design elements from. Not yet, anyway. A wider, more aggressive front grille and a faux rear diffuser are purely for visual effect, and the bespoke alloy wheels are no larger than the ones you’ll find on cheaper S Edition trim. The RS Line has the same chassis and suspension set-up as the rest of the Clio line-up, with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, and the rear drum brakes are another reminder that, slightly peppier engine aside, this is no hot supermini.

RS Line cars are well equipped, though, with a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, a 9.3in touchscreen infotainment system with Android and Apple connectivity and a digital instrument display as standard. The interior also gets a few red trim highlights, some customisable ambient lighting and a leather steering wheel, complete with those shifters. But while Renault says rear leg room has been improved over the previous Clio, it remains lacking compared with the class leaders.

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Options fitted include the vibrant Iron Blue paint (it should be a rule that superminis must come in bright hues) and the Techno Pack, which adds a 360deg parking camera, Multi-Sense configurable driving modes, wireless phone charging and a hands-free parking system. The biggest question will be if this Clio can justify its £21,655 list price, which puts it directly up against the entry-level Ford Fiesta ST. Renault’s tempting PCP finance deals mean Ford’s miniature hot hatch is likely to set you back around £100 more per month, but given the RS badges, I’m hoping there’s at least a little driver engagement to be found here.

Since taking delivery, I’ve managed only a handful of journeys, although thankfully the gradual relaxing of lockdown restrictions meant these could be for more than just going to my local supermarket.

I’m already appreciating the Clio’s overhauled interior, with soft-touch plastics and the much-improved front seating position making it an all-round nicer place to be, and all-round drivability has so far proved perfectly enjoyable.

Will the rather restricted rear seat space and the automatic gearbox prove to be sticking points? I’ll be sure to report on that once there are a few more miles on the clock.

Second Opinion

Last year’s road test of the Clio Mk5 exposed a supermini that wasn’t quite as idiosyncratically ‘French’ as its predecessors. The previously soft-edged ride has been traded for a more mature set of road manners, while its handling responses are sharper and more direct than ever. The result is a car that’s perhaps not quite as distinctive as it once was but is immediately more well-rounded and, potentially, marketable.

Simon Davis

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Renault Clio TCe 130 R.S Line EDC specification

Specs: Price New £20,295 Price as tested £21,655 Options Iron Blue paint £660, Techno Pack £500, spare wheel £200

Test Data: Engine 4cyl, 1330cc, turbo, petrol Power 129bhp at 5000rpm Torque 177lb ft at 1600rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic 0-62mph 9.0sec Top speed 124mph Fuel economy 49.6mpg CO2 130g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Join the debate

Comments
6

10 July 2020
Why do manufacturers insist on fitting automatic gearboxes to their warm cars? Surely the warmer variants are bought by people with some interest in the art of driving.

10 July 2020

I dont mind them offering an auto option, not that i would ever buy an auto small hatch, but its the fact they wont offer manuals. Its not as if being auto only did the last RS Clio any good is it, it sold here in tiny numbers. 

10 July 2020

"the art of driving' ???? maybe its your preference for the repeated movement of your hand on a stick...

10 July 2020

I suppose you have to call it warm when you've not nothing more powerful, surely Renault need to start making manual 1.5 160'ish engine's otherwise they're just become OAP transporters. ah how I long for a Clio Williams

10 July 2020

Torsion beam OK, but while the brakes may work fine - how you gonna tell the neighbours?

11 July 2020

When are journos going to ditch their reliance on clichés?

Cars are not 'typically' this or that: mass-production models are designed to sell to very wide markets and the only sensible trim changes are obvious ones: heated seats in Portugal?  Etc.

Other changes to the 'finished' productare unthinkable when the global logistical issues are considered: larger drums for the Belgians or softer shocks for the Brits? It is bad enough having left-hand drive mods without adding to the Rubik's Cube of spares stocks!

Please report on the car as you drive it: that is good enough for most of us!

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