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Renault's Clio has always been one of Britain's favourite small French cars. In fifth generation form, it deserves its sales success, thinks June Neary
If ever a car was aimed at women, it has to be the Renault Clio. The advertising of course has been legendary. Unless you've been living in a cave for the last couple of decades, you can't have avoided Nicole & Co, the 'Size Matters' campaign, billboard ads suggesting that we've all "lost our 'va va voom'" and, a few years back, the 'Britain vs France' ads. I won't air my personal views on whether size matters, but I have to agree that this little car has had a massive impact on the shape of the supermini market - past and present. The most recent fifth generation Clio I'm looking at here certainly has a 'big car' feel - courtesy, say Renault, of a long wheelbase, which has released generous interior room. It's also got sharper looks and improved refinement. First impressions then, were good.
This improved Clio is a stylistic step forward from its predecessor, but it's still recognisable as a Clio. The body has been lowered by up to 30mm and big 17-inch wheels give top versions a more dynamic look. At the front, the bonnet incorporates ribs for a sculpted effect. The grille is bigger and the front bumper is more pronounced with a very expressive central air scoop. Full-LED headlights are now standard and the rear lights feature a more distinctive C-Shape signature. Overall, this Clio looks hunkered down and purposeful. What would Nicole and Papa have made of all this? I found the interior to be an even bigger step onwards from the old iteration four of the Clio that I well remember. That car ushered in a bigger, more spacious cabin and the fifth generation model has built on that with massively improved perceived quality. The instruments are more driver-focused and there's the largest centre-dash infotainment screen in the segment, with two sizes available - 9.3-inches or (with navigation) 10-inches. There's another screen in the instrument binnacle, measuring between 7 and 10-inches depending on spec, replacing conventional dials.
This Renault's still got a bit of 'Va va voom' to it. Such were my impressions of the Energy TCe 100 petrol variant which will probably be the big seller. The first three-cylinder powerplant ever produced by Renault, this three-cylinder, turbocharged 899cc unit comes with Stop&Start and is designed to deliver the performance of a normally-aspirated 1.4-litre unit. An ultra low-inertia turbo whistles into action from low engine speeds, developing 100PS and decent pulling power at low revs. There's also an Energy TCe 130 TCe unit which can only be mated to six-speed EDC transmission (Efficient Dual Clutch). This four-cylinder 1.2-litre engine gets direct fuel injection and turbocharging, contributing to a peak power of 130PS and a healthy 190Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. Diesel buyers get a Blue dCi 85 1.5-litre engine. There's also a base SCe 75 petrol variant.
Pricing is par for the course in the supermini segment against rivals like Ford's Fiesta, Peugeot's 208 and Vauxhall's Corsa. Expect to pay somewhere in the £15,000 to £20,000 bracket for most models. Standard kit includes what Renault calls its 'Smart Cockpit', a key component of which is the standard 9.3-inch multimedia screen, the biggest ever on a Renault model. This vertical and subtly curved tablet visually enlarges the dashboard and lends the cabin a more contemporary feel. Turned towards the driver, this screen, with its EASY LINK connected system, comprises all the multimedia, navigation and infotainment features as well as the car's MULTI-SENSE driving settings. Pay extra for GPS navigation and you get a 10-inch centre screen. Let's get to the WLTP figures. Renault still thinks there's a place for diesel in the supermini segment and the 1.5-litre dCi 85 unit certainly still has its supporters, given its impressive frugality. You can expect 67.2mpg on the combined cycle and a CO2 reading of 109g/km. For the TCe 100 petrol unit, the figures are 54.3mpg and 119g/km, while the TCe 130 EDC auto manages 49.6mpg and 130g/km. The dCi 85 diesel and the Tce 100 are both rated at insurance group 10. The Clio Hybrid manages 64.2mpg on the combined cycle and 98g/km of CO2, plus there's an 'EV' option that gives limited all-electric driving range.
Why not? Maybe the va va vroom thing works after all..