- Attractive appearance.
- Added features and technology.
- Solid European level of refinement.
- Fun-to-drive nature.
- No airbag head protection for rear seat passengers.
Minor cosmetic changes and a little extra kit have smartened up Renault’s light hatchback Clio range, but it is the much sharper pricing that adds the greatest appeal to the 2017 range.
Renault has re-named the model grades to bring Clio in line with Koleos and Megane. The entry level is now called the Life, next step up is the Zen, while the Intens takes a luxury approach and the GT-Line is dressed in a sportier style but the drivetrain is unchanged.
Although Clio is still not the cheapest car in the class, it’s now competitively priced. The Life leads the way at $15,990 plus on-road costs ($17,990 drive-away) for the 898cc three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine model coupled to a five-speed manual transmission. The automatic Life, and all other models in the range employ a four-cylinder 1197cc turbo-charged direct-injected petrol engine and six-speed electronic dual-clutch transmission.
Bling for your buck
The extra bling in the Clio range starts with the entry-level Life, which gets body-coloured door mirrors and handles, a chrome boot lid strip, chrome door sill insert and chrome trim radiator grille as well as a new 16-inch ‘flex’ steel wheel design. It also now has hands-free entry with smart key and push-button start, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers, rear-view camera and parking sensors, ECO mode, electric windows on all positions and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
At $19,990 the mid-level Zen, which we tested, gets new C-shaped LED headlights, front fog lights and parking sensors, a gloss black treatment for the lower rear bumper trim and two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels. There’s also a new satellite navigation system with voice control.
The Intens and GT-Line are the same price, $22,990 plus ORC, but are aimed at different buyers. The luxurious Intens gains chrome window trim, side parking sensors, hands-free parking, driver’s armrest, LED cabin lights, advanced sound system, R-LINK navigation and multimedia system with voice control, height adjustable passenger’s seat, velvet/artificial leather upholstery, climate control, rear privacy glass and 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels as well as a couple of no-cost trim items to personalise the car.
For an edgier look, the GT-Line receives Renaults Sport-inspired blue highlights for the upholstery, aluminium sport pedals, GT-Line badging, a rear spoiler, leather handbrake handle, satin grey door mirrors, exterior trims and the front and rear bumper inserts, as well as 17-inch Serdar alloy wheels.
Easy but still dynamic
The 1.2-litre engine in the Zen we drove, with 88kW of power and 190Nm of torque on tap, makes it easy to drive while still dynamic enough to be fun. It feels a little more grown-up than its main rivals in the class. Depending on how it’s driven, a slight hesitation on take-off can be felt occasionally as the turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission sort themselves out.
The strut-style front suspension and torsional beam axle set-up at the rear provide a firm yet compliant enough ride and sharp, surefooted handling. Well-weighted positive steering rounds off the package. Some buyers might be surprised to find Clio still has rear drum brakes, but this is fairly common in this class and has proven to be perfectly adequate for these lightweight cars.
The Zen delivered a pleasing mix of strong light car performance and excellent fuel economy. Official fuel consumption (on 95-RON premium petrol) is a frugal 5.6L/100km, and over a week of mainly city and suburban driving, we managed a still economical 6.6L/100km.
Five-star safety but something missing
Clio has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, with dual front airbags and front seat side airbags that provide chest and head protection for those occupants. It is disappointing, however, that it does not have head-protecting airbags for the rear-seat passengers or autonomous emergency braking.
Renault Australia has worked hard on ownership issues and shown confidence in the reliability of its product, blessing Clio with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing for the first three years. As with the purchase price, servicing costs are competitive but not the cheapest in the class.
Clio already had a smart-looking five-door hatchback style with hidden rear door handles that give it a coupe look. This update has rounded out the package to cover all the basic needs of the light car buyer but has also injected a good dose of extra character with an upmarket appearance lacking in many of its peers. Seat comfort is among the best, while the interior layout may be a touch quirky but nevertheless functional.
On a different level altogether is the high-performance Clio RS. The new RS has a 147kW 1.6-litre turbo-charged petrol engine mated to the six-speed dual-clutch auto transmission, and comes with a choice of two chassis tunings: the everyday Sport, featuring 17-inch alloys ($30,990 plus ORC), and the sharper Cup, with 18-inch alloys, for $32,490.